Volkswagen Prague Marathon 2013

May 14th, 2013 by UFO in Czech Republic, Health, Traveling

I started running in July 2011 during my preparation for the final state exams at the university. Maybe you are familiar with this situation: you do anything, just not study. After passing the exams, I suddenly got free time and decided to start moving. The beginnings was tough, but in October I ran my first quarter marathon. I started to like running more and more, and in January 2012, I did a Couch to 5K and Bridge to 10K programmes that trained me to the level when I could run 10 km in one hour. I beat my first half marathon in September in Ostrava with time 1:49, which encouraged me to think about going to marathon.

As I wrote in January, I had signed up and then started training for the Prague International Marathon (PIM). The plan was quite clear: four runs per week with increasing load, some fast runs, intervals and also very long runs. Everything was going well until I got ill. I was repeatedly ok and sick and in total missed almost half of the training sessions. I started to feel good again less than a month before the race. I was on the verge of quitting, but thanks to the great support of people around me, I endured and got most of the training in this last month.

The race took place on Sunday 12th of May 2013, but I got to pick up my starting number at least the day before. So I booked a hotel and went to Prague, already feeling very nervous. In the expo I got a number (5552), backpack and lots of materials. At the expo many sport companies were selling their stuff like clothes, shoes etc., but I was not in the mood to buy anything. Then I met with my friends, that were also going to run and we went for a dinner together (large bowl of pasta, of course).

On the 9th km (thanks to Zuzka for the photo)

During the night from Saturday to Sunday I almost could not sleep, mostly because I was very nervous, partly because my hotel room was next to the elevator shaft :-D. In the morning I had a small breakfast (I was not able to eat much) and took a tram to the area of start, where I met the support team, my brother :-). I gave him a backpack and walked to the corridor „H“ I had been assigned to. I was awaiting the start together with other 9500 runners.

The race started at 9:00 sharp with the sound of Vltava. It was very strong and emotional moment, almost indescribable. I felt very glad I was there, that I had made it to the start and that I was running my dream. It took me over six minutes to get to the starting line on the Old Town Square. The view of Pařížská street packed with runners and cheering fans was something I am never going to forget, it was simply astonishing.

I was little over-dressed, I had expected between 12 and 15 degrees and cloudy sky. However, just after the race started, the clouds disappeared and Sun started to shine. I rolled up my sleeves, kept running and hoped a cloud would come. I felt hot for the first 5 km or so, but then it started to get windy and it was all right again.

The first 15 km were very nice and calm, I was enjoying the run and the surroundings. Then I started to feel my knees, so I sped up a bit and felt comfortable again, with pace between 5:40 and 6:00 (per km). On the waterfront, south of Vyšehrad, it felt like being on a grill. Long, wide road with no shade and no wind. I compensated the heat by drinking more at the refreshment stations. I passed the half marathon mark (21,0975 km) with time 2:05. I still was on the right track to finish with time between 4:00 and 4:15.

I made it to the finish line!

The first bigger crisis came on the 24th km. My legs hurt a lot, but the feeling I am past the half gave me strength to continue. On 28th km, just before the refreshment station I consumed a energy gel/syrup/who-knows-what that turned my stomach upside down. I almost vomited, but a cup of water calmed things down. From kilometre number 29 I was running on auto-pilot, shutting down the brain and conserving energy. When I passed the sign that stated „30 km“ (time 2:58), I told myself: „now you are further than ever before, keep going“. And I kept going… 9, 8, 7 km to go, the finish line was getting closer and closer.

