First Half Marathon: The Lessons I Learned

Before the start of the half marathon

My very first Half Marathon is a fact! Yes, you read that right, I ran my very first Half Marathon. This is my furthest distance up to date, and it was scary and nerve-wracking but also exciting and incredibly exhilarating! Even though I have been running for quite some time now, even I make mistakes, and looking back I find that there are some things that I would have done differently now I know what running 21,0975 kilometers is like.

1. Don’t do ANYTHING the week before the race

You’re gonna roll your eyes and say “damn Iris, you actually made that mistake, that’s the golden rule before race days” and YES I admit it, it was stupid as hell, but I did make the mistake. I didn’t go on a run that week. Nor did I train my legs in the gym. What did I do? Train my biceps and abs in the gym… I wanted to work off some steam because I was really nervous, so I figured that since I don’t run with my biceps it would be fine. NOT. I was really sore after training them, and a sore body equals a tired body. Tired body before running your very first half marathon is not a good combination.

2. Avoid adding stress

There were two things that had me stressing out before going into the race. Firstly, considering it would be my very first time running a half marathon I was nervous already, but knowing I did something stupid and knowing it was going to affect my race doubled those nerves about tenfold. Secondly, someone had told me that the last three kilometers would be really hard. I was so afraid of  those final three kilometers in advance, that when I actually got to them I made them harder for myself because of what I thought  they would be like. Turns out that those three kilometers were pretty much the best part of the entire race and I didn’t enjoy them AT ALL because I had been so afraid of them in advance. Running such a long distance is already stressful enough, you need to avoid adding EXTRA unnecessary nerves to that.

3. Shit happens

Sometimes things happen that you just can’t foresee or change. During my second kilometer I got this stabbing pain in my right side. I still don’t know what it was, I never experienced it before, but it hurt A LOT. I kept running but had to slow down because it hurt that much. You can probably imagine how bummed I was. I trained my ass off for this, and then right at the start things don’t go as planned. Sucks, but shit happens, you can’t change it. All that kept going through my mind was that this couldn’t seriously be happening. Those first five kilometers were a struggle but then it faded away. Just as sudden as it came up it disappeared again. Around the ten kilometer point there was another kilometer or so that the same pain bothered me, but just as before it faded away again. Some things happen that you just can’t see coming. It sucks, but you have to go with it because you can’t change it. Will I try to find out what it was so I can make sure it doesn’t happen again? Absolutely! But during the race you will have to face whatever is happening and deal with it.

4. Don’t set a time goal

This might sound unrealistic because EVERYONE sets a time goal for themselves, but I wish I hadn’t. As you can read above my first half marathon was far from perfect and all of the things mentioned above kept me from finishing under the time I’d set for myself. I was quite disappointed at first until I realized that was so damn stupid. I just finished my first half marathon ever. Key words being: I FINISHED! Perks of that first race? It’s always a Personal Record.

5. Enjoy the little things

This too might seem like it speaks for itself, but sometimes it’s not. I was so busy with myself, with running and finishing the race, that I sometimes forgot to look around. The route was great, the supporters were awesome, and kindness and support come from so many different angles. Around the twelve kilometer point, this little boy handed me a cup of water. Imagine me, all red faced and starting to tire, and the little boy just pats my back and tells me “Come on miss! You can do this! You’ve come so far already.” I smiled at the boy and continued but what he said didn’t penetrate until after I finished. Just like my father’s antics. My dad ran the race with me (he’s the best support system a girl can wish for!) and he’s always been faster than me, when I started to tire he would crack jokes or race ahead and make funny faces, at that moment I just brushed it off. I mean, some moments I felt like I was dying, ain’t nobody got time to laugh when you feel like your legs are going to give out. But looking back these moments bring a big smile to my face. I genuinely think that if I would’ve been more open for these moments this race would have been much more enjoyable!

Looking back at my first half marathon there are quite some things that I could’ve done better, but in the end, I wouldn’t change a single thing. I finished my first half marathon and no one can take that accomplishment away from me. I learned from my mistakes and hopefully (probably) the next one will go much smoother. Running isn’t a walk in the park, it’s hard work, it’s pushing through pain, but that moment you cross the finish line is indescribable. That euphoria, that feeling of accomplishment, knowing your body is capable of running 21,0975 kilometers is indescribable!

