Tag Archives: running

The year (2016) in cycling (and other sports)

2016 was the first year when my total mileage did not turn out to be a new personal best, but it was still the second year in a row when I managed to cross the imaginary 10000 km line (quite easily), and – most importantly – I had a lot of fun on the bike. The high point of the year was undoubtedly the Trans Pyrenees ride with Willem (which almost single handedly made June 2016 my highest elevation gain month ever), there is really nothing that could come close to that. Honourable mention is given to the 263 km solo ride to the coast which is my longest solo ride to date. I also got a cyclocross bike.

The raw numbers for my cycling – without the daily commutes of course – in 2016:

Total distance: 10559 km
Total elevation gain: 68667 m
Total time: 379h 8m
Activity count: 133
Average speed: 27.9 km/h
Average heart rate: 152.4 bpm (max: 194 bpm, but sometimes I did not wear my HR strap)
Average cadence: 87 rpm (but I only have cadence measurement on my road bike)
Average temperature: 11.9°C (~2.5°C colder than the past 3 years, with a 1.8°C December…)

And now it is time to look at some maps and figures. Let’s start with the maps of cycling I have done this year.

20161231_BelgiumMap

20161231_PyreneesMap

Out of the 133 activities, 72 rides were done solo, while a large percentage of the rest were predominantly Squadra Tornado group rides. In this sense, this was my most social year on the bike so far. My most common partner in crime was unsurprisingly Willem, with whom I rode together 47 times (a total of 146 hours in duration). Here is a summary table of the rides by bike.

20161231_Bikestats

I also did some running (120 km) and hiking (38 km), adding up to a total activity time of 401 hours, which is halfway between my numbers from the previous two years. I would be happy with the same in 2017 for sure.

20161231_VeloViewer2016

At last but not least, here is an overview of my yearly progress (in kilometres, including running and hiking too) throughout the previous seasons.

20161231_VeloViewer_Distance

20161231_VeloViewer_DistanceCalendar

The past few months in a (larger) nutshell

This is a post that has been in the making for a while, with multiple updates to the text, but here we go now. So let’s see what happened since the end of last October… I will try to group the events a bit, since there is way too much to just throw in here everything in a plain chronological order.

Cycling: I have had my last ride with my old cycling team (WTCOOL), and I joined Squadra Tornado because I needed a faster group. Since then, most Saturday mornings are spent with group rides (and up to an hour every week with planning the routes, since that is something I am good at). I had my first ride in/on snow with the MTB, which was a lot of fun (simply the fact that this winter we got at least one day with more or less proper snow was quite a surprise after the April-like temperatures in December), and I even put a few extra kilometres in the MTB, because after one of the Saturday morning rides my electronic Shimano Ultegra Di2 rear derailleur was not working anymore, so I had to spend a week without my beloved racing bike while the faulty component was replaced in the Canyon Service Center. Those were hard times…

2016_firsthalfyear-4

Then in February I had my coldest long solo ride when I took a nice and sunny day off work to go to Namur. I finished a day with 163 km (a proper imperial century), 1100 m of elevation gain, and most importantly, an average temperature of 2°C. In March I finished 3rd on the Tornado club championship (that took place on the Parel van het Hageland), after going into a 5 man breakaway but starting the final sprint a bit too late. In any case that was a very nice result, so I even gave in to the pressure and joined Willem to start in a proper race (koers) two weeks later in Bazel. Now that was a total disaster :D It was not only crazy windy, but we also had to start together with the category A riders, so I was done and dusted/dropped after one lap… It was a shame especially because the weather was actually very nice, so instead of sitting in a car for two hours getting there and back and biking a total of 13 km (while getting my ass served to me on a silver plate), I could have done a nice 100+ km ride in shorts. Anyway, at least now people can not say that I did not even try. April (and then May, and June…) this year turned out to be strangely cold (probably a punishment for the last two months of 2015), but luckily it was still warm enough – most of the time – to go biking in shorts with arm/knee warmers and an occasional wind (of yeah, the f… wind that never seems to stop here) vest. I also spent a nice long weekend (3 days) riding (300 km) mostly up and down in the Voerstreek (over the climbs of the Amstel Gold Race in the Netherlands to the North, and over the highest point of Belgium to the South) with the Tornado guys. My route planning skills were highly appreciated by everyone. This year I also went to the start of the Brabantse Pijl to take pictures, but the weather was not really helping in getting nice shots; I got exactly one that I was more-or-less happy about…

