Travel wasn’t on my list when I signed up for the elite starting line of the Pittsburgh Marathon. While I’m trying to stay on track to make this another sub-3 performance, it is not going to be the massive ass-whooping I was worried it would be. On flat, snowless, outdoor terrain, my easy pace is now well into the mid and low 7-min-mile range, and the mileage isn’t leaving me beat up. Folks, that is a sign of good things. I just have to get the workouts in to bring it all together.
To catch you up, I’m now in Belgium for a month. I left my treadmill in Cleveland and the I Hate Gyms in Michigan and am now training on the flat flat land of Europe’s Low Country on assignment for my new job. My first stop was Ieper (Ypres), a small city in the Western Part of Belgium for a sales meeting and training. I work for Melexis, a IC manufacture making silicon chips mostly for automotive customers, but others too. If this company, industry, and life interests you, I hear we’re still looking for another application engineer for the Detroit office and there are about 80 positions open worldwide. Here is our Ieper office:
I actually arrived Sunday at around 2:30pm, got in a taxi with most of our sales office (who came in on different flights from different airports) and headed to Ieper. My first run in Belgium was a quick 5 miles Sunday last week, and then bright and early on Monday, the fun began.
Before we go any further, one of my favorite Salty readers, Jennifer Fox raced on Sunday. I’m proud of her for upping her PR to 3:02:59.
Here’s how my Flemish week went:
Tuesday I headed north into the farmland. I stopped many many times to check my cell phone map and take pictures. nearly 11 miles later I was back at the hotel. It was the day I realized that Ieper is amazing. I don’t remember exactly where this stuff was, and I can’t read the sign on the windmill, but this is the totally unreal terrain that makes up rural Belgium.
Wednesday, I made an unprepared pass at some MP miles, and the miles won. there were about 2.5 real MP miles, but I was way ahead of pace and completely unprepared for the workout. Sometimes that happens. I gave up at about 8 miles. It doesn’t even look like I have any really interesting pictures. I went along the canal north.
Thursday. So the thing is that after being on an unsustainable schedule and stuck in the office that started to feel like the boonies after several days, sometimes I feel like THX1138 breaking out of the compound, running through desolate streets in darkness, and into the fields at sunrise. This was the first master planned run of the trip and absolutely worth the stops to check my map. After sleeping on it, I think this was my favorite run of my life (superseding Strawberry to Tiberon, Marin County) 12 miles.
Friday. For my last run in Ieper so I headed to the farmland on the west side of the river and on the way back along the canal, I came across a mile of single track dirt in the woods. Sometimes total awesomeness smells like shit. 12 miles.
Then the transfer to Hasselt. Friday afternoon.
Suddenly somewhere about 20 miles east of Brussels, the landscape suddenly changed from planes to forest.
Saturday morning I got to sleep in a little and then broke out of Hasselt to check out the burbs and terrain on foot. On the way back, I ended up in this park, Arboretum Bokrijk, which was total paved-road-through-the-woods-awesomeness. (Google it. I don’t know anything in English)
Sunday 16.7 miles. I headed the opposite direction in my master plan to break out of Hasselt. It takes about two miles to get out of the city and then I found rolling countryside, farmland, and some suburbs. I even found dirt and some muddy trail. It was also nice to finally be back on terrain that was not pancake flat. Target pacing was mid-7-mile. I had to walk some of the mud and I stopped once to take a picture. There are going to be fewer pictures next week because it is hard to take my gloves off to get my phone out and take pictures. Here is the dirt road I had to myself in the middle of nowhere. It’s not even on the map.
Week total: 84 miles (which is my new peak! And this was done without doubles and entirely in Belgium while working)
Year total: 751 miles
If you’re curious where some of this stuff actually was, check out the maps on Strava: https://www.strava.com/athletes/jessicamann
I think you can also see the routes I planned on Strava.