Boston Marathon: Just to say I am OK…

A woman is comforted by a man near a triage tent set up for the Boston Marathon after explosions went off at the 117th Boston Marathon in BostonJust a quick note to share that I passed the finish line more than 1 hour before the blast and was staying with a friend in a restaurant 2 blocks away when it all happened. It is a sad scene, unrealistic. Things are sinking in right now. It is all too sad. Just to think we ran past these bombs. Chill in the spine. What should have been like every year a celebration of the running sport changed in  a day of sadness. My thoughts are with the volunteers, the supporters and the family members that cheered us at the finish line. Unbelievable.

On Motivation and Fitness Syncronisation

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I have been dragging my feet since January. No blogging, no serious training, no real motivation. There are heaps of research explaining what is happening after a successful ¨ A ¨ race. A drop of motivation is absolutely normal. This is not the difficult part for me. What I find hard, is how to get out of this groove. It usually is an external factor, that gets me out of it. I thought the receival of the confirmtion of acceptance to the Boston Marathon would do it, but it did not really. I continued to drag my feet and train out of routine, out of specific work-out plans, out of structure. It is only after the recieval 10 days ago of my official Boston Marathon Athelte passport that the motivation kicked back. Great! I am back at it…but….but with these months of unstructured training my body is not the one it was only 3 months ago. Less mobility/flexibility, less strength, less speed, more nagging little pains… The negligence spread to maintenance of the equipment. My only usable running shoes have over 800 km. Not surprisingly, I exposed myself to injury. And, ding-dong, here it came. Three weeks ago I started to feel some quads pain. I ignored them and ran further. I cannot feel the pain during training but afterwards, it is there and intense. My therapist says it is an ¨ awakening ¨ of the quads still somewhat atrophied from the crash I had 4 years ago. Regardless what it is, it is frustrating to have my motivation back, but realising that I cannot feed it with a fit body. Yes, I ran 89 min at the half-marathon in The Hague 3 weeks ago, but it does not mean that I am marathon fit, even less triathlon fit.

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I am now 2 weeks before Boston, sitting in our Chalet in Saas-Fee and enjoying doing nothing, hoping that doing nothing will heal my quads. At least, now I look at these pictures and they talk to me, they say. Get back where you belong, in the world of acceptance, satisfaction, strength, high energy and good rest.

4 days before IronMan Western Australia. Time To Say Thank You

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As mentioned in a previous blog post some 12 months ago, I am racing this Ironman for myself and for a small UK/NL led charity, MALAIKA KIDS, that takes care of Tanzanian orphans. I proposed to whom ever would sponsor me, that I would double the money up to the charity target of 2000 pounds unless I race the Ironman under 11 hours. I raised money over 2 web-sites, a UK based and a Dutch based one. More than 40 different individuals donated generously to a total amount of 2’100 .-GBP. I would like to thank you all for your donation and I take the opportunity to remind you of what you have just done. You are supporting children that cannot hold a father’s or a mother’s hand for comfort, for security, for re-assurance. You are supporting an organisation that gives it to those children. It certainly will never replace the real-thing but, if only, will restore a feeling of normality. So THANK YOU! And as someone said: ¨I hope you will succeed in your endeavour for your own sake but I also hope you will fail for their’s. For once, those children can only win.

An Ironman under 11:00 means to swim 3.8km in 1h15m, bike 180km in 5:45 and run a marathon in 3:50 (+9min of transition from swim to bike to run). This is without considering a possible flat tire, windy conditions on the bike or choppy sea conditions during the swim. This charity action has been a great motivation and I have trained between family and work the best I could to achieve those goals. So, a huge thank-you also goes to my wife, Isa, that has supported me unconditionally during the last 12 months as well as my daughters. A big thanks to my Windmill Warrrior buddies, that have trained, supported me as well as advised me on new training methods and gave me tips -especially on the run and the bike (because those guys cannot swim so well…). A moderate thank you to the ¨Windmill Warrior Widows¨ that relentlessly gave us a bad conscience about our training, but also prepared great restorative food and made us laugh so much. A big thanks to all others that have been involved directly or indirectly in the preparation and the fund raising action like my neighbours Helen and Klaas or the Chairmen of Malaika Kids Nigel and Ton.

4 days to go; tomorrow is my last swim training along the world famous jetty of Busselton. Pics to come.

