Tuesday, 8 September 2015


Dear reader,

Please visit me at my new blog location at:

I look forward to seeing you there!
Best regards 0x5f

Thursday, 11 June 2015

New habits to improve my core

All new habits start with the first time you do something.

Two factors are important if I am to make a new habit stick. The first is - obviously - to repeat the actions in the new habit. How many days an action needs to be repeated is still under heavy debate (check this article), but the habit must become part of a routine. The second factor is that it needs to be only a small deviation from the stuff I normally do. The greater the deviation from my existing habits, the smaller the chances that the new habit will stick. Today, I started forming a new habit.

The reason for my doing this, is that in my preparations for doing a whole marathon in 2016, I need to work on three things. I specified these in an earlier post. These things are Food, Core Strength and Sleep. Food and sleep are subject for a different post.

Improving core strength is a well-documented process on the Internet and many blogposts and Pinterest pins deal with the way to work on a six-pack. All this documentation shows the great number of ways to strengthen a runner's core. The most obvious way would be to use body-weight exercises (such as sit-ups).  Because I am not a very strong swimmer, I decided to spend more time in the swimmingpool and work on my core, while improving my swimming skills.

This started last Wednesday. Instead of doing my long-ish (12K) steady distance run, I ran to the local swimming pool (3,5K) and incorporated a 16 minute swim in my morning-routine. After the swim, I ran another 5,5K on my way back home. I loved the experience and doing a relatively early swim (I was in the water by 8:40) allowed me the space of a near empty pool.

There were just two points of improvement. For one, I did my run to and from the pool with my towel in my hand (yes, I do realize that it is important to at all times know where your towel is, but running while holding it is hardly relaxing). The second point is the fact that I lacked swimming goggles while trying to do freestyle swimming. As the trick of this stroke is to keep the body level with the water, it helps to be able to see under water.

To remedy these two minor points, I visited the local all-sports-shop and invested in two items. A pair of swimming goggles and a running pack to help me carry the stuff I need for the swimmingpool and allow me to do a medium-length run. Though there are many excellent and very expensive options for both products, I decided to go for cheaper versions first to see how well I like them.

Once I was in the pool, I was amazed at how good the swim felt. The first thing I need to work on is my freestyle stroke. The laps I did were in breast-stroke and though this works well, I assume (and need to figure this out) that freestyle swimming has greater corestrength benefits.

Obviously, adding a different leg to my workout regime offers excellent new stats. My Garmin impressed me by automagically determining the laps I did (with an error-margin of two, because I altered my stroke at two moments). After sixteen 25M laps, I left the pool to continue with my run. The fact that my legs were somewhat heavy from the swim and my body was tired added something to the run and I enjoyed it more than I usually enjoy my morning runs.

Coming wednesday, I will be trying out my goggles, to see how hard freestyle stroke swimming is. To be continued.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Five years in barefoot shoes and some new gear

Going the distance
Nine years ago, I picked up running in an effort to get a little fitter than I was. My weight was not too healthy and it would be good to loose some of the belly-fat I had accumulated over the years. Though I had tried to get into the habit of running years earlier, I had never found the right method to make it easier. That was until the Couch 2 5K programs hit the internet. Doing one of those programs, I went from 0 to 5K in about 13 weeks.

It was in the first two to three years of running, that I started to read increasing numbers of blogposts on barefoot shoes. Many were sparked by the McDougall book Born to Run. Obviously, I had to read the book - reading opinions is good, and it is even better to know the material that these opinions are based on - and I found it an excellent and inspiring read (watch the TEDx talk by the author here). It inspired me to such an extent, that I visited both my physiotherapist and a doctor specializing in feet to see if there was any reason why I should not give minimalist running a try.

In the summer of 2010, visiting London with the Missus and the young Padawan (peacefully sleeping in his pram), I bought my first pair of Vibram Fivefingers (KSO). Over the next nine months, I steadily built up the number of K's in those shoes, resulting in my throwing out my no longer comfortably overpadded Asics Kayano 15 shoes. While doing this, I realized that migrating back to 'regular' running shoes would take the same amount of time as it did getting used to running with only a thin layer of rubber below my feet.