Changing up the change, what’s going on?

Shocker, I’m still floating around somewhere in the blogosphere. Although, maybe floating isn’t the most accurate way to describe what I’ve been doing these past two months. It was more like looking around every now and then, and then disappearing again. I promised change, then partly delivered, but disappeared right after. It was terrible, I was terrible, and I’m REALLY (don’t want to use the f-word, but it’s the only word that will suffice here, so just imagine it’s actually here) sorry. Now, let’s not focus on making this a 1000 word post on how sorry I am… I’ve said it once and truly, unquestionably, absolutely, without a doubt, mean it, but no one wants to read a post where someone apologizes 100 times by saying the same thing (but putting it a little differently every time). So I’m not going to.

Okay, you’ve been stating A LOT of things you aren’t going to do Iris… What ARE you going to do? Well, first of all, I’m going to tell you what actually happened, and then I am going to do things differently.

Let’s change things up and get down to business

One of the last things you heard from me was that I was going to switch things up. Then that change partly came through, and then you didn’t hear anything from me for two whole months. Change? No change? What’s going on? Well, what happened is that I completely and utterly lost all motivation to blog. I just didn’t feel like blogging at all anymore, so I didn’t. It’s sad, but it’s true. And I realized this week that I don’t want three years of blogging passionately to end by just quietly fading into the background of the blogosphere. These three years have given me so much and pulling a disappearing act is a really crappy move on my part.

I wanted to figure out the why. WHY did I lose motivation? Tough question, very tough question, and it took me a while to figure out. Actually, it took me quite a while to figure out, and I shed quite some tears over it when I did. Whoah! That dramatic? No.

You gotta give me more than no…

Short answer: I changed. I changed and while I did, this, my blog, just no longer felt right to me. This caused irritation and frustration and I no longer felt like blogging. I’ll go one step further by saying that I didn’t want to blog anymore. Which sucked. My blog used to reflect me, and the moment I said that aloud (teary eyed) I was able to put my finger on the problem. I changed and the blog should’ve changed with me, but it didn’t, which is why it never felt right to me. My blog no longer truly reflected me, it showed a part of me, but not really ME, not anymore.

I think we can all agree that’s a pretty big problem to have. So, now I know the problem, that means I can work on finding a solution. True, and I did think of one: change the blog, fix the problem. Easy-peasy right? Unfortunately, easier said than done. I don’t have the skillset to make the kind of changes I want to make, but changes need to be made. So the search began for someone to help me. That road has been a little rocky. I thought I found someone, I was hopeful, then that someone let me down and I was back at rock bottom. Time passed, I looked around but found nothing that seemed sufficient, or it was sufficient but too damn expensive for me. Frustrations grew even more and at the same time I grew sadder about this.

Where’s that sappy happy ending we all love?

BUT… now we’re here, and this is a blog post… which means that somewhere along the way something changed. Well, let’s just say that it turned out help came from closer than expected. Even more importantly, it means that if I hadn’t tried to solve this all by myself I probably would’ve found help way sooner. Whoops.

If there’s anything this whole issue taught me is that sometimes you just have to speak up and let somebody else help you find a solution to your problem. I have a stubborn streak a mile wide, and if I’d just told my friends and family about what had been going on with my blog sooner it wouldn’t have taken me quite this long to climb out of this nasty rut.


Weekend Special #1: BBG Meetup & 24k Walk

Weekend Special numero uno! That’s right, I’m introducing a new feature! We all have those weekends that are more fun than normal weekends (because let’s face it, some weekends we just don’t really do anything special), and the weekend of 4 and 5 June was definitely a memorable one for me. I’ll admit, it’s a bit late (after this first attempt at recapping the weekend I’ll start posting them in between Mondays and Wednesdays, pinky promise), but better late than never!


Dutch BBG meetup time! This was only the second BBG meetup ever, but ever since that first meetup back in March I’ve been wanting June to arrive faster. I stayed the weekend with a friend who lived closer to the city we were meeting up in and on Saturday morning we got up around 8 to get ready for the day. The meetup started at 11.15 am and we were early, which left me plenty of time to catch up with everyone! It’s so crazy to realize that I’ve only met these girls once of twice before. We’re always talking and supporting each other online and this makes it feel like I’ve known them for so much longer already. Anyway, I’m getting off-track here. After some quick hugs and catching up it was time for the actual workout and to get sweaty!