2016_firsthalfyear-3

I also got a subscription to the fancy Rouleur magazine from Clio for my birthday, and spent lots of money on Rapha kit pieces (merino base layers, merino arm/knee warmers, rain jacket, etc.). I am such a snob… (Not 100% true, actually these things are really good, but I still remember the time when I said I would never spend this kind of money on cycling clothes.) There was also a week when I managed to do a training ride each weekday (mostly on the evenings after work, 356 km in total), which is something I have never done before (when not on holidays). In any case it was necessary, because winter came back for the following weekend (with actual snow-showers), and we had the coldest end of April in years. Hell, we officially had the wettest first 6 months of a year ever… Most importantly, I rode across the Pyrenees with Willem, but there will be a separate post about that.

Running: During the winter, especially throughout January, I was doing some serious running training as a preparation to a 26 km long trail running event in the Meerdaalwoud (a forest not far from home). I had signed up for the race a few monts earlier, and I was going to participate together with Willem. During my training, I even did boring hill repeats, and ran a new half Marathon personal record of 1:50:07 in a beautiful white forest (a day after my snowy MTB ride), which was a run that I enjoyed almost as much as a bike ride. Then Willem got sick just a day before the event, and the forest turned into a mud-fest from days of continuous rain, so my motivation dropped significantly, and I turned back home halfway to the start of the race… I have not ran a single kilometer since, partly because I wanted to save my knees for the Pyrenees, but also because who are we kidding, running still sucks compared to cycling. On the other hand, Clio also did some running during the autumn and it was really nice to go and run in the forest together. Sadly, she also thinks that running sucks :D

Gadgets: After so many product release cycles of not doing it, I bought an iPhone 6S, and I am very happy with it. I was also perfectly fine with my Nexus 4 that served me well for more than two years, but the camera sucked on that big time. Now I don’t feel bad if I see something nice and I don’t have one of my more professional cameras with me, because I can take a very nice photo with the iPhone too (most of these end up on Instagram though and not on the blog). Of course it does not (and can not) replace my DSLR, but there is no point in denying it, that for everyday snapshots, it is perfect. Still on the photography side, I got a new addition for my DSLR too, a wide angle Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM lens. I did not use it much yet (only a few shots in Paris and at the start of the Brabantse Pijl), but it is a nice piece of glass. Moving on towards less heavy pieces of technology, I finally made good use of my GoPro HERO4 Silver on the bike, recording one of our first sunny Saturday group rides, and editing the footage afterwards into a nice video. It got much more use in the Pyrenees of course (and I will be still busy editing the footage for a long time). Not such a long time ago I also bought a new cycling GPS, the Garmin Egde 520. It is not perfect (has a limited storage for maps, and the time the map screen takes to refresh is a bit on the too long side – I get that it saves battery life, but still…), but it is more compact, has a much better screen visibility/contrast, and packs a ton of advanced features compared to my almost 4 year old Edge 800. Most importantly, since I was able to upload my rides via bluetooth over my phone in the Pyrenees every day, I did not have to stress about loosing any data for some unexpected reason.