On the 37th kilometre I felt like visiting hell, my legs ached and burnt a lot, I felt sick and dehydrated. The reserves that kept me running for the past 10 km were out and I had to switch to walking. I walked for a minute or so and then ran again, but could not keep the pace for long. I was alternating between walking and running, looking forward to the refreshment station. When I finally got there, I took two cups of water and drank slowly while walking. I managed to start running again, almost to the next (and last) refreshment on the 40th kilometre. I forced myself to eat something, took even more water and gathered some strength for the last two km. There was a tunnel nearby that provided the much needed shade and because of that (and because of the large commercial on its entrance that said „boost your run now“ :-D) I ran again. Again, the pace did not last long, the tunnel ended with a slope, which was not very steep, but in my condition I felt like rock-climbing. I passed a 41th km sign. People on the side of the road were cheering and encouraging me to run, but I could not, my body refused that. I passed other signs: 900 m, 800 m, 700 m to go… I was almost there. Then, from out of nowhere, a strong push to my back. A nearby runner pushed me and said: „You have to run! Don't stop!“. And I ran. Don't know how, don't know where did the strength come from, cannot explain that, but I ran. The final part was the exact opposite of the starting one: Pařížská street to Old Town Square. The street was full of people as I headed towards the last gate. Blue carpet, finish line… I did it, I could not believe what had just happened. With tears of happiness and pain in my eyes I got my medal.

The hard-earned medal

My brother was waiting for me at the end of the finish corridor. I almost wasn't able to speak, but managed to tell him that I need him to take a photo of me :-). We walked to the technical area, where I got the finish time engraved on the medal and then sat down to KFC, where I drank over half litre of cola to replenish my blood sugar. I turned on my phone and got dozen of messages with congratulations from people that were watching and tracking my progress on-line. Thank you everybody for the support!

We stayed in KFC until it was time to get home. He went with me to the train station and made sure I boarded the right train. On the way home, I could not sleep, although I was extremely tired. My mind was occupied, I was replaying the memorable moments from the race and tried to comprehend what I had achieved.

Some stats:

Real time: 4:22:16
Official time: 4:28:30
Rank: 3718
Rank M/F: 3291
Rank Cat.: 1577


RUNKEEPER activity (with map and speed) ->

Training for Marathon

January 21st, 2013 by UFO in Czech Republic, Health

During the end of the year I signed up for the Prague International Marathon, which will take place on Saturday, 12th May. The distance, 42,195 km is a great challenge. As of today, I have started my training. I enlisted to the Sub 4-hour Marathon training program on Runkeeper, which consists of 4 runs per week with increasing intensity (16 weeks total).

I am going to train diligently and hopefully make it trough the finish line. Wish me luck.

My first triathlon race

September 2nd, 2012 by UFO in Czech Republic, Health

Last weekend I finished my historically first triathlon race. It all started as a small „push“ from my colleague from work Vojta. He persuaded me to sign up, with arguments like „it is easy / lots of amateurs will be there / it will be fun“. Since I had wanted to try it for some time, I signed myself up.

The triathlon (called „Větřkovický triathlon“) consisted of approx. 600 metres swimming, 20 km mountain bike and 4 km run. I was mostly concerned about the swimming. I would not tell I am a good swimmer, at that time I had been swimming regularly for about two months. Before the race I had added some extra sessions as a protection against drowning :-).

August in Czech Republic was very hot, heat waves, 30+ degrees and so on. But on the night before came a large storm with heavy raining. When I woke up in the morning, it was still raining a lot. With the great help of my support team (my parents), I got to the start. Due to the weather, only 59 out of 120 signed up people came. However, my colleague David, who also started at a triathlon event for the first time, was there, not disgusted by the weather all :-D.

The announcer shouted „start“ and we all ran to the water. I tried to swim freestyle (which I had not practised enough) and felt totally winded after about 20 metres. From there I continued with breast stroke as fast as I could (I admin I was sloow). After sixteen minutes, when I finally were at the beach again, I was glad I survived. I was also unable to run to my bike, had to walk and slowly tried to catch my breath. My first „pit-stop“ was the slowest of all racers. I felt totally out after the swimming. As soon as I was riding, it got better.

The bike course was hard, two laps, in each two steep hills with 300 metres elevation combined. I felt like a tourist, mostly walking next to my bike and pushing it uphill :-).

At race finish, totally exhausted

Pit-stop to change from bike to running was much better than the first one, I only had to change my shoes, which I managed to do quite fast. Running was the best part for me, I felt relaxed (in comparison, in fact, I felt almost sick) after I started to run. Everything changed when I reached the first (and only) hill. I became a tourist again :-) and was very happy to reach the top. The downhill was really steep and quite dangerous, but I did not hurt myself. After that, it was flat land to the finish. I even managed to overtake one runner.

