Tag Archives: marathon

Madrid Marathon (MAPOMA) 2015

“Happiness only real when shared”, Christopher McCandless (1)

On April 26 (2015) I completed my 12th marathon (2) by running the Marathon of Madrid, 15 years after having completed the first in the same place. My friend Jose and my brother Jaime completed there their 1oth marathon.

We have run together several marathons: Paris, Berlin, Rome, Athens, Rotterdam, New York, Sevilla… the fact is that we have not run any of those together from the start to the end (3). For these reasons we had decided in the previous days that this time, we would run it together from the beginning to the end, no matter what happened.

After the bad experience in Sevilla, I had found it difficult to find the motivation to train. However, a couple of weeks after Sevilla, I beat my personal best in half marathon and managed to complete a good mileage prior to Madrid. I thus felt that I arrived to Madrid in a good shape. On the other hand, Madrid hasn’t got the best profile to attempt a personal best.

Madrid marathon profile.

Madrid marathon profile.

Thus, we decided to take it rather easy. Our quick strategy was something like: run at about 5’20″/km the first climb (7km) then run 5′ till the half marathon, close to that pace till the entrance of the Casa de Campo (~26km), take it easy there, exit it and do the final 6km climb as we can… thinking we could finish in about 3h45′ doing that.

Madrid marathon route.

Madrid marathon route.

… and that is what we did. Give or take some seconds to the paces, and softening a bit more in the second half. Our final net time was about 4h02′, but you would have to discount about 9′ to have the time we were actually running as we had a rather long pit stop at km. 13. Discount those minutes and we would have been at some 3h53′, just a few minutes above the target.

Time splits.

Time splits.

My brother Jaime wrote a very detailed post here about how the race developed. I suggest you to read it.

The marathon in Madrid normally is rather hard. It was a pleasant experience this time. Running together with friends. Not being mentally pressured by the time. Running at home; knowing what would be after almost every turn, how long and how hard the climbs would be, where one could relax the legs… The rain, heavy rain at several moments, made it only better. More epic in a way. Helping each other in the last kilometres, cheering my fellow runners. And finally crossing the finish line, sprinting in the Retiro park where I have trained so often with Jaime. As he said to end his blog post,

It was an honour to run with you

(1) In a previous post, “Running in the Incles’ valley“, I described the joy of running alone in the mountains. I then compared it with what the experiences of Christopher McCandless, the man about whom the story of the movie “Into the wild” is based. I quote here one of his latest sentences.

(2) Not counting Millau in 2011 (100km) nor Sevilla 2015 (not completed).

(3) I completed Millau together with Jose in 2011, and I have completed several San Silvestre with Jaime.


Filed under Sports

Maratón Popular de Madrid (2000)

Hace 5 años escribí unas lineas describiendo mi experiencia cuando en el año 2000 corrí mi primera maratón, en Madrid, la Maratón Popular de Madrid (MAPOMA).

El 30 de abril de 2000, tras varias experiencias corriendo por las calles de Madrid: olor a réflex un domingo por la mañana frente a la fuente de Neptuno, empezar a correr sin saber hasta donde iba a llegar, escuchar Carros de Fuego sonando desde un balcón de la calle Fuencarral, cruzar bajo el arco hinchable de la Puerta del Sol, los primeros dolores musculares en la Ciudad Universitaria, el saltarse las lágrimas con las caceroladas de los vecinos en la calle de la ribera del Manzanares, la soledad del lateral de la M-30, respirar el aire del pulmón de Madrid, ver el Paseo de los Pontones como una pared vertical desde el Puente de San Isidro, el Paseo del Prado, los últimos metros empedrados… mi primera maratón, MAPOMA (1). De nuevo por tus calles, Madrid.

