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Double Trouble!

Double Trouble!
Team Autisme Sportief – Neil, Hylke, Serdar, Wilco, and Tjiel.

I went for a run the other day.

Now under normal circumstances there would be nothing unusual in that statement, however it was an unusual day.
First of all said run took place in Zwolle in The Netherlands. And secondly it was a road marathon.
Not only that but it was my second road marathon in eight days! And considering the fact that I have never really been particularly interested in running a road marathon then running two on consecutive Sundays was a very unusual occurrence! And it all came about by accident (kind of).
Earlier in the year Wilco Voulon had expressed an interest in taking part in The (Nottingham) Robin Hood Marathon. Eventually though he changed his mind due to the fact that his local (Zwolle) marathon was to take place the week after and, obviously, he wanted to do that one instead. So with the seed planted in my mind I decided to do it (Nottingham) anyway.

I then thought “What the hell!” and entered the Zwolle Marathon too! There was some method in my madness; I had also entered my first Ultra-Marathon (The Ennerdale Trail Run 50km), and I figured that I could use both of these events as training blocks towards towards that, plus they’ll all go in the bank towards my training for next years Yak Attack. In addition to that, the Zwolle Marathon was taking place on Sunday October 6th and would coincide with the day my cousin Darren had died last year. I wanted to mark the event personally and running with my friend Wilco would give me the support that I might need to complete it. (Darren actually passed away on Sunday October 7th 2012, but it was near enough for me).
The Ennerdale Trail Run takes place on October 20th and if I complete it it will mean that I have run two road marathons and a trail-ultra in 22 days! Idiot!

As usual with my now frequent trips to The Netherlands I flew in to Amsterdam and took a train direct from the airport to Zwolle.
Once in Zwolle I wandered towards the city centre to grab some lunch. Vito’s restaurant is situated right in the centre of town. It is owned by a friend of ours, Kees Schreuders, and honestly it is the best place in town. Anywhere that is constantly packed out with locals is always a good starting point; and Vito’s is always packed. Their Pastrami Sandwich is delicious, I ordered one along with a coffee, and then took a picture of it and tagged Wilco in a Facebook status. My telephone rang within seconds! 

Lunch at Vito’s.

Wilco joined me for a drink a short while later and then we made for his house, picked up his bikes, and pedalled around town for the afternoon, enjoying the sunshine. We visited a beautifully restored Windmill and got a free tour around it. I really enjoyed this. It was called The Passionflower and is well worth looking up if you ever get the chance to visit this charming city.
Zwolle is a charming city.
It is really more of a large provincial town, with a population of around 120,000, and it’s a far cry from the seedier side of Amsterdam, for example. Intersected by canals & rivers, with great examples of old Dutch architecture, beautiful parks, a fabulously continental cafe culture, and with a typically laid back feel to it. 
It is one of my favourite places.

In the evening we gorged on huge plates of pasta, prepared by Wilco’s lovely partner Sylvia, knowing that it would fuel us suitably for the marathon.

Wilco “Willem” Voulon cycling around.

Sunday morning dawned perfectly; pleasantly warm, a little cloud, and plenty of sunshine! Just the thing for running a marathon! 🙂

We climbed on the bikes once again, Holland has a wonderful cycling culture, and headed off to meet another runner; Serdar van Erp. 
Wilco and I were entered in the full marathon. He also had a team of friends running the “Quatro” on behalf of his foundation – Autisme Sportief. The Quatro Marathon is run as four 10.5km legs in a relay style. Kees Schreuders was running Leg One, Hylke Thiry – Leg Two, Tjiel Darl – Leg Three, and Serdar van Erp – Leg Four.
Serdar was late. Wilco prowled up and down, agitated. I laughed, as usual. After a few minutes Wilco decided to carry on without him; it transpired that this was a psychological ploy, and within a few minutes an exuberant Serdar cycled up along side us. 
A few minutes later we we locking up the bikes at the PEC Zwolle football stadium and preparing for the start of the race. It was a cool experience to start the marathon on the pitch inside the stadium (Zwolle are in the Dutch First division!), it’s not often you get to wander around a premier football ground!

Neil and Wilco before the start.

We set off on a steady jog. I intended to run it as a training effort and would be keeping my heart rate very low throughout; this helps to build endurance and you have to be very strict about it to gain the benefit from it. I anticipated a finishing time of around 4.15-4.30 hours. An easy pace.
I had already explained to Wilco my intention and he was happy to run along with me and keep me company. I appreciated it; it could have been a tough day emotionally and I valued his support. I addition to that I have been having a little trouble with my Iliotibial Band (ITB Syndrome), basically it is a length of fibrous connecting tissue from the hip to the shin, and if it is tight it can rub on the outside of the knee and become inflamed. It is becoming a nuisance and after I have taken part in The Ennerdale Trail Race I will be seeking professional help to resolve it.

Neil and Wilco, cruising, around the 6km mark.

The race itself weaved westward through the city, to the north of the river, for a few kilometres, and out through lovely open countryside towards the town of Kampen before crossing over to the south side of the river and circling back towards the city. Sounds easy doesn’t it? 26.2 miles (42.2km) is perfectly achievable for anyone with some suitable training, but it is still a tough undertaking and it takes a bit of grit to get to the finish.
Around the half way mark my leg was starting to get a little sore, but manageable, and I gritted my teeth for a few miles until I settled back in to a rhythm again and the pain eased.

Support around the course was tremendous, in every little village we passed through people were out in force, cheering on the runners and offering water or pieces of banana, and best of all Jelly Babies & Wine gums! It was great fun.
We saw Sylvia on a few occasions as she drove around to various points of the course to cheer us through. It is very uplifting to see a friend giving you support as you trudge by. 

At the first relay point we collected Hylke and he ran along with us, enjoying the leisurely pace. At the second checkpoint he decided to carry on running with us, so our little band grew to four with Tjiel now joining us. Wilco convinced both of them to stay with us for the whole thing and so by checkpoint three we had the exuberant Serdar with us too! The five us together for the final 10km leg towards the finish. Serdar is fast. He was chomping at the bit to charge off but we tempered his youthful enthusiasm and he ran along with us, chatting away, encouraging us, and supporting Hylke & Tjiel who were starting to struggle a little. He proved to be a wonderful companion and his support really helped us all to grind it out.
As we were entering the stadium we saw Sylvia again; and also Wilco’s father, who had been waiting for quite some time to see us pass through.

All five of us about to re-enter the stadium for the finish.

We all crossed the line, hands raised together, as a team in 4 hours 28 minutes; spot on. It had been a tough day for all of us, but crossing that line together as one unified group was tremendously satisfying. We had all enjoyed ourselves and it was a memory that all of us will cherish for a long time to come.
Darren would have loved that; he was always supportive of his fellow runners and our little finale would have had him smiling all the way home.

I have now completed the worlds highest marathon – Everest – and probably the worlds flattest marathon – Zwolle!

Team Autisme Sportief crossing the finish line!

At Nottingham I had run with a slightly different strategy. I started with a slightly higher tempo than at Zwolle. I ran the first half at the upper end of my Zone 1 heart rate, comfortably within my endurance training tempo. At the mid-way point, feeling very fresh, I decided to ignore the heart rate monitor; I increased my pace to a more natural speed and began steadily picking off a lot of other runners. Towards the end of the race I passed a lot of people; many start off too quickly and fade badly towards the end. I held up well and it was good experience in the bank. Apart from some muscle soreness, and a little bit of cramp setting in during the last few hundred metres, overall I was pleased with how it went. I finished it in 3 hours 48 minutes with plenty of energy still left. I have aspirations of doing some longer, ultra-distance, events and the experience I have gained recently will be invaluable when the time comes.

Nottingham was a much larger event than Zwolle, close to ten thousand participants. At times the crowds were amazing. I think the support at these events is tremendous, people are genuinely rooting for you all the way. I might even do another road marathon sometime, who knows?

Neil and Jamie McCartney before the Nottingham Marathon.
Runners waiting for the starting gun at Nottingham.

For anyone interested in my fuelling strategy for the races I used products from Torq Fitness.
About half an hour before a race or tough training session I usually have a banana.
I carried two 750ml bottles of Torq Energy carbohydrate drink mix and an additional sachet to mix up a further bottle on course if required. 
On top of this I alternated between a Torq Gel or Torq Bar every thirty minutes throughout.
They offer a number of flavours across their ranges and I like all of the ones I have tried.
The bars are chewy and tasty and I find them easy to swallow under all but the very hottest of conditions. Likewise the Gels are also very tasty and easy to get down. I generally wash them down with a swallow from one of my bottles anyway. The Raspberry Ripple Gel is unbelievably nice!
I also carried a couple of their Guarana based gels in case I needed a little boost towards the end. (Guarana is high in naturally occurring caffeine). As it happens I didn’t need them but I have used them previously and they are definitely effective.
Their products are very effective fuel sources, delivering quality carbohydrates, and I use them regularly. I also like their environmental credentials and the fact that they source sustainable and organic ingredients wherever possible. They tend to be towards the top end cost-wise but you do get what you pay for.
I usually purchase them in bulk boxes direct from their website.
Impressive performance from a quality provider.

More images below.

Thank you for reading. I hope that you continue to enjoy my blog.

You can also follow me on Twitter here: HimalayaQuest
and on Facebook here: Chase The Rainbow – Himalaya Quest

The Passionflower Windmill in Zwolle.

Wilco enjoying the race, as always.
Neil and Wilco, complete with medals, at the finish.
About to enter the stadium for the finish. Still smiling!

About The Author

Neil Cottam

Neil is the founder of Chase The Rainbow. He has spent a lifetime exploring the outdoors, from a childhood climbing trees and scrambling his bike around old pit heads to hiking in the Himalaya and backpacking around Europe and Asia.

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