This May marked the 5-year aniversary of my barefoot running habit. Looking back, I am amazed at the fact that I have been running for 9 years of my life. I am amazed even more, that it has been five years since I went through this major change in running habits and that I have been running 'barefoot' longer than I have been running in regular shoes. Gradually, running without padding has shifted from this novelty that I used to read about in blogs to a 4-runs per week habit. I never expected to, but I seem to be able to stick to the habit and go the distance in barefoot shoes.

New gear

Some time ago, my age came to stand for the answer to life, the universe and everything. In this year I am going to train for the same distance as my age in K's and this has serious consequences for my running gear. It is always good to buy new gear and over the last couple of weeks, I have bought several pieces.

The main bit of kit I bought are my shoes. My previous shoes, a pair of Bikila's that I have retired upon completing my last half in the beginning of March, lasted approximately 1600 K's. In the three months that I have been running in my new Bikila's, I have done approximately one third of that distance.

Today, I received the my two pairs of VFF Komodo Sport in the mail. Among other things, they enable me to alternate between pairs of shoes when required - e.g. in situations where they have not yet completely dried because of the upcoming warm weather.

In an effort to better my ways in three areas of life (food, core strength and sleep), I have been taking several (mini)steps. One of these is the effort to get a better idea of how much (or little) I currently sleep. To get a better view on this, I decided to invest in an activity tracker. Though there are many options in this respect, I went for the Garmin Vivofit 2. This type and brand nicely integrates with the Garmin Connect webapp I use to track my runs with my - eternally great - Garmin Fenix 3.

Looking at the trend of the previous four weeks, I realise the need for more sleep and this has led me to attempt two things. Though I do not always have the possibility, I try to go to bed earlier. In addition, wherever possible, I try to take the opportunity to take naps. These count for the total sleep-time in a day.

Finally, as increasing the number of K's per week is an essential part of marathon training, I found that it becomes increasingly difficult to keep the balance between running the K's and recovering from them between runs. Though their effectiveness is still under debate, and - more importantly - though the Missus seriously refuses to walk anywhere near me when I am wearing them, I have invested in a pair of compression socks. As soon as I have experimented with these a bit, I will post my experiences. Possibly, I am overdoing things by subconsciously limiting my ideal of minimalist running to the thickness of my with soles, rather than taking things simple and going running with just my shoes and my Garmin.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Running through Paris

One of the great things about running, is that you get to see the places you visit on trips from a different angle, than visiting them in the regular touristy way. You are no longer the tourist that joins the flock to gawk at one single site, while wading through the obligatory groups of street-vendors and other helpful people trying to separate from your belongings. No one can tell you are a tourist - the shirt from any large international (half) marathon says nothing about your nationality. In this way, I try to collect all sorts of international tracks in my GPS logs.

These past couple of days, the Missus, the young padawan and I have been in Paris for a touristy trip. Main goals of this trip was to take in the sights, enjoy the food and further the traveling-skills of our little one. Having done the most obvious spots on days one and two, I went for a run in the morning of day three. In our walks of days one and two, I got to know the streets a bit and based on these scouting missions, online-research and the Missus' invaluable knowledge of the city, I was able to piece together a route.

You need to have a route in mind before you start your 14+ K run in an unknown city and plan to leave the house at 6:00 in the morning, so as to have the rest of the day to explore the city some more.

I left the place we stayed in and ran on the almost empty streets toward Pont de Sully to cross from the north bank to the south, across Ille Saint-Louis. From there, I followed the south-bank towards the Eiffel-tower, passing famous landmarks enjoying the morning-rest and bathing in the morning-sun. Not far after passing the Notre Dame cathedral, the road that is level with the river Seine is reserved for pedestrians - and paved - and becomes ideal for runners. Needless to say, I was not the only one running at that ungodly hour. Just before I would reach the Eiffel-tower, the dedicated pedestrian path ended and I decided to return to our apartment (Continuing my trip would probably end in injury if I unwisely increase my weekly number of K's too quickly.