Nationality: I spent a considerable amount if time (often with some support from Clio, who is definitely the best paperwork-organiser amongst the two of us), and money (a few hundreds of Euros in total) applying for the Belgian nationality last November-December. It is a long story of running between different offices and the city hall several times (with many details that I possibly don’t even remember anymore), but to sum things up, I have lived and worked here long enough, and speak the language (Dutch) good enough so that I could request to become a Belgian. The only actual extra thing that I needed to do (beyond providing lots of documents proving the fulfilment of the aforementioned criteria – and no, having a trilingual birth certificate where one of the languages is French, one of the official languages of the country, is not enough, you need to pay extra cash for an official Dutch translation), was proving my social integration. For that I had to do a one hour test in Brussel (on the day when the terror alert was on the highest level, so the city was empty, and getting to the exam in the centrum was slightly less straightforward than it normally is). It was definitely not very hard, but it still took me almost the full one hour to finish it, mostly because it was just a lot of questions (something like 12 pages if I remember correctly). So I can see that for someone who does not know the language (since even though the questions were in English, most of the fill-out forms and texts were in Dutch), or does not know how to use the internet efficiently (for the tasks where you had to look up information on the websites of federal organisations to be able to answer correctly), this might be not so doable. Anyway, after going through all of the above discussed mess, my dossier had been completed and the city hall of Leuven approved it in January before sending it further for the final decision. They had a maximum of four months to approve or disapprove my request on the federal level, but it did not take that long, and from the 22nd of April, I am officially a real Belgian! Frietjes voor iedereen! (To make things clear, now I have a Belgian-Hungarian double nationality.)

Driving: Yes, this is also happening. After a few years behind the wheel on the PlayStation, I am actually getting my driving licence for real. Since Clio hates driving, but we want to be able to drive around for holidays and such, I finally got some real motivation to get over with this. I passed my theory exam (in Dutch) in January (49/50), then I took 20 hours of practice from a driving school in March and April (also in Dutch). It went extremely well, I had a great instructor, and I enjoyed driving a lot! Seriously, I was looking forward to my driving lessons every week. Having the mindset of a road cyclist is unquestionably beneficial, since we have to be very aware of the traffic situation around us (to stay alive). It also clearly helped a lot that I was already familiar with how the pedals and the gear shifting worked from the hours of driving with the PS3 (where I had a physical wheel, three pedals, and a stick). After a break of three weeks I even had two extra hours to refresh my memories (and do a practice exam), then I was supposed to have my practical exam on the 4th of May… Unluckily, they did not even let me take the exam, because just a day earlier I had to apply for a new ID card (since from the day I became Belgian my old ID stopped working), and the exam centrum did not accept the official paper the city hall had given me to prove that I was in the process of getting my new ID (even though the city hall told me that it should be ok)… This was not a minor hiccup, because I had to delay my exam to my reserve date (the 20th of May), and I also had to go back to the city hall and apply for a fast procedure ID for an extra 120 EUR, just to make sure that I do have an ID by the time of that exam… Then even though I finally got my ID, and drove extremely well according to my instructor (except for one small mistake at the very beginning), my examinator failed me :( Since this was my original reserve date, now I had no backups left, which means that I have to wait till the end of August to have another go at it, because all dates are fully booked months in advance… As a result, now we had to cancel the holiday we had planned to the Black Forest / Annecy / Grenoble / Colmar with the car, which was luckily all free cancellation, but I was already really looking forward to it… So yeah, this sucks. On a more positive note, just before my original exam date, we also bought a new car, a Honda Jazz Trend 1.3 CVT, replacing Clio’s very old Honda :) I have already driven it a few times (e.g. home from the garage, and on the highway in a huge storm), and I like it a lot. And the best feature: we can put both of our bikes inside in an upright position, thanks to the Magic Seats of the Jazz! To do this in a clean-and-tidy way, I made a fork-mount system that holds the front forks at a fixed position. It is extremely pro.

Travel: In the middle of December we spent a weekend in the Ardennes, walking around in the nice weather (to Durbuy, the smallest city of Belgium), playing Catan, and having great dinners at the restaurant of our hotel. We also had an overnight stay in Ghent around Christmas (a bit of Christmas Market, a bit of shopping, a bit of hipster food, and a very nice hotel room), and spent 3 days in Paris just around my Birthday meeting up with friends, doing minimal touristic things (a visit to an Osiris exposition, and getting soaked in a sudden downpour), and playing a lot of games (Exploding Kittens FTW!).