A aquella carrera me inscribí porque unas semanas había visto por televisión la maratón de Londres (11 de abril) y pensé que no podría perderme una experiencia similar. Aparte de las líneas que he copiado arriba, de aquella experiencia tengo muchos más recuerdos bien grabados: un corredor que, viendo mi cara de sufrimiento, me paró en torno al kilómetro 37 para darme un pequeño masaje en las piernas; los paracaidistas de la BRIPAC descendiendo en la Castellana antes del comienzo de la carrera…

Hoy, 15 años después, de nuevo participaré en dicha carrera. Esta será mi cuarta maratón en la ciudad. Y tras una parada de 2002 a 2010, sera la 14a vez que tome la salida en una maratón.

El recorrido es parecido, aunque a lo largo de los años ha cambiado un poco. La dureza será la misma. Por otro lado, yo llego ahora mucho más entrenado que entonces, cuando apenas si preparaba la carrera y basaba todo en la creencia de que siendo joven y deportista podría acabar la carrera. Y de hecho la acaba, pero con mucho más sufrimiento y tardando más de una hora más que hoy en día.

Esta vez de nuevo correré con mi hermano Jaime y mis amigos Jose y Juan. Esperemos que por la tarde solo tengamos motivos para celebrar.

(1) Maratón Popular de Madrid (MAPOMA), 30 abril 2000, 42.2km, tiempo oficial 5:00:36; tiempo neto 4:59:23. [6083/6552, 93%]

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Marathon Sevilla 2015

“A marathon always offers you the opportunity to do something epic”, Jaime Irastorza (my brother)

After several dozens of races completed in the last years, including 11 marathons and an ultra, on February 22, a race hunted me down. In the last Seville marathon I DNF. I did not finish.

I wrote a post which was published on the morning of the race. In it I explained that I arrived to that marathon in my best shape so far. However, for me the race took place not on the Sunday 22nd February but on Saturday 21st.

I had put much illusion into the event: running in Seville, the attempt at beating my personal best time, being accompanied by family and friends…

On Friday afternoon we went to the marathon expo at the FIBES. There we retrieved our running bibs, got the confirmation that we could start the race together, took our official expo picture and by chance I met elite runner Pablo Villalobos (1), with whom I had exchanged some tweets in the morning.

That evening we had dinner out with friends in the downtown; plenty of different delicious tapas to share. We had some fun… though at the end of the dinner I started feeling weak, and I went back to the hotel instead of staying with the friends to take some drinks.

On Saturday morning I woke up with stomach problems and some diarrhea. I went to the pharmacy to get some pills and rested a few hours. I feared for the race the day after. The hours passed and I felt a little bit better so we went to have lunch with some 14 friends at Puerto Delicia.

Saturday's lunch with friends.

Saturday’s lunch with friends.

After lunch we went for a walk and I started to feel weak again. We went back to the hotel room. By about 18h, in the bed, I started shivering. During the following hour the fever went up and up. At 19h I reached out for the WC to vomit (such a pity of the previous meals!). I called my brother to ask if he could bring me some drinks and food to the room. By 20h he came with some Aquarius and bananas. 10 hours to recover before waking up time, 13 hours to the marathon start time. That was the start of my race during the night in order to take part of the event.

In the following hours I drank, ate and slept bit by bit, until 24h, when I finally put myself to get a long sleep (6 hours).

On Sunday morning at 6am I woke up on the clock alarm. I stood up and it seemed that I felt OK. With that check I went downstairs to have breakfast. I met there Jaime and Juan, who were happy and very surprised to see me there. After the breakfast we took a taxi and departed for the Stadium at La Cartuja, where we met Jose.

The day was sunny though a bit cold. Changing clothes, drinking a bit, seeing the thousands of runners going through the rituals before the race… that cheered me up.

Before the race.

Before the race.

At few minutes before 9am we went to our corral, 3h45’-4h. We chatted with other runners and with that we went off for a good run!

You can see here a good report of the marathon by my brother Jaime.

We went together for the first 13 kilometres. Our target was to run at a pace of 5 minutes per km. We alternated some at a somewhat higher pace with other at a slower pace. At km 7 we saw Luca and Andrea who greeted us from the hotel room.