The warming-up consisted of some partner exercises, which were so much fun! Now, Kayla’s BBG workouts are never easy, but I can tell you that they become even harder when you do them when it’s 24 degrees outside and the sun is shining. It was ridiculously hot outside and the water in my bottle more or less resembled lukewarm tea water after only a few minutes. You wouldn’t believe how red-faced I was when the workout was done. I pretty much flopped down on my belly and stayed down for a while.

Ik (groep kayla pose)

Djanne, who organized this meetup, pretty much anticipated us being totally overheated after the workout and arranged for some ice lollies. Best. Decision. Ever! After some stretching and some group pictures, it was time for the picknick. Everyone made something and brought it to the meetup, so we had a huge amount of food to choose from, it was perfect and my tummy was totally happy (which it always is when good food is involved haha). It was crazy fun catching up with everyone, loooooots of pictures were taken, and at the end of the day I was crazy sore from the workout, which is just how I like it! A Saturday well spent in my opinion!

Sunday: 24k walk baby!

The plan was to take it slow on Saturday during the workout because I was going to walk a 20k the next day with 7kg in my backpack as a part of my training for the Camino I’m walking this summer… Of course, taking it slow totally went down the drain when it was actually time to do the workout, so when I woke up on Sunday my quadriceps were terribly sore. No time to whine, we (my friend and I) wanted to beat the heat and get an early start so we got our butts out of bed and left the house around 8am.

Walking went pretty well, although the downhill parts of the tracks brought out the soreness of my muscles. Around the 15k mark, the heat was starting to get to me a bit. We might’ve missed a turn and realized that only about 1k later (so had to go back), plus, at that point we should’ve passed the second rest stop already and we still hadn’t… Turns out they had to make some changes to the route and it ended up being a 24k walk instead of a 20k walk.

No biggie, except I ran out of water at 20k… and they had no point to refill our bottles. Even when we finally got to that second rest stop (which was at the 20k point) there was no possibility of refilling and for an event this big, and with temperatures running so high, that just can’t happen. Frankly, it got me a little cranky. I was pretty happy once we finished the walk, and boy was I feeling my legs.

Weekend Special #1

All and all it wasn’t the best walk ever, but I only had myself to blame by pushing myself a little too hard the day before. At the end of the day, we finished that 24k and it was a very good training walk for the Camino. And don’t you think I look adorable in my walking gear? Totally sexy if I do say so myself *cough* haha.

I’ll just leave out how CRAZY sore I woke up on Monday… haha. I think we can all agree it was a very active weekend for me. I gave my body some well-deserved rest on Monday and did some extra stretching and yoga to get rid of the soreness of my muscles.


Race Recap: Antwerp 10 Miles (2016)

As you can all probably see, this is a new feature on my blog! In my latest post I shared how I would be making some changes and this is one of the first sections I added. I have mentioned my runs before, but only briefly, and that’s something I have wanted to change for a long time. Truth is, I run 3 times a week, training towards half a marathon and I want to start sharing my journey and progress with you! So from now on I’ll be doing Race Recaps from the running events I did!


16 April was race day! The Antwerp 10 miles! I’d been training towards this race for the past few months. It would be my longest distance run up to date and to say I was a little nervous would be a big fat understatement. I’d run quite a few 10k distances before, but the leap from 10k to 10 miles (a little less than 17k) is a pretty big one. Don’t get me wrong, I’m well-trained and I’d run distances longer than 10k by myself (and with my dad), but still, this would be a first and I think firsts are always pretty nerve-wracking.

Before the start

I actually planned on wearing long tights during the 10 miles, but when we parked the car and I saw how sunny it was (against all odds!) I grabbed the pair of running shorts I’d hastily thrown into my bag the day before, just in case the weather decided to play nice, and changed. Armed with an iPod filled with kickass fast paced music and the best running buddy a girl can wish for (aka my dad) I joined hundreds of others at the start, nervously shifting my weight from foot to foot. Tons of banners with funky little motivational quotes like “sweat, run, smile every mile” helped in calming down some of the nerves a bit and once the starting shot ran out I resolved to just run, have fun along the way, and not worry about setting a time.