2016_firsthalfyear-1

2016_firsthalfyear-2

At the end of April we went to the wedding of Annick and Peter (cycling friends), and stayed in a lovely bread and breakfast afterwards, where we enjoyed the best brunch ever on the morning after the party (we were a bit sad that there was so much choice that we were already full before being able to taste everything). Finally, just as summer arrived to Belgium for the first weekend of May (just to leave a week later), we spent a long weekend in Rotterdam meeting up with my parents (walking around and having nice food). I still like the architecture of the city a lot. For the summer holidays we are still going to the Black Forest but with a train, and then to Hungary as usual. In addition to these, I have conferences on the Azores and in the Lake District in the UK. And since I will be so close to Liverpool, I have booked a night there and a ticket to Anfield to the Liverpool FC – Leicester City game on the 10th of September just before the conference! (Crazy expensive, but I don’t care, it’s one of my big dreams coming true!)

Gaming: I am still spending a lot of time on the evenings playing the PS4, the games in chronological order from the past months are: FIFA 16 (although this comes back regularly when I am bored of other games), The Wither 3 (which was mostly fun, although not as cool as Dragon Age: Inquisition last year, but I still liked that I only had to care about one character, and not four like in DA:I), NHL 16 (which was a nice change from the football, especially since I have not played the NHL series since 2002), and most recently The Division.

Tom Clancy's The Division™_20160628012936

My standard game every year is always the current edition of FIFA, but since The Division came out I have barely played anything else (and spent ~200 hours with The Division). We also often play with board games (most often the already mentioned The Rivals for Catan, Carcassonne, or Yahtzee), and since none of these have actual boards, maybe they should be just called analogue games. I also got a box of LEGO (WALL-E) from Clio after passing my driving theory exam, which was a lot of fun to assemble. I also took part in the bachelor party of Peter (one of my cycling friends), where we did Gokart racing (a full mini GP, with practice and qualification sessions and a small race, and even though I was the only one with zero actual driving experience, I finished 5th out of 10), laser tag, and dodgem-football. It was a really fun day! Then there was the bachelor weekend of Willem, where I had my first escape room experience, and way too little sleep, so I felt more tired than after the Pyrenees… Oh, and I almost totally forgot it, version 1.1 of Kerbal Space Program was also released and it is finally perfectly stable on my Mac (previous versions always had memory-related crashes every 15-30 minutes, which made the game simply not fun to play), so I will probably play it again when I will be on La Palma supervising the students :D I wish I had more than 24 hours in a day (sleeping is such a waste of time).

Others: Work is going fine, but a bit slow, so I am not going to talk much about it here. I am trying to finish up a paper about the research I have been doing in the past year, but it seems to be taking forever… I need to present some new results on two conferences this year, so I must have it all done by July. My Dutch classes were boring (luckily they are finally over), but the worst thing is that we had to switch to a new book for Level 4 following some strange central directive, and it sucks big time compared to our previous book. It is not even a Flemish book, but a Dutch one (so it has some words that are never used in Flanders)… So I am not going to continue with the language classes next semester, I will just have to speak more Dutch instead of English, and study a bit on my own.

That is all. Now that I had to write about it, it seems like I had quite a lot of fun in the past months, even if sometimes it feels like nothing special is happening most of the time. Hopefully I will not wait months again to post another update, but I would rather not make any promises… :) (This post might also get updated with extra pictures in the future.)

The year (2015) in cycling (and other sports)

2015 was quite an amazing year on the bike. I have never ridden so much, so far, so long, and with so much elevation gain before. The main themes of the year were definitely epic (solo) rides and new roads. I have ridden also much more alone, because this year I did not join WTCOOL anymore. This is likely to change again next year as I have recently joined Squadra Tornado, a more racing oriented team. The past two months I have already ridden with them on Saturdays. Besides these trainings, I did most of my rides solo in this year’s interbellum, or with Willem, who joined me quite a few times.