Passing by the hotel at km 7.

Passing by the hotel at km 7.

By the 10km mark we were just losing some 40″ in relation to our 3h30’ target time.

Running at some point.

Running at some point.

After having drunk at a few supply posts I started feeling some pain in the stomach, like cramps. Something wasn’t working well. I told my brother and Jose to go ahead with their pace and forget about me. I wasn’t sure of the fate of my race. Ten minutes later, at km 15 I stopped at one of the WC cabins. I had to vomit everything I had taken. Not a good signal. I was emptying my reserves and not replenishing sugar nor minerals.

I re-started at a slower pace (~5:15) for some minutes and then decreased it later (~5’20”-5’30”). I passed the half marathon point in 1h52’01”, not a bad time. In theory that would point at a marathon time of around 3h50′. However, the feelings weren’t good.

At the km 22 I was feeling weaker and most important, I started to worry. After the last 24 hours, having vomited everything and not being able to ingest food and liquid, at some point I would run out of glucose. I feared that if I continued to run I would be risking fainting in any moment above around 2 hours. I pondered during some minutes whether to give it a try. “It doesn’t matter if you are well above 4 hours!” I had been there (in those times) before. I had completed other marathons in pain, injured. However, I thought this risk was more serious.

At about km 23 I had decided to quit. I would have other marathons to beat my best time. Other marathons to complete. Other marathon to run with Jaime end to end. But it would not be this one. I continued running softly, seeking out for a taxi. I found it at km 26.6… and then I stepped aside.

With that decision I put an end to my epic fight against the distance of that marathon that day. See the records of my Garmin watch below:

My Garmin data from Seville marathon.

My Garmin data from Seville marathon.

I regretted having quit not even a minute afterwards while seeing the runners along. I even saw Juan from the taxi… but thinking it over a few days later I think it was a good decision. In less than 2 months from that date and just 6 weeks from the date this post is published I will be running the Madrid marathon and there will hopefully be many other marathons to run.

The experience in Seville will teach me to appreciate even more the marathons completed, to value the good health enjoyed on race days so far, and to realize how difficult is to achieve and beat a personal best time… something you do not conquer the day after you have been sick. Nevertheless, I love the distance, the race, the marathon, and I had to give it a try. I tried some thing epic but it could not be.

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(1) He had placed 2nd and 4th in previous editions of the race. You can check out his blog here. By the way, for Pablo it wasn’t also the best day: he quit in km 26 too, his first marathon not completed, too.


Filed under Sports

Buenos días, Sevilla!

At the time this post is being published, two friends (Juan and Jose), my brother and I are about to start the Marathon of Sevilla.

To prepare this marathon I followed the same 16-week long training plan I used for the previous two marathons (Rotterdam and New York). However, the 1st day of the plan was on November 3rd, just the day after we completed New York marathon. Thus, I took a week of full rest and another 3 of almost no running, and I started following the plan at full throttle only from week 5, beginning of December.

From December till February 15th (when writing this post) I have completed over 616km (650km including those few in November) in 11 weeks, or about 56km per week. I have completed about 20 sessions of series training, I ran 9 long runs over 17km (6 of them over 27km, 2 over 33km), I did not take part in any race but during training sessions I managed to clock my 5th best time over 10km and my 2nd best time over 21.1km (half marathon). I am close to the fastest shape that I have been in the last year, and have no doubt followed the best training season so far.

Weekly mileage completed along the training plan for Sevilla.

Weekly mileage completed along the training plan for Sevilla.

In between, I switched training shoes, so I will run with shoes with less than 150km though more or less used to the shape of my feet.

Back to the race. We will cover the 42.195km by running all around Sevilla. This marathon will be somewhat special to us since it will be the first one we will be running together all of us in Spain. It will also be special as both my brother and I lived for a year in Sevilla while studying and working (not simultaneously though).