If you liked Santa Fe – New Mexico in the 90s’ try Taos now…

It was less easy than we expected to get to New Mexico via the Rockies of Colorado. People tell us: “it is a Nino year” (pronounced of course ninio…but I don’t have the spanish wavy thingy on my keyboard). By that, people mean that 2010 is a bad weather, stormy year. We drove on the I-70 through Silverthorne, Breckenridge (beautiful ski station – forget Aspen -) and then Buena Vista and Alamosa. On the passes we drove through snow storm and strong winds, quite a change 10 days after Kauai and another excuse to go shopping for warm clothes.

Taos was a welcomed change. No wind, no snow and a shining sun. That meant we could get out of the RV! And I soon as we got out we met some real good people who invited us to put our big rig in their alley. Tim & Geneviève did not only accepted that we block their main entrance, they also invited us for dinner parties, sport and cultural activities in town and Tim ended up even riding his bike with me a showing me some good roads around town.

For those who liked Santa Fe in the nineties this is how Taos looks now. You can find Spas, Yoga places, alternative cafes, alternative arts & crafts, some ayurveda shops and more than your average quantity of adult Peter Pans. On top you find the most ancient continuously populated pueblo of North America: The Taos Pueblo.

Personally, I found that indigenous people could have done more of this place, to make it more…thrilling. But the rest of the family just loved it as it is and told me that I should not expect a Disneyland. So I won’t say more.

Overall we spent a very relaxing week there. And it was difficult to leave. But we knew, South Utah was waiting for us.

No one is too old or too young to surf

We land on Kaua’i On March 3rd and drive to Hanalei, our place of residence for the coming 5 weeks. We knew we could get some rain on the “Green Isle” but we did not that we would be getting downpours 18 out of the first 19 days. Least to say that it lowered slightly the fun level. We actually became downright cranky.  The two things that gave us joy was a great yoga centre and the opportunity to get better at surfing. At first Isa and I thought we really were too old for that sport.  But when the only thing you can actually do outside without getting bothered by the rain is surfing then you start just doing that. And that’s what we did. We were wise enough to take at first lessons with an instructor. The attempts to learn by ourselves in Australia were frustrating enough not to make the same mistake twice.

Hanalei Bay is known as being one of the 10 most beautiful beach in the world. That did not strike home during the first two weeks as we could actually barely see the Bay due to low clouds and yes…you guessed it….rain. This beautiful beach is not only shaped into a perfect circle, it also provides very regular waves of all sizes. You therefore meet local stars as well as professionals next to first timers. Surfing is the life in Hanalei and we soon got the hang of it. The person that left us all in awe though was Manon. Courageous enough to go out with Chris, the Instructor and standing alone on the board after only a few attempts. A few days later, Zoe accepted to be lifted on a long board too, but stayed on her belly while riding gentle waves. After Isa and I had emptied the battery of the Nikon taking pictures of our little loved ones on the board, we also went in turn and could soon celebrate some success.

It is now the 4th week of our stay in Kauai and we now love this beach above all others around the island. When the sunshine, it is the most incredible beach we have ever seen. It will be, yet again, difficult to leave this place for a new destination.

Is Milford Sound overrated?

Half a million tourist cruise the Milford Sound every year. That must be basically the quasi totality of tourists visiting the South of the South Island of New Zealand. So, I asked myself whether this place is a tourist trap or is it really just drop-dead gorgeous?  I thought it better had, because the prospect of driving 300Km from Wanaka on windy roads did not exactly appeal to me. And I thought about it for days, until I finally suggested to Isa, whether we should not let the kids with friends and get a small plane to fly over there. In case of disappointment we would still have had a great flight over the Southern Alps and spared us a half a dozen of nervous breakdown while driving down with 2 loudspeakers turned on to full blast (understand M & Z).

Isa was quite enthusiastic about spending the day in the air just the 2 of us. We organised everything but the weather forecast forced us to postpone our flight by one day. But on the second day, we were on the airstrip in time, ready to get into the small 4 seater Cessna.

We did not know that the coming hour would become the most scenic flight we had ever done (we never flew a small plane before 🙂 ). The main highlights: Mount Aspiring National Park and the Mount itself – call the Matterhorn of the Southern Hemisphere – , the 200km clear visibility that allowed us to see Mount Cook, the approach and the landing on the airstip of Milford sound, the flight back over some Lord of the Rings locations.

Regarding the Milford sound, it is all at the same time. A tourist magnet, an incredible lush place (it rains 7000mm per year vs 680mm 50 miles away in Wanaka!!!), a Fiord that can only be compared to the most beautiful Norwegian ones. It is before very, very far away from anything.  And we could see those tired faced of people who had a 7 hour bus ride behind them.. AND ahead of them just to see the famous Milford Sound. Taking a plane to get there was the best decision we made and in my view the only way to fully enjoy this secluded wilderness.