Memorable events from 2015 (before we jump into the raw numbers and figures):

  1. I spent February working and cycling in Santa Barbara (Southern California, USA), and thanks to the warm and dry weather (similar to an average May/June in Belgium, but without the rain), in just 3 weeks I biked enough to make this month my 2nd best month ever on the bike (and my best month in sports if you add the three 10k runs I did before and after all the cycling).
  2. I bought a new road bike, a Canyon Ultimate CF SL 9.0 Di2. Since the beginning of March, I have ridden almost 9500 km with it, and I am extremely happy with the purchase. It’s a beautiful machine.
  3. I started to use a power meter on the bike, and although I would not go for the same Garmin Vector system again (because now there are better options in this fast evolving and still very young sector), I am happy to learn from all the data I record with it. (So now I know that I sprint quite good but my functional threshold power kinda sucks.)
  4. I did many epic rides, some alone, some with a few other guys, and one in a larger group to the coast and back just like last year. This Heverlee – Knokke – Heverlee ride was my longest ride ever with 333 km thanks to the small extra I did at the end (which made some people question my sanity). Other memorable epic days mostly on new roads include: a solo century around Santa Barbara with summer temperatures, an epic climb, and 5 bottles of water; a 223 km ride to Geraardsbergen in a company of six; 173 km of climbing through the Province of Namur with Willem over 2500 metres of elevation gain, a masterpiece of route-planning; Catching the Tour de France in Namur with Willem, not an extreme long ride, but very nice route, and just a day after coming home from observing on La Palma, so I totally died by the end; a 202 km solo over the Mur of Huy and the Citadel of Namur (a ride of total mental madness); and nicely fitting into the list of epic rides to epic climbs, a 210 km solo to Valkenburg (Cauberg) and back. In total I had 5 rides over 200 km, and 11 rides that qualify as at least a century (100+ miles).
  5. I have finished one very special challenge on Strava, the Rapha Festive 500, that challenges participants to ride 500 km on the eight days between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Normally we go to Hungary for Christmas, but this year we stayed in Belgium, so I thought I would give it a try. Although I got soaked twice, and almost blown off the road by the crazy wind a few times, I managed to complete the challenge with 6 rides in 7 days. The fact that the average temperature was more typical for April than December helped a lot of course ;) Thanks to the weather conditions and this challenge, I closed off December with 1095 km on the bike. That’s insane for a winter month (in Belgium, not in Southern California), and it is more than I biked in the previous 5 Decembers, combined.

And then the raw numbers for my cycling – without the daily commutes of course – in 2015:

Total distance: 11326 km
Total elevation gain: 70307 m
Total time: 400h 17m
Activity count: 140
Average speed: 28.3 km/h
Average heart rate: 152.6 bpm (max: 193 bpm)
Average cadence: 91 rpm

And here are the figures, coming up first the maps of cycling in Belgium, with a zoom in to the area around Leuven to show my most taken loops more clearly, and also a map of the biking I did around Santa Barbara.

20151231_BelgiumMap

20151231_BelgiumMapZoom

20151231_SantaBarbaraMap

Then here are the charts of the yearly progress in terms of distance and elevation gain, followed by – in both cases – a calendar view of the same metrics. (Figures from VeloViewer.)

20151231_VeloViewer_Distance

20151231_VeloViewer_DistanceCal

20151231_VeloViewer_Elevation

20151231_VeloViewer_ElevationCal

Then here is a figure from Golden Cheetah showing my Performance Management Chart since I have a power meter.

20151231_PMC

Then here I my statistics grouped by the 4 bikes I have ridden this year.

20151231_VeloViewer_Bikes

Concerning the social aspects, as I have already mentioned, this year I did many more solo rides compared to 2014. Out of the 140 activities, only 29 were not solo rides, and out of these only 19 were rides where I was riding with more than one person. When I was not alone I rode most often with Willem, on a total of 24 rides (a sum of 79 hours).