It will start in Isla de la Cartuja (where we studied at EOI) to go South towards Triana and Los Remedios. At km. 4 will turn left to take Av Republica Argentina just 4 blocks where our cousin lives. We’ll cross the river and turn left to go along the river for about 8km, passing Torre del Oro, La Maestranza (bullfighting arena), Av Torneo all the way to the Puente del Alamillo (we’ll be passing the cinemas we used to go, places where friends used to live, etc). At km. 14 we’ll pass by La Macarena, where Jaime used to live. Shortly after we’ll take Luis Montoto heading towards the hotel we normally stay when on business, where more friends used to live, etc. Then we’ll take Kansas City avenue to the North for another 2km. Shortly afterwards we’ll cross the half marathon mark.

PlanoDetalleRecorrido_v2The next 7 km will cover parts of the city I don’t know that well, therefore it will be perfect time to focus on the pace, drinking and eating. At km. 28 we’ll take Luis de Morales street, where I use to train when on business in Seville. At km. 32 we’ll pass by the football stadium of Betis and then take the Paseo de la Palmera for 2km until Parque de Maria Luisa and Plaza de España, two of the most beautiful spots of the city (which I also go by when training in Sevilla).

From then on, the last 6km I guess that are going to be overwhelming: the race will go through the very centre of the city (the University, the Cathedral (La Giralda), the city hall, Av Constitucion, Tetuan, Trajano, Alameda de Hercules), by then it will be about noon and more people will be on the streets cheering the runners. Hopefully, by then, we’ll still be in good shape, fighting for the objective and enjoying the experience.

This tour through the centre will end at the Puente de la Barqueta to cross the river and cover the last 2km in Cartuja before reaching the Olympic stadium where world athletics championship of 1999 took place.

And what will be my objective? Since I mentioned that I arrive at this race with the best training so far (as does my brother), we’ll depart trying to stay with the pacer of 3h30′ all along the way and thus clocking a time under that mark, which for me (and possible for Jaime) would be a personal best. The race is quite flat and if the day does not turn out too hot, the conditions should help us to achieve that goal.

To support us along the race we’ll count with the direct families (Inma, Luca, Andrea), extended family, friends that come from Madrid explicitly to cheer us (Elena, Maicol) and possibly some others we may see along the race.

To end this pre-race post I leave you with the traditional picture by Jaime:


Filed under Sports

Summary of (my) 2014

Brief recap of my 2014. (1)

In the last year recap I mentioned that in 2014 I wanted to give it a try to the processes’ approach at the time of setting goals. Trying to introduce new habits, settle others, etc. I started very focused: waking up earlier, studying Dutch first thing in the morning, arriving at the office earlier, training at lunch time, getting back home earlier, playing with Andrea, spend some family time, read and study at late evening/night. Some of the habits have stayed, some others not, and I have taken new ones along the year… let’s review the year.

The main events of this year:

  • AndreaFFVFRLuca passed the exams to become a lawyer in France, found a job in a law firm and finally sworn before the court as a lawyer.
  • Andrea… many events in her front. From the first flight with me at the controls in February, to her first steps in the summer, to travelling first time to Africa and America…
  • We moved houses, though still living in Toulouse (from the flat in Saint-Cyprien to a house in Sept Deniers).

Avgeek. The stage we had in Paris for Luca’s exams allowed me to visit the Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace (Le Bourget) and to get to know the airfield of Issy-Les-Moulineaux. Our escapades to the Pyrenees made us discover Musée de l’Aéronautique of Luchon. The more recent trip to the USA allowed us to visit the Dayton, where the Wright Brothers originated and the National Museum of the US Air Force, for which I still have to write about, but you can see my brother’s post on the museum. We also had the chance to visit the Francazal air show.

VitrineThe moving to the new house gave me the opportunity to find a well deserved location for the model collection.

Flying. Apart of the mentioned first flight with Andrea on board, in this 2014 I managed to complete some 17 flights totalling almost 15 flight hours, 30 take-offs and landings and including 5 solo flights (one of them a navigation flight).