Kilometer 1 – 5

I noticed pretty fast that this was going to be a good run. I set a good pace right away, the weather was GREAT and there were supporters cheering the runners on everywhere. After the first 2k the first tunnel appeared. I have never trained for those and I had been warned in advance to take them slow, as it would be hot inside and because you’re climbing, because it’s an easy way to drain all your energy when you haven’t even really started. I took it slow and as a result I pretty much breezed through the frist 5k.

Kilometer 5 – 10

A little after passing the 5k marker and right before the second tunnel was the first water point. Can’t say I really needed it yet, but with the sun shining brightly and right another hot tunnel coming up ahead I wasn’t going to complain or pass it up. Freaks by Timmy Trumpet blaring in my ears, running was going great and I was having tons of fun watching all the supporters that were literally EVERYWHERE along the route.

Kilometer 10 – 15

Normally, after passing the 10k mark, I start to tire a bit and running becomes a little less fun for me… However, that wasn’t happening, yet. I mentioned the supporters before, and I they pretty much pulled me through those next 5 kilometers. I was hearing my name shouted along with encouragements left and right for quite some time already. At first I wondered how they actually knew my name, silly me, because my name was on my starting number, haha. The music, crazy amount of supporters along the route all attributed to the GREAT atmosphere. It’s the best thing to experience! At one point my dad grabbed a cone and shouted my name through it, supporters all around started clapping and shouting my name, it was crazy, and it all put one big CRAZY smile on my face.


Last kilometers

These last few kilometers were absolutely killing. They saved the last, and hardest, tunnel for last. That picture was taken right before the tunnel from hell. The banner being the only thing that was fun about it, it says: “There’s light at the end of the tunnel”. Do me a favor, if you ever find yourself in the Waaslandtunnel in Antwerp, please curse it for me. I was told that every year quite some people collapse inside that particular tunnel, but a part of me hadn’t really believed the stories. Man, it was hard. It killed my pace, and I pretty much cursed myself for ever deciding to run the Antwerp 10 miles. The heat inside the tunnel was stifling and all I could hear was the pounding of running shoes against the asphalt echoing all around me. My legs became heavy and I looked at my dad and told him that I didn’t think I could do it. I thought I would make it out of the damn thing (the climb was about 1k up). He pulled me through it (almost literally) and told me that once we got out it would only be 500 metres until the finish. I didn’t really believe him, but once I pushed through the pain and exited the tunnel still on my feet I saw a sign saying “500m until finish”. I actually managed to run a little faster and at 01:44:53 my dad and I passed the finish line: 10 miles in the pocket!

Antwerp 10 miles

Even with the tunnel from hell, this was one of my favorite races ever, and most of that has to do with the atmosphere. I have never ran a race where there were supporters throughout the ENTIRE route, it was crazy, the whole 10 miles people were beside the route encouraging and supporting the runners. Best thing ever! I am going to train for those tunnels, and next year I’m running the Antwerp 10 miles again, hoping to better the time I set this year!

What’s up with all those Workouts

Some of you might have seen me mention my workouts on Twitter or Instagram. Now, I know that IrisjeXx is a book blog (in case all the book related content didn’t give it away already), but it’s also my blog, and there’s simply more to me then just my love for books. So I thought it was time to tell you all what’s up with all the workouts I’ve been doing!  I’ve wanted to share for a while now, and figured it was time to do just that!

Where did all this craziness get started?

A year ago I started running. I set the goal for myself to run a 5k, but never really thought beyond that. At the time I just thought being able to run a 5k would be really cool and a great way to get a bit more fit. It wasn’t always fun: lungs burning, legs hurting, cussing at myself for being crazy enough to do this. But that feeling after completing a run: that feeling of accomplishment, of being proud of yourself for grabbing your running gear and just go, of feeling like you’re on top of the world; that feeling got to me. I caught the running bug. That feeling is what motivated to keep me going, and THAT feeling is what’s so addictive about exercising.

What happened when I accomplished that goal?

So I could run a 5k, what now? Well, I just ran a 5k distances for a while. Running outside, and not always running the same round will keep you interested for quite a while, but after a while I pushed myself to run a little longer and a little harder. My average pace started improving, and before I knew it I was running up to 10k! I ran in the Rotterdam marathon (1/4 marathon, let’s be realistic here) with my sister and my dad and everything was going great!