I did not want to put it on the list of memorable events, but this year I started using Rapha products. They are on the more expensive side, but the quality and the service is so good, the bibs are so comfortable, and the design is so clean and stylish, that it is totally worth it. I even tested their free repair service and it has exceeded my expectations (big time). So, if anyone needs a present idea for me, Rapha vouchers are always highly appreciated ;)

I have also ran 401 km this year (with quite some trail running on La Palma), and did some hiking with Clio, so at the end I had a total activity time of 451 hours (up from 350 hours in 2014). I am fully satisfied with that, and I am happy with all the achievements (see list of Strava challenges completed below) along the way.

20151231_VeloViewer_summary

20151231_StravaChallenges

I always wanted to have one year when I bike more than 10000 km, so now that I have achieved that, my goal for 2016 is more about quality, and not about quantity. I hope that in 2016 I will have even more self-supported epic rides, some good structured trainings, and maybe even a few races. The most important goal is to have fun on the bike :)

The year (2014) in sports

2014 was a great year, not only because of the nice holidays we had (which I still need to blog about…), or the papers I published, but also because I did more sports than any year before (a total of 350 hours of cycling, running, and a tiny bit of hiking). Before jumping into numbers and figures, let me review the main events.

Cycling: First of all, I bought a mountain bike - which was even stolen and found once since then (thanks again to the police and the people who spotted the suspicious activity) -, but so far I have not ridden it as much as I planned to (only 261 km in 7 rides). But it is very nice to ride through the forest with it, so I am happy with the purchase in any case.

2014_cycling_me

On the road bike, I had my longest ride ever (both distance and duration wise with 313 km in 10h 34m, see it on Strava for more), riding from home to the Belgian coast and back with several members of WTCOOL. Luckily, the route was totally flat… It was a great day, and we even had energy for a sprint along the channel around the 300 km mark. Crazy times :) I also had my heaviest week on the bike thanks to the holidays (a.k.a. training camp) on Mallorca with 962 kilometres, 9939 meters of elevation gain, and 34h 52m in the saddle, which meant that at the end of the week I was in the top 10 of Belgian Strava users! This of course made April my best month ever too (1532 km, 11371 m+, 53h 53m). Later through the year I participated in the 24 hours of Zolder (138 kilometres with a nearly 40 km/h average speed) and had a few nice organised rides in the Ardennes too (e.g., see picture above), with great company. All in all, this year saw me transforming from a lonely cyclist to a social cyclist. I still do solo rides, but it happens more and more often that I have someone else to ride with even at random times.

And then for the raw numbers:

Total distance: 8663 km
Total elevation gain: 45737 m
Total time: 301h 15m
Activity count: 108
Average speed: 28.8 km/h
Average heart rate: 152.5 bpm (max: 195 bpm)
Average cadence: 91 rpm

Here is a distribution of biking activities through the past years:

2014_cycling_curves

2014_cycling_distribution

Of course the speed is pulled down a little by the mountain bike rides, but I am not making a full table for all activities here. Also it is clear that leading up to Mallorca I did a lot of training, then took it easier afterwards, and there is a big gap visible in May, since while I was observing in Chile, I did not do any sports… Looking at the geographical distribution, besides Belgium I also biked in Spain (Mallorca), and for a few kilometres in Holland. Here are the covered roads (zoomable version on Strava):

2014_cycling_map1

2014_cycling_map2

Running: This is the first time I am writing about running beyond simply mentioning it (if I remember correctly), but by now I can not avoid admitting it, that I am getting more and more fond of it. I never really liked running, and before I picked it up as cross training for the winter at the beginning of 2013, I actually literally hated it. I have never had trouble running after the ball (I played handball for three years during high school, than a few years of floorball during my University studies and the beginning of my PhD), but running just for the running itself was really never my thing. I remember participating in an organised run (probably 2 kilometers or even less) around the age 6 (and I guess that was my parents’ idea), but that was it. I always hated the yearly two Cooper tests (running for 12 minutes) in school, and in general, I never understood how can anyone enjoy this…