????????????????????????????????Not only Andrea had her baptism regarding flying with me at the controls in 2014, but Juan, Maicol, my mother, my sister Beatriz and brother Jaime had theirs too! Despite some exercise-related incidents (including a runway excursion, through during a solo flight), I am sure they enjoyed it and the experience made it to their 2014 memories.

Since the progress was good, just before the summer my instructor mentioned the taking of the exam! But first I had to pass the theoretical part, which I had postponed so far. I did a first attempt in November in which I cleared half of it, next attempt in a couple of months. Then, some more flight lessons (not having flown since September), flight hours and start thinking on the practical exam!

FinMarLearning. The balance between family, hobbies and work is always tricky. This year I started strong studying Dutch which I dropped after 3 months, and in the second half of the year I had to put hours to the study of the PPL theoretical part (in French), with partial success.

In between, I completed some other online courses (MOOCs): The Age of Sustainable Development (Columbia), An Introduction to Operations Management (Wharton) and Financial Markets (Yale). In parallel, I completed some other very interesting in-company trainings on Airline Engineering and Maintenance, Management of Conflicts and Time Management.

Reading. This year again I didn’t set any objectives in terms of number of books, but I only prepared a shelf with a selection of about 20 books that I wanted to prioritize. In the end I read the following 10 books (about half of them from the selected shelf):  Hot, Flat, and CrowdedThe Roaring NinetiesEl amor en los tiempos del cóleraThe Early History of the AirplaneSeeking Wisdom: From Darwin to MungerWhat management is, Sycamore Row, The Racketeer, Micro, Crime and Punishment (in Spanish). You can find here a brief review of each of them and references to longer reviews I made about them in the blog.

Family 2.0. Despite of the family life and different changes, I managed to write just a bit over 80 posts. Plus the blog received over 80,000 visits in 2014 (a 60% increase in relation to 2013) and is very close to surpassing the 200,000 since I started it in 2010.

On top of that, Luca went forward with her own blog, check it here, Jaime launched his new blog (with especially interesting post on aerospace topics!) and my mother launched a website to promote her therapy business (Terapias ArcoIris). I wonder whether Andrea will start a blog before speaking or writing! (2)

DSC_0161 - CopyTravelling. This year we visited Paris for a week (first time in Versailles and in the château de Chambord for me), made 3 escapades the Pyrenees (with Luca and Andrea alone, with my family and with friends), visited again the United States (NY and some new places for us: Boston, Gettysburg, Dayton, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia – with over 2,100 miles driven and 8 different hotels in less than 2 weeks!) in a very entertaining trip with lots of learning opportunities and experiences, the Dordogne, spent a half resting half discovery week in Mauritius, flew to the Netherlands (3 times, a week each time), five days in Sicily (Siracusa, Milazzo, Taormina; incredibly beautiful places) and these last days of the year in Madrid.

????????????????????????????????Again, those were the leisure trips; on top of that, the job made me go to Madrid another 20-25 times (?), that made it tiresome and difficult to combine with other things but gave my plenty of opportunities to see my family, friends and to run in the Retiro park…

Sports – Running. This year, due to the young age of Andrea, we did not manage to go skiing. We neither played some golf as we wished we had to, nor gave it a try with soccer. What I did was basically, guess… running.

In 2014 I ran well over 1,900 kilometres, which was a goal I set to myself at half way through the year (when I had completed just over 800). As I wanted to reduce the weekends’ agenda, I competed less and just took part in 9 races (3) (versus 16 in 2013) including: 2 marathons (Rotterdam and New York, both under my previous personal best time!), 2 half marathons (Blagnac and Toulouse, no personal best here though), 3 10k‘s (all of them under 45’, with two consecutive personal bests!) and a couple of trails: Cassoulet and Foies Gras. As you read, in 2014 I achieved personal bests in marathon and 10k thanks to the different training plans I combined (more variety), which was great. I did not so in half marathon, I think in 2015 I’ll try to improve the 3 marks.