Only few things taste better after a longish run than a freshly baked croissant and a home-brew cup of coffee.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Ishmael call me you can

-= Tempting fate =-
Being a literature-geek, I cannot help but read and re-read Moby Dick. However, the complexity of the book makes me realize that I in no way thoroughly know the book. Yet, references to aspects and lessons in the book keep surfacing in everyday life. In fact, I often realize that I need to keep my big mouth shut as soon as I recognize a Moby Dick reference in real life that I do not want to bore the people around me with too much. (I guess I learned my lesson in the pub, when friends kept telling me to shut up about Shakespeare and drink the beers that were still in front of me.)

Yet, there is one Moby Dick reference that struck me some time ago and stuck with me over the last couple of weeks. As it is a running-related reference - I cannot wait to describe it here.

Over the previous years, I have experienced a variety of minor and not so minor injuries. These have had various causes, many of which have in some way to do with training too much or to heavily. At least one occasion was thanks to my own stupidity. Starting in December, I gradually increased the number of weekly K's and have kept up building after having done the race I started preparing for. I am currently testing if I have found my "sweet spot" at approximately 42 K per week.

Looking back at the build up in number of K's, I realized that I have not been injured once in over six months - OK, that's jinxed to sh.t in one sentence. This realization reminded me of chapter 23 in Moby Dick, where Melville describes how the greatest danger resides just off the lee shore, where a ship is in danger of great damage. Being on land - comparable to not running at all - is the safest option (but then, who would want to be safely on land?). Being just out of port - doing a limited number of K's and only just getting your body used to the activity - will cause the most injury. Being out in the gale, away from rocks that might split the hull of the ship - having passed the point where your body needs to get used to doing larger distances - might be safer than taking it slow and going for short runs.

Now I totally understand if you are not up to speed with Moby Dick and/or have trouble following my train of thought. The idea I tried to explain just now is  phrased in slightly different words by an other great character - who approaches Ishmael's greatness in a different type of classic.

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back 

Obviously this is a totally far-fetched figment of my imagination, but I enjoy relating everyday trivialities to literary classics.

Saturday, 4 April 2015


-= Only my Garmin =-
Last weeks trainings were wet - a medium-heavy shower was a common sight during my runs - so most of the time, I chose to leave my phone at home. The only thing I had with me was my Garmin. It felt very refreshing to not have to drag around a ton of additional gear. No HRM-strap, phone, phone-armband, and headphones. No waiting for Runkeeper to find a satellite fix, no spoken hints telling my my average pace and heart-rate and no music. Though I love Zombies Run Game to bits, it is good to run without the distraction of the full cast of the game in my ears for an hour or somewhat less. With just my Garmin on these runs, I ran empty-handed, and I loved it.

Last week, when I started running with my new Garmin (Fenix 3), I added my MIO strap to my running gear and it still was very minimalistic running.

-= Fenix 3 =-
There are currently some signals (specifically on the Garmin forums and the
DCRainmaker comments pages) that the Fenix 3 is still somewhat inaccurate in
keeping location and pace. This is - in my view - a problem that is common among the latest and greatest gear published by a technology vendor that will be solved with upcoming firmware updates, no doubt. At any rate, it is the best piece of kit I have ever bought for running. Compared to my trusty old Forerunner 205, tracking is spot-on. In addition, the great features of the Forerunner are still there. The not so great features have been thoroughly improved.

With a view on the topic below, I will need to start ignoring the recovery time feature of the watch, as I will not be able to recover for 72 hours from today's run, with a 10 K LSD coming up tomorrow. I take some comfort in the DCRainmaker post, saying that it is recovery time between hard workouts. Tomorrow is a mellow (and even then overstating it) recovery run.

-= Change of schedule =-
Over the last two weeks, I have been doing four runs per week (tomorrow's run completing the two-week streak), rather than my customary three. This new schedule is to test how my body will hold up with doing runs without at least one recovery-day between them. As soon as I will start the marathon schedule - somewhere near the end of September -, I will need to do more than three runs per week, and I like getting used to things early.

My regular runs were on Wednesdays (easy runnings after having brought the young padawan to school), Fridays (a heavy run after having worked hard for a week) and Sundays (always time for a run after a good lie-in). In order to limit the number of evening-runs, my new schedule will consist of runs on Wednesday (daytime), Thursday (evening), Saturday (daytime) and Sunday (daytime). Should this plan come together (and I love it when it does that) this will allow me to prepare for the upcoming 42K run, without it taking over my life completely.