I finished in 2 hours and 7 minutes, almost 40 minutes after the winner. I felt exhausted and sick, but also very happy and excited, that I made it!

It was definitely very hard for me, but it did not discourage me. For sure it was not my last triathlon, I am looking forward to the challenge.

My results

  • Place: 45 out of 59
  • Total time: 2:07:03
  • Swimming: 16:03
  • Mountain bike: 1:22:25
  • Running: 22:39


I beat the half marathon distance

May 16th, 2012 by UFO in Health

Last Friday I went for a run. It was quite hot, so I took a camelbag full of water and some protein bar to serve as emergency supply of energy. I planned to go to the river and then decide, what to do next, depending on the feeling. I felt quite well, so I decided to try a 20km route I had planned before, with the possiblity of breaking the 21.1km that I had been dreaming of for a long time.

After approx 15km I got lost a bit in Vrablovec and could not find the right turn that would lead me home. Actually, I was looking for the turn so long, that after a while I appeared in the town of Hlučín (that means like +5km to get home). I was not so happy about it, but kept running.

After two hours of it started to get harder and harder. I definitely underestimated nutrition and have to be more prepared and careful next time. At the time 2:30 I could not run further and had to walk the rest of the way home (at crawling pace :-D).

I am glad I made it that far. For me it was my personal qualification to the half marathon in Olomouc, which is going to take place on June 23, 2012. I am looking forward to the challenge.


Škodabike marathon 2012

April 28th, 2012 by UFO in Czech Republic, Health

Today I attended the event called Škodabike marathon 2012. It was a mountain bike race in the hills and forests near Ostrava, CZ. The weather was excellent, the heat wave that had come two days ago, served us almost 30 degrees in shade.

The start was on the main street in Poruba. About 600 people attended the race, so it was pretty crowded near the start line. First kilometre we rode behind a police car that escorted us to the outskirts of Poruba, where the real racing began.

Map of the race. Interactive version is here.

The race course was very hilly. On the total distance of 38 km there were 930 height metres of ascent (see the activity log for details). I knew most parts of it, because I rode through the area many times, but several parts were totally unknown to me.

The bike race was a new experience for me. I was not racing against other people (although I liked overtaking) nor time, but against myself, to find out, whether I can make it or not. I am happy I did. I am still waiting for the official results, but if I recall correctly, my time was 2:09:41.

My runkeeper activity page ->

ŠKODABIKE 2012 homepage (in Czech) ->

My journey to fat loss

April 7th, 2012 by UFO in Health

Graduating from the university was an important milestone in my life, especially because it significantly lowered my stress level and gave me free time and opportunity to exercise. And after almost two years of doing nothing except working, studying, eating and sleeping it felt great to do something else, outside on the fresh air.

I have created a runkeeper profile and started logging my activities (bike and first experiments with running). After I had logged a few of them, it became a habit and also motivated me to keep trying. Having the data and the ability to see and measure my progress has been constantly pushing me forward (yes, I know I am a geek :-D).

Exercises were not enough, I needed more information and more knowledge. At that time my friend Luke recommended me a book The 4-Hour Body from Tim Ferriss. I found the book really inspiring, although many of the chapters belong to the category of „do not try this at home“. If I should summarise and pick the key ideas I have adopted, it would be:

  1. Eating properly is at least one half of the success.
  2. Even small changes can bring big results.
  3. Tracking progress and having as much data as possible to do so.
  4. Using kettlebells in workouts.

From the points above I would like to discuss the first, because I think it is the most complex and important one.

Learning how to eat

Last autumn and winter I started to train and exercise, but I was constantly hitting a barrier of nutrition. Although I was eating the right stuff, I felt tired, moody and not well. It culminated in December, when I was alternating between sick and ok almost every week. The turning point was actually a Christmas gift: I got a voucher for body assessment and professional advice on nutrition from my mom. I had wanted to have the data (body fat, muscles and so on) for some time, but I had not been able to force myself to actually get them.