IMG_0219Following the sentence “the running shoes, always in the suitcase”, the year 2014 caught me running in: Wijchen (9 times), The Hague, Rijswijk, Sevilla, Rotterdam, Paris (x6), New York (x2), Milazzo (x3), Montauban, Mauritius (x5), Madrid (x16), Dayton, Colomiers, Benasque, Barakaldo, Allentown, Verfeil, Mauvezin… plus the tens of times I trained in Toulouse and Blagnac.

This year, apart from the races, I managed to train plenty of long runs: 11 over 20km, including 6 over 25km and 2 over 30km; and did plenty of series’ sessions (too many to mention). That contributed a lot to the improvement of my times.

Other reasons for joy in 2014 have been:

  • My family: My sister moved to Odense (Denmark) to study a master in International Security & Law  (you can follow her in her blog), and once the classes were completed moved to Vilnius (Lithuania) to make a stage at the NATO Energy Security Centre of Excellence. We had the pleasure to have my mother over for a month in July-August. We enjoyed 2 weeks of holidays with Jaime in the States, apart enjoying several runs with him. My father is ever more engaged with NGOs teaching classes to disfavoured people in Madrid.
  • Some more friends got married: Alessandro, Erik, Simone.
  • And we welcome some newborns from family and friends: Guillermo, Cas, Nils, Amelie…

Now it’s time to rest, celebrate and soon to plan how we want the 2015 to turn out. It will again be a year full of personal and professional changes, with plenty of learning opportunities, kilometres to run, marathons to enjoy, airplanes to fly and flights to catch, museums to see, books to read, trips to make and parties to enjoy.

For now, I will close 2014 celebrating my sister’s birthday, running the San Silvestre Vallecana in Madrid with several friends and enjoying a last dinner with the family.

I wish you the best for 2015, enjoy it!

(1) You can see my 20102011, 2012 and 2013 recaps.

(2) I have to confess that at some point I considered the idea of opening a blog for her to register each of her flights… I dropped the idea, because I was incapable of registering all the desired data of so many flights! [over 20 flights in 2014 alone for her]

(3) That figure excludes the San Silvestre Vallecana that I will run the afternoon after this post is published.


Filed under Personal development & HR

New York marathon 2014

My brother and I in Staten Island, Verrazano bridge in the back.

My brother and I in Staten Island, Verrazano bridge in the back.

… and November 2nd came and we got to run the New York City marathon.

In a previous post I explained what makes this specific marathon so special, an overview of the course and how I came to it regarding my training. In this post I will focus on my experience (1), a hell of a experience!

This marathon is a huge event. We were over 50,000 runners. This means a very serious logistics operation. So everything that you experience can be put into perspective in relation to that. The marathon expo at the convention center, the queues, the volunteers, the supplies, the transportation, the distances to cover, the goodies provided pre and post race, the medical staff, the mobile toilets, the music bands… everything.

The day of the race started with waking up in Manhattan at 4am. I had booked a place into a bus departing from the public Library to bring me to Staten Island, but in the end Jaime got me into one of the buses of the International Travel Partner he got his trip organized with, so that we did not have to look for each other at the island. The bus dropped us at the island at around 6am, and from then on we had some 4 hours until the departing time of our wave.

To me this was the worst part of the event. There are things that could be improved: from providing more covered space to not explicitly forbidding runners to bring blankets, to providing blankets, simply allowing to drop off clothes later or even just honestly communicating the real times at which the starting corrals would be opened.

IMG_3980One could argue that the size of the event makes that part difficult to organize. Fair enough. On the other hand, Berlin marathon also hosts about 40,000 runners and has none of the nonsense of New York marathon. Its start area, finish area and timetables are neatly organized.

The good thing of that waiting time is that I spent it with my brother, talking, joking, getting into the mood of the race. Until we had to leave each one to his corral.