Then, as already many times with other physical activities before (long distance hiking, cycling), technology had a big part in making up my mind. (I just need a gadget, and then everything is all right.) During the last days of 2012 I decided, that I need something to do when the weather is just too miserable and/or it is too dark to go for a safe training ride. I needed something I can still keep track of (preferably on Garmin Connect/Strava), so I pretty much ‘decided’ I would like running from then on (or that at least I would do it for the training, even if it sucks – at least it takes less time and preparation for a similar effect than cycling). I bought a running GPS (Garmin Forerunner 210), some running shoes (Nike Zoom Structure+ 16), and then I started running. I started easy, following an online training plan, building up from 5k runs (short for 5 km runs, but runners fancy the short version for some reason) towards 14k, which I managed already after a little bit more than two months. Of course I had a generally very good physical condition because of the cycling, but normally an unexperienced runner should not raise the distance so fast, because it will lead to an almost certain injury. I still did not like running that much, but it was nice to be able to do some sports even in the snow (and that winter was snowy until very late). Then as soon as the snow melted, I also pretty much stopped, except for a run here and there (Sydney, Rhodes) on conferences. I did the same during the first two months of 2014, runs between 5 and 12 kilometers (also during holidays and work in Grenoble and Geneva), but as soon as the weather turned fine for cycling, I stopped again…

2014_running_history

I think the biggest change came this autumn, when I started running again, but this time – beyond keeping my fitness level a bit higher during the winter – with some actual goals in mind: namely, running a half marathon, and participating in the annual end of year run in Leuven. Staring from October, I was running 2-3 times a week, first on La Palma at 2300 meters, then most often at work with my colleagues, mostly through the forest, and as my body get more and more used to the running, I started actually enjoying it. Since after one point I was not constantly suffering, I got time to just enjoy being outside, a bit more like how I enjoy cycling. Running is much nicer when your mind is not too busy about dying on the spot. Of course I run for the achievements, the feeling of accomplishment, the instant nirvana which a well executed run delivers. I feel exactly as it is written/drawn in one of the great Oatmeal comics here. (Of course this stands for cycling too.) And with the fun, and a new running GPS (Garmin Forerunner 920XT), the results also came: after raising the distance week by week, I ran my first half marathon on the 27th of November through the forest with two colleagues (it took a little bit longer than two hours, since one of the others were a bit sick, and we wanted to do it together, as we did all the training together). It was a great feeling to accomplish something new. Then soon afterwards I did a solo half marathon after work into the evening with a headlamp, where I improved my time to 01:51:29 (5:17/km), which is a nice PR for the future to improve on. Then after training even during the Christmas holidays in Budapest, I participated in the first running race since that Kids Run back in the previous Millennium: I ran the 12k Eindejaarscorrida of Leuven in -4°C, and finished 597th out of the 1965 participants. Not only is this a top 1/3 finish, but I also broke all my previous best times on 1 miles, 5 kilometers, and 10 kilometers with an average pace of 4:43/km. For me, this was a really amazing result, and I was extremely happy after the finish (but during the run too). I even ran home afterwards. It was indeed a great year of sports. I hope 2015 will not disappoint either!

The raw numbers:

Total distance: 456 km
Total elevation gain: 3917 m
Total time: 41h 29m
Activity count: 49
Average pace: 5:27/km
Average heart rate: 168.9 bpm (max: 197 bpm)
Average cadence: 180 spm

PRs:

400m: 00:01:30
1/2 Mile: 00:03:27
1 km: 00:04:19
1 mile: 00:07:04
5 km: 00:23:21
10 km: 00:47:01
15 km: 01:18:14
10 mile: 01:24:15
20 km: 01:45:39
Half Marathon: 01:51:29

Activity distribution for the previous years, and the map for this year around Leuven (not showing runs outside Belgium, for that, click here):

2014_running_distribution

2014_running_map

The start of the year

And again, I have not written anything for more than a month. Sorry about that. It’s just that I am busy living my life, and even though sometimes I really feel like writing about stuff that happened with/around me, by the time I sit in front of the computer and open the admin interface of my blog, I am too lazy to really do it.

So, stuff that I wanted to talk about, but I have not done it: 1) I finished my first level of Dutch (A1-Breakthrough) in December. I had 120 hours of classes spread over three months (3 times 3.5 hours a week), and my results (coming from three exams) were the following: Grote onderscheiding (Kennis 17/20, Lezen 8/10, Luisteren 16/20, Schrijven 16/20, Spreken 24/30). Just to have an idea, this comes with a vocabulary of ~1000 words, and a lot of grammar. I had my first class of Level 2 (A2-Waystage) yesterday, but this time it is only 2 times 3.5 hours a week. By the end of this level, we will be finished with the Vanzelfsprekend book (368 pages!).

2) We mad a big decision, and bought the apartment we had been renting for already more than a year by then. (On my side, I need to thank my parents for the financial contribution.) It was a good test-ride, and since the owners wanted to sell it, we decided that this was the best thing to do. So we do not have to pay rent anymore, “just” the loan, but at least after 20 years, we will have something valuable which is 100% ours, instead of 20 years of rent-payment behind our backs. This of course means that I am very serious about staying in Belgium, so I should indeed be good at my Dutch classes… Among others. But I will come back to that later.

2012_Apartment

3) We have spent a nice long weekend in Grenoble, visiting Clio’s friends. We had a great time, even though they were completely overwhelmed by trying to move into their new-but-still-under-construction house with their baby :) Even with all the difficulties, they were great hosts, and we had a nice time over there. I hope we can visit during the summer too, then I can go cycling into the Alps. This time I did some running (a bit more than 20 km in three runs), which might be a surprise for even my oldest readers, since I used to hate running… It is indeed a relatively new thing (I would not call it a hobby, I am still not in love with running…), I started it last January, when it was way too snowy (yeas, still talking about Belgium, I am serious) for biking, and I was fed up with riding on the indoor trainer with my bike. Of course I only run with a Garmin Forerunner 210 on my wrist, I am not going anywhere without a GPS :)

201401_Grenoble-1

201401_Grenoble-2

201401_Grenoble-3

201401_Grenoble-4

201401_Grenoble-5

201401_Grenoble-6

4) Speaking of sports, January 2013 was my best January so far, with ~800 kilometres (~31 hours) of running and cycling, irrespective of the cold (ok, not so cold this year), wind, and darkness. That’s pretty good. “Unluckily” now I have lots of Belgian friends on Strava, who did twice this much… Just to put things into perspective :) But in any case, thanks to this, my weight is almost at the level where I like to have it during the summer months! All the Christmas kilos are gone :)

2014_JanuarySports

5) I applied for an FWO Postdoctoral fellowship. If I get this grant, that will mean that I can continue with my research for another 3 years at the KU Leuven after my current short term postdoctoral contract ends on the 31st of December. Based on the number of applicants/available money during the previous years, I have around 20-25% chance, so please, keep your fingers crossed. If I don’t get it, then I will have to start looking outside astronomy :(

6) I spent last (work)week in the Observatory of Geneva on a work visit, which was quite nice, especially because I always like solving problems for other people :) I also gave a 45 minute seminar about my PhD, which I finished with my time-lapse video about Mercator and by distributing some fine Belgian chocolate for the after-lunch coffee, so I am convinced everyone left the auditorium fully satisfied ;) But seriously, the talk was also fine… I also did some running on two afternoons (running uphills hurts big time) when it was not raining cats and dogs, and I got the opportunity to eat bison meat on one of the evenings. It was really great!

7) I got 29… On one hand, a few years ago this seemed to be so far, and now it is suddenly here, but on the other one, a few weekends ago I went cycling with someone who lives just around the corner, and I was really hurting while I tried to keep up with him, and he is 49, so clearly, for at least another 20 years, I don’t need to worry about getting too old for cycling :) I just need to keep Rule #5 in mind. I will write about my birthday present (besides the massive fruit tart I got from Clio) in the next post in a few days ;)

See you soon!