When I first contacted the nutrition studio, where everything should take place, I got an interesting offer: I could attend a twelve-week course with lectures, regular assessments and a diet plan that would fit them. I braced myself and took it.

On January 15th I had a first session: a long questionnaire and first body assessment. The results were not so bad, but there was definitely a room (more like a gap :-D) for improvement. The following week I got my diet plan. Six meals a day consisting of ingredients that formed a compact whole that should „reduce“ me. In the beginning it was tough, my cooking skills were not astonishing, I had to weight everything, it took a long time and so on. I grit my teeth and endured. Each week it got easier and easier and after a while it became a habit. Nowadays I eat every 2–3 hours and it seems normal to me.

Results after 12 weeks

  15.1.2012 4.4.2012 Difference
Height 169 cm 169 cm obviously none :-D
Weight 70.9 kg 65.2 kg –5.7 kg
Body fat 15.5 kg 8.0 kg –7.5 kg
Body fat % 21.9 % 12.3 % –9.6 %
Muscle mass 31.4 kg 32.5 kg +1.1 kg

All measurements were done using the same machine. They were also done in clothes, so the actual weight is a little lower, but the difference stays.

The change is not only in numbers and results. I feel more healthy, have got more energy and generally am more happy after the course. Together with other events that had happened it has been gradually changing the way of my thinking from the pessimistic to more optimistic and positive. All it needed was a bit of inspiration, a small nudge in the right direction.

I understand the methods mentioned are not for everyone, but if you have got a strong will (at least to start and try), I can certainly recommend the approach.


Books and blogs

Misc. links

Couch to 5K finished

March 17th, 2012 by UFO in Health

A month ago I made a post about the C25K running programme. Today I have successfully finished it! What seemed like a science-fiction nine weeks ago (to run 5K in 30min in a steady pace) has become real.

I can recommend the course (or any similar interval training course) to people, who want to start and/or improve in running. The alternating walking and running present in the first half of the course helps a lot to alleviate the pains and aches in muscles and improves the recovery in the later stages.

My next running goal is to gradually increase the distance to achieve a 10K in 60min.

Running from the couch to 5K

February 19th, 2012 by UFO in Health

One of my new years resolutions (that were reasonable and not dismissed) was to start running. I started running some time ago, even ran one race), but my training was not consistent nor organised in any way. With time I got better, but I felt the result could be better.

My brother recommended me C25K training (Couch to 5K) and after some research I decided to give it a try. The training consists of three sessions per week. Running and walking are alternated in various periods of time. Each week the amount of running is increased and amount of walking decreased.

Today I finished the Week number 5. So far it feels manageable. My average and maximum heart rate and also my recovery rate increased a lot. If I keep up with the pace, finishing the course should be a milestone in my running practice.

Running my first race

November 1st, 2011 by UFO in Czech Republic, Health

It was no more than two months ago I started with running. The beginnings were hard, I felt winded after several hundred metres, but with time I got more used to it and could cope with longer distances. My colleague from work, Vojta, talked me into signing up for a quarter marathon in Ostrava. The distance 10 548 metres was a big challenge for me, mostly because I had never run so long track before.

On the race day (last Friday) I felt ready. My target was simply to finish it, I did not care about time, just about beating the distance. The track was set up on the main street in Poruba, which was closed to traffic due to this event. Almost six and half laps on the almost flat tarmac seemed scary from the starting line, but I was in a good mood.

First two laps were hard. At first I had trouble maintaining my pace, it is quite easy to chase someone faster, but to endure and not burn out while doing that, that is another chapter :). From the third lap I found my comfortable pace (although the meaning of „comfort“ was very shifted here). In my last lap I was almost alone on the track, but I felt some surplus of strength and ran faster a little, ending with exhausting finish with heart-rate near 190 (word comfort did not apply any more :-D). I finished with time 1:02:40, which was far beyond my expectations. I was very happy about that, because my guess was about 1:20:00. I got a diploma and a participant's medal and went home.

The race was really a unique experience for me, the atmosphere was just great. For sure it was not my last one.