  • Tip one: forget about your assigned corral, if you have friends, arrange to depart from the same corral (apparently there is some grading, orange being more demanding and blue more accessible).
  • Tip two: bring 2 sets of warm clothes. One to be put into the bag that will be transported to the finish line. The other to wear it until you are in Verrazano bridge, then throw it away.


Verrazano bridge is huge; over 2 miles long. At the mid-point you are at the highest point of the race, with great views of Manhattan. Even greater winds if you have the luck to run in a day like the day we ran in. Temperatures were about 6C and winds of over 40km/h. In that conditions, one could only run trying not to fall and forget about best times or anything like that (2).

I had read a post about how to plan the race. It warned about not starting too fast in the bridge (honestly, it almost cautioned not to run too fast until kilometre 42). I found myself running 30″ faster per km on the second half of the bridge. At that point I lost the 3h45′ pacer, and with her the chance of meeting my brother Jaime later on, as we had agreed to follow that pacer to ensure we would meet each other (3).


Once we left the bridge, we entered in Brooklyn and with it came the crowded streets, the music bands, the contrasts, the cheering crowds (“Vamos España”, “Allez la France” (4), “You’re looking good”… looking good at km. 35, really? :-)). This makes this race apart.

There are parts of the race that are not especially beautiful. You don’t get to run through lower Manhattan, or Broadway. You do not cross Brooklyn bridge. But the streets you run in, with very few exceptions, are packed with cheering crowds, volunteers, music bands, runners… you feel surrounded by a great atmosphere along the complete 42km. Some moments which I especially cherished:

  • Running with a head band with a Spanish flag, receiving lots of dedicated support at different points (especially in one of the last turns in Columbus Circle, mile 26). Thanking that support with some gestures (thumbs up, smiles, waving hands…).
  • Giving some support words each time I overtook an identifiable fellow Spanish.
  • Running along Lafayette avenue surrounded by French runners and a crowd cheering with “Allez la France”.
  • Climbing Queensboro bridge. No spectators, just runners. 2 km long. A good climb at mile 15. Enjoying good views of Manhattan skyline just about to enter it. Time to focus on your pace, notice that there are only 17km to go, overtaking plenty of runners, owning your race.
  • Landing on First avenue. Not seeing the end of a 2.5-mile stretch. Seeing thousands of different flags though. Planning to keep a fast pace thinking these are going to be my 10km like in Rotterdam. Failing to do so.
  • A white woman thanking runners for visiting the Bronx (mile 21).
  • Sustaining a decent pace on a surprising 1.5km-long climb in the 5th Avenue, just before entering Central Park, starting from km 36.5. Tough, very tough. (“that’s a beautiful pace!”, really?)
  • Being overtaken at km 38 by the 3h45′ pacer, the same girl I lost in Verrazano bridge. Thinking for a moment: “they’re going too fast for me now” (5’20″/km pace vs. the over 6′ I did in the previous climb). Thinking in the next moment: “what the hell! I am following them!”. Doing so, and clocking the best 4 kilometres of the second half of the race, allowing me to finish in 3h44’32”, my second best time in the distance!
Pace per km.

Pace per km.

This marathon is not easy, though not that tough (Athens was harder). The trip is expensive. The chances of getting a place into it are few… but if you have the chance to do it, at least once, I would recommend it (5).

  • Tip three: train well, series and long runs, and do start softly, you will need some reserves to go to the Bronx and return and climb up to Central Park.

After the race, I felt so much pain in my back due to the cold suffered in the early morning that I needed a massage to relax my back, remove the cramps and dry my clothes. Afterwards, I met my brother and together we went back to the hotel, savouring the achievement. Our 6th marathon together. 12th marathon (including Millau ultramarathon, for which a 42km time was given), 2nd in the USA (after San Diego).

There will come a day in which I won’t be able to run marathons, then, I’ll be able to look back and relish the day I ran New York City marathon back in November 2nd, 2014. Thanks, Jaime, for suggesting and pushing for it!

(1) Find in my brother’s blog a post about his experience in the same event.