On the four days, I plan to be doing the following runs. Should this not work as well as a prepared schedule, I will follow the schedule instead.

* a short tempo-run (6-8 K),
* a short-ish recovery run (10K),
* an interval run (8-10 K)
* a Long Steady Distance on a Sunday, starting at 10 K (and increasing this as the schedule progresses).

Tomorrow marks the end of the second week I tried this schedule and I am very positive so far. The only slight discomfort I had was in the sides of my calves and that disappeared with a couple of evenings with a cold pack.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Saying Bye to the old and Hi to the new gear

-= The old =-
In October 2014, I began to consider replacing my Garmin Forerunner 205. I bought this watch in June 2008 and it was an old model at the time. After almost seven years of medium-hard use and wear, it was time to replace my old companion of approximate 5500K's worth of runs. At first I felt guilty about replacing something that was still good and functional enough. Over the last couple of months, I noticed that the rubber buttons on the sides had become so worn that they were no longer water-proofing the watch. In addition, - and I am not too certain if this is a defect of the Forerunner or a different issue - I found that in the last couple of weeks, several runs did not fully upload to Garmin Connect and Garmin Training Center (only partial tracks were uploaded, though the data was present on the Forerunner). I got used to the idea of replacing my trusted Garmin with a newer model.

-= The New =-
I am not one to spend money lightly or to buy things on a whim. Having many chats with many runners about many sports-watches and reading all the relevant reviews on the excellent DCRainmaker blog, I found several options. One of these was the Polar M400 watch that was to be released later in October 2014.

In January 2015, I got the opportunity to test the Polar M400 for about a month and thoroughly enjoyed using it. However, I could not get used to the completely different logic of the watch, as opposed to the way my Garmin worked. What was more pressing was the fact that at that time I could not train the way I was used to: using pace-zones. The Polar Flow webapp did not allow pace-zones to have less than 1K between them. This resulted in a huge differences between my slow pace zone and my fast pace zone. After I had decided to again go for a Garmin, rather than a Polar, this issue was fixed in the Polar Flow web app.

After another extensive search on various manufacturer's websites and the DCRainmaker Blog, I decided to go for the Garmin Fenix 3 watch. This was yet to be released, but the specs, robustness, features and the fact that it is a Garmin, made me decide to order it as soon as it would be available. The price is much higher than the Polar watch I had earlier identified as serious contender. In fact, I could get approximately 4 M400 watches for one Fenix 3. Still, it ticked many of the boxes on my wish-list.

Today, after a long wait, I went and collected my Fenix 3. It is a very sleek watch that is very easy to configure, pair and adjust. Because I had already had my run today, I could not go straight outside and do a test-run. However, though the weather promises to be blustery, I will do my first run with it tomorrow.

-= Plans =-
On one of my long runs, not too many weeks ago, I got to talking with a fellow runner. It was obvious from his pace, gait, the location where we were both running and the gear he was carrying that - like me - he had been running for a while and was not nearly finished with his training. He told me that he was training for a half Ironman in Australia this May. This got me inspired and thinking about this type of event. Should I ever feel the itch to do something similar - way out of my comfort zone as I am not a very strong swimmer - I will at least have the multi-sports watch to help me train for it :-D.

However, should I ever get around to doing that, it will be years from now. My plans for 2015 and 2016 are slowly becoming clearer still. As I discussed earlier, I will be doing the Amsterdam Half in October. Possibly I will sign up for the Haarlem Half in September. This will have resulted in two to three halves in 2015. The Amsterdam Half will hopefully mark the start of my marathon training - I will try to get into the 2016 London marathon or else the 2016 Shakespeare marathon in Stratford. In addition to these races, several runner-colleagues and I are getting enthusiastic about forming a team to participate in the 600+k relay RoParun 2016, going from Paris to Rotterdam in three days. This will be a major project and we are not sure about the feasibility of it, Still, it will be good to see how far we will get preparing for it.

Should my body still function by that time, and should I then not be reduced to tears every time I think of running, I might want to sign up for the Amsterdam whole in 2016. If I am fortunate enough to finish the 2015 half in October, I will have done this race three times. It might be fun to make it whole by adding the 21K to the AMS half, that - on the map and in the stories and blogposts - look mind-numbingly boring.