Then, I fell off the bandwagon…

Even though I loved running, before I knew it I hadn’t run ANY distance in a whole month. One month became one month and a few days, and I was REALLY disappointed with myself. I have asthma, and not training in such a long time meant that I basically had to start from rock-bottom again, which kept me from finding that motivation again and getting off my ass and back to training. I had a major exercise rut and had a hard time getting my motivation back. I’ve often heard that it’s not hard to start exercising (and this is so true), however, what IS hard is finding the motivation to keep going when you’re sore, or tired, or just don’t feel like doing anything.

Changing up the routine

So I decided it was time for some change. I started looking for ways to make training fun again and add some variety to my routine, and by searching online I happened upon Kayla Itsine’s Bikini Body Guide. I talked to some girls who were doing the BBG program and their excitement was so palpable that I decided to purchase the guide. The combination of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and LISS (Low Intensity Steady State) turned out to be a golden combination for me.

Six weeks ago (January 11th) I joined in on The Kayla Movement 2016 together with TONS of other women all over the world. I started a separate Instagram account (for those of you who’d like to follow that account: iris.does.bbg) to keep in contact with others doing the same program as me (which was a golden move! Motivation to find in abundance!). Six weeks of 3 HIIT workouts, 3 LISS workouts, and one rest day a week and I feel great. I’m not gonna lie, it’s hard work, really hard work and my muscles were SO SORE after that first week, but it’s so worth it.


I have a LOT of energy, I am happier than I’ve been in a long time, and I’ve never been more comfortable in my own body than I am now. I’m improving in all fields: I’m running faster than ever and I’m getting stronger and stronger each day. I can see my body changing; my muscles are developing and I love how strong I’m looking.

What does a week in workout-land look like?

I’ve got quite a happy workout schedule going on right now. Warning: you might think I’m crazy.

Monday: 4 x 7 minutes Legs & Cardio (HIIT)

Tuesday: 5 to 10k run (LISS)

Wednesday: 4 x 7 minutes Arms & Abs (HIIT)

Thursday: 5k run (LISS) in the morning and Abs workout (HIIT) at the gym later that day

Friday: 4 x 7 minutes Full Body workout (HIIT)

Saturday: 5 to 10k run (LISS)

Sunday: Rest day (or, when I’m feeling like it, a 5k run)

That probably looks crazy to you, but if you do the math, besides Thursday (and the days I run more than a 5k), you’ll see that I only spend 30 minutes on my workouts every day , and 30 minutes really is such a small proportion of the day, almost everyone can miss 30 minutes. I just to spend 30 minutes of my day, that someone else might spend in front of the tv, working out. I have all the equipment I need at home: dumbbells, medicine ball, and workout mats. So there’s no need to do my workouts at the gym (I just love to do so every now and then, especially when I go with a friend). If it’s raining outside, I can always switch around, and if I feel like having a rest day, I’ll just have a rest day.

I don’t force myself to train, I want to. I get restless and have too much spare energy when I don’t. At a certain point I started to crave those workouts, I crave exercise, they clear my head and make me feel strong. I push myself every day to become a stronger version of myself and I am SO proud of how far I’ve come!

What am I working towards?

March 6th I am running a 10k in during the CPC (City Pier City run) in The Hague with my father. I’ve been working hard on improving my average pace over the last two months. I run a 5k under 30 minutes quite easily, and I’m a bit afraid to set a time goal for myself for the 10k, but I’m hoping it’ll at least be under 1 hour and 10 minutes (taking in account how many runners there’ll be and how swarmed the road will be with them).

Recently, I was chosen for the most awesome project EVER! Glamour magazine (sponsored by Maybelline) set up a program to work towards half a marathon. Together with 29 others, we’re going to train, under guidance of professional trainers, towards 1/2 marathon. Our starting ticket will be paid for by Maybelline New York and we’ll get a ticket for the Glamour Health Challenge (last year THE Kayla Itsines gave a bootcamp, so I can’t wait what this year will hold!), we’re all getting a personalised training schedule, and a package from Maybelline New York. I literally CANNOT contain my excitement about this and I cannot wait to share all about it with you on my journey to 1/2 marathon! #Makeithappen

So, how crazy do you guys think I am? Haha