40th Celebration at Kinloch Lodge – New Zealand

As it was rather difficult to gather a big party to celebrate my anniversary, my wish was to go to a place so uncommon I would remember it for the rest of my life. So we packed our 7 things and left Wanaka for Glenorchy (50km from Queenstown), but not after having had a little birthday ceremony that included a wicked chocolate cake, a birthday salad 🙂 and the unwrapping of lovely gifts (including a beautiful butterfly kite that I of course lost in the trees some days later). The beauty of the trip was exactly the opposite to the horrible mood our 2 adored terrorists displayed in the car. I cannot remember taking a more scenic road.

Once arrived to Glenorchy, we bought some bubbly drink, found some peach nectar and had a few Bellini’s together with Heidi, the tenant of a souvenir shop. We discussed with her the art of surviving parenthood as well as the best place to spend the night in the area. Kinloch Lodge, at the tip of Lake Wakatipu. That’s where we should spend the night. 40min of dirt road later, we arrive to this 19th century lodge. Friendly staff helps us pre-order dinner and we are just in time to drink another glass of Red Wine with the sun setting on the opposite side of the Lake. The meal is very, very good. More than anything we expected.

The next day, we cross the lake back to Glenorchy and had a 2 hours beautiful walk before heading home via Queenstown, where we stop for a while to enjoy the trendy beach and cold clear water of the Lake Wakapitu.

Rating for Kinlock Lodge:

Value: ***

Location: ****

Food: ****

Athmosphere : *****

How to get to Paradise

I used to be sceptical as to whether there is a paradise or not. Assuming there is one, how do I get my entrance ticket, where is it and how do I get there. Well, now I know. There is a paradise. It is in New Zealand, it is a dead-end (nothing new here) and there is no exit (nothing new here either). But I also know how to get there. You need a 4WD and it is about 40K after Glenorchy, just passed Isengard (yes, from the Lord of the Rings). I felt we should have a peak, but then we turned right. Next time…maybe!

I have now turned 40.

The wrinkles are visible…everywhere by the corners of the eyes, on the forehead, on both cheeks. The muscle tension of the eyebrows is not what it used to be, the teeth have lost their edges and their white gloss (I should try bleaching one of these days). The stitches on the forehead and eyebrow are also signs of time. I am lucky that my hair have not parted from my head or have not turned white yet, (hang-in there, boys!), but I guess this is not going to last forever either…

Looking at this picture, I am nonetheless grateful to be here writing this post. Since yesterday, I am pain-free. I was in such a state at the realisation of this fact. It has been a long time since I woke up pain free (See the “Pain Free Days” post written in April last year). I have Isabel, I have Manon & I have Zoé everyday around me. I feel good mentally and I feel strong again physically. I have learnt a lot last year and the years before and I cannot remember a year that has started better than this one.

I have turned 40 and it is a reason to celebrate. I have decided to go to Glenorchy, close to Queenstown, to celebrate with my family. No matter how stupid that sounds, a day to remember how beautiful life is and how lucky I am.

Beach life on the Sunshine Coast – Australia

I never considered myself a big fan of beaches. The idea of spending a day at the beach never really appealed to me. I even used to say that I was not a participant to a skin cancer contest. Spending 6 weeks on the Sunshine Coast of Australia has changed it all. I must sadly admit that I am a beach boy now…still better than a lying on a plastic long chair under a striped umbrella by the pool. One has to understand the beach culture first and I did not get that until now. First, you come to the beach equipped:

Body board & fins – Surfboard – Sun Shelter – Cold Drinks – Wet shirt and heaps of sun cream – bucket and shovel – Running Shoes – Sunglasses – 3 Sherpas.

When the base camp is set, it is just about deciding in which sequences you are going to build a sand castle or a sandy pool for the kids, swim, surf, bodysurf, jog/stroll, eat, drink or sleep in the shelter. All this is only valid if 2 parameters are in spec: The sea must throw big crystal clear waves at you, the sand must be white and real smooth. Take out these two parameters and you take the beach boy out of me.

In the end, I felt that I could not spend enough time at the beach to do all this. It happened actually two times, that I walk up at 4:45 AM to go with a neighbour down to the beach to swim in the calm ocean before starting the day.

Here a small gallery of our past activities on the Eastern Beaches of the Sunshine Coast: