Marathon Plus in the Summer Snow

Sometimes you just have to come up with a challenge of your own. How many laps of 14 km can I run right now?

The local water-crossing trail, vertical kilometer and the 32 km before 9 o'clock of MST were very good to regain the joy of running a bit. The next challenge would be an ultra, but more than the provisional name 14 UHT and that you had to be able to navigate and make routes, Tom did not yet want to reveal. No idea what he meant by 14 UHT, but as I usually start associating at half a word, I was hoping for something with loops of 14 km. Maybe with a loop every 4 hours or so, until we gave up? Not really sure what he would come up with.

Unfortunately, I should have paid more attention to the letters UHT: I knew that UHT is often used for the Utrechtse Heuvelrug Trail, a trail from station to station which, including the extended version, is also an ultra. However I didn't consider this to be likely: after all, that route already exists, so that's not a big challenge. Alas, it turned out to be about running all 14 summits (with coordinates) of the Utrechtse Heuvelrug on a single route. In itself a very nice challenge, but not feasible for me right now. After all, I have no driver's license and the public transport is still to be avoided for non essential trips. Therefore I will have to postpone that challenge.

At the same time I had another challenge on my mind. As a diabetic I had of course registered for the Virtual Run on Insulin. Actually, it is exactly the kind of virtual run I don't like: there is no fixed distance, no fixed day (in May) or other principle to distinguish the course from my training runs. That's why I decided to revive my earlier idea of 14 km laps. Even better was that I managed to persuade Simone to do a few laps with me. We did not have a clue as to how many laps we were going to do.

The course

Simone will be moving to Nootdorp soon. I thought that was a nice reason to show her a little bit of the surroundings around here. During the Houttrail and the 32 km, I had discovered some nice paths. With some fitting and measuring, I managed to build two routes in Komoot that were both between 14 and 15 km (my challenge). In one there was a nice part of forest that I didn't want to miss, in the other a nice polder meadow.

Because we both mainly wanted to run on unpaved, softer ground (and both have minimalist shoes like Altra and Merrel), I decided to check the route by bike. I'm glad I did. Paths that I thought were unpaved, turned out to be paved (by now) and besides that there was quite a lot of asphalt. That means ouch with the studs of a trail shoe like the Altra Superior, which is still recommended because of the gravel paths and the grass. Komoot's maps also seemed to lack the footpaths. My beautiful tree trunk path in the ‘play forest’ was missing as well.

Eventually I pre-walked a few paths and tried them by cycle to be able to recognise the correct ones on the map. For some of the paths, including the one with tree trunks, I used the satellite photo’s – check for where the row of trees is thinner –to draw a path in Garmin Connect. That way I came to a nice route of approximately 14.6 km. Surely I should be able to run it three or maybe four times, depending on the feeling of the day.

Early bird

From the morning adventure I had learned that the world is much better in the morning sun than it is at normal times. Besides that, it is not that warm yet, while this Saturday would be warm for Dutch standards (24 ºC). I thought I would leave at sunrise, so around half past six. Unfortunately that was not a good option for Simone, who had to come from The Hague. Because she wouldn't run all the laps, we decided to meet around 7.00-7.15 at the improvised drink post annex parking lot.

Of course going to bed on time and then getting up on time was not easy for me either. Most of the stuff I had prepared the night before, but as a diabetic there are a lot of things you have to check. Drink mixes to make as well. It all takes time. So even though I got up at 4.30 am, I wasn't out of the door until 5.30 am and on my way at 5.45 am. First change of plan in the app: Simone, you can sleep an extra fifteen minutes.

The first loop alone was a bit awkward. My route was almost completely revised, compared to the previous two versions. And I had never ran it in its entirety. Was it varied enough? Not too much grass (hay fever), not too much sun? And was it sufficiently unpaved, because there were parts I couldn't test from the previous route because you weren't allowed to cycle there.

Thirsty

Clack, clack, clack. Simone heard the studs of my trail shoes coming from a distance across the tarmac road to the parking lot. Luckily she didn't have to wait long. I was there near the end of the previously mentioned 7.15 am limit and had thus maintained – relief – a reasonable speed. She had only just arrived herself.

In the meantime the sun had become a bit stronger and – early or not – I was warm. What also didn't help was that the blood sugars were way too high at the start because of the large breakfast. It would have been better if I had a normal breakfast plus a Generation Ucan bottle. But it was too late for that now. After applying sunscreen we slowly started walking together.

For fun I had inserted some typical trail elements quite early, starting with a fence to climb over. After that we could run fairly easily on grass paths – also called the boots path of the Balijbos. We took it easy to have all the time we needed to catch up. And because I had already ran 14.5 km more and was not that fresh anymore.

Nettles

On my first lap I went a bit wrong somewhere on the route. Apparently I had passed a grass path, so I missed the steep ascent to a path on the only hill around, which functioned as watchtower. Of course I did eventually get on that hill, but in an easier way. This time I did find the right path: consequence we ran with bare legs right into the nettles. If you run with me, you are always up for a surprise… (I normally run out of the way of every stinging nettle and tick bomb if I can, but they forgot to mow this part).

We also soon noticed that there was quite a difference in temperature between the forest parts and the open meadows and open stretches between Balijbos and Dobbeplas. So we were glad that once we passed the asphalt of that intermediate section, we ended up in the forest. Where the tree trunks were waiting for us. I'll be honest: we walked them this time. And no, I didn't wade through the ditch, even though we had to go over round tree trunks bridging the water.

Forest paths

Every once in a while Simone saw a beautiful forest path in the Bieslandse Bos, but unfortunately I couldn't include everything in my route because of those 14 km I had set myself as a challenge. It was of course an easy number if you wanted to run laps. About one half of the track was in the Balijbos on the Zoetermeer side of the tube rails and the other half in the Dobbeplas/Bieslandse Bos on the Delft side. We could smell the Delftse Hout, but it was just out of reach. It is quite easy to make an even longer route here.

At the half mill the garden was full of foxglove. A beautiful sight. It's a pity that along the way most of the flowers, which I had seen during the Delft Houttrailhad already blossomed. So no rapeseed and no whistlewort. What was there, however, was a gigantic mountain with white fluff, which made it look like a snowy winter landscape. Unfortunately, the temperature just kept up with the summer.

That temperature and the somewhat reduced training program of the last couple of months made me think after the second round that there wouldn't be a round four. The legs felt fine for the third lap. Still, we walked a lot (sorry Simone, you're just a stronger runner). It was more fatigue and especially thirst, possibly because of the diabetes, although the nutrition went relatively well for the rest of the race, except near the end: 9-10 mol/l.

At the end of lap 3, we decided not to continue for a fourth round. It was warm, there were more and more people, and we had already walked quite a lot. In order to finish off quietly and continue talking, we finished it of with a short walk of 1.5 km. That helps to make the legs supple. This is also what Garmin thinks, it started to appreciate GVRAT's larger number of training sessions (also with walking): the verdict was a recovery time for this 46 km of only 31 hours. The after-photo looks a lot more awake for a good reason.

Nutrition (for diabetics)

For this run I started with a little extra cornflakes and three units of Fiasp less than usual. That wasn't quite the right start. Cycling the 5 km to the start isn't a really heavy effort and because of that the blood sugar rose too much before I started running. Tip: drinking a dose of Generation Ucan half an hour before the start and the rest of the breakfast as normal works better with MDI.

While running I used the following: 1.5 bottle of Generation Ucan, 1 bottle of Isostar, 2 nougats, 3 tucs and 1-1.5 l of water.