(2) Take the case of the winner, Wilson Kipsang, who in previous days had announced the intention to break the course record (around 2h5′) and he finally finished in almost 2h11′.

(3) I later learned, that he indeed followed the pacer up until km. 25… had I not run faster at the beginning and we would have experienced it together. I owe him one. There will be more marathons, possibly Madrid is the place to enjoy running 42km together.

(4) You can see in the stats of the race that up to over 3,000 French (the 2nd most represented country) were running, over 800 Spanish.

(5) Sins of omission are the ones which hurt the most at the end of the game, don’t they?


Filed under Sports

Good morning, New York!

At the time this post is being published, two friends (Carlos and Lorenzo), my brother and I are about to start the New York City marathon; the most popular marathon in the world, with over 50,300 finishers in 2013 and a similar amount expected this year (hopefully the four of us included).

The race was organized for the first time in 1970 and has been run every year since then with the exception of 2012 due to the aftermath of the hurricane Sandy. This race, no doubt, has played a big role in promoting marathoning. In 1970 there were only 127 participants, out of them only 55 men finished. Just six years later there were over 2,000 runners taking part in it. Now the number exceeds that by 25 times.

The popularity, together with the iconic flavour of the city of New York plus the importance of the race (one of the 6 World Marathon Majors) make it a race that every marathoner would like to run at least once in a lifetime. Thus, my brother already mentioned last year “hey, Javier, nowadays that we are still fit enough we should consider giving it a try”, and so we did earlier this year. We entered the draw with some friends and I was fortunate enough to get a place. My brother got his through an international travel partner of the organization and off we went.

I started the 16-week training plan for the marathon on July 14th. Up until the time I prepared this post, 14 weeks had passed. Along them I had run over 675km, an average of 48 weekly kilometres (I exceeded 50km in 8 of those weeks). I did about 20 sessions of series training, I ran 8 long runs over 20km (3 of them over 30km) and took part in 4 races (10k, half marathon, 25km trail and 33km trail). I am not in the fastest shape that I have been in the last year but I feel comfortable with the training I have followed.

Weekly mileage completed along the training plan for NY.

Weekly mileage completed along the training plan for NY.

NY marathon course map.

NY marathon course map.

Back to the race. We will cover the 42.195km by running through all the 5 neighbourhoods of New York, departing from Staten Island. We will take there the Verrazano bridge to Brooklyn, where we will run for miles along the long avenues (4th, Lafayette, Bedford…) until reaching the half marathon then Pulaski bridge to enter in Queens. There, a few turns, reaching the km. 25 and ascending the Queensboro bridge listening nothing but footsteps, sensing the feeling of entering into Manhattan with 16 more km to go. We will turn right left at to take 1st avenue and head north for 4 miles all the way to the Bronx and from there we will head south by the 5th avenue, entering in the Central Park to complete there the last miles of the race.

I guess that with Geoffrey Mutai in the roster of participants I will not get much time in the tv live. In any case, if you want to follow it, the running bib to pay attention to is the 25451.





Filed under Sports

Rotterdam marathon

Last Sunday 13th April, I completed Rotterdam marathon together with JaimeSerna and Manuel. In a race preview post I wrote that I arrived to this marathon a bit short of training, having completed just about 2/3 of the training plan. In the weeks prior to the race I had asked my brother what pace he intended to start with. Having in mind the lack of thorough training, I thought of starting at a pace slightly below 5’20” per km but not below 5′. That rhythm, if sustained through the end, would allow a new personal best (at that point 3h45’35”, achieved in Paris, April 2012).

Jaime and I started the race together, departing from the box “E”. We ran together 15 kilometres, pacing each other, ensuring we would not run too fast or too slow. At km. 15 Jaime said he wanted to soften the pace a little and since then I ran alone. My intention up to then was just to try to sustain low 5’s until km. 25, just before the climb of the Erasmus bridge back to the city centre. I thought that climb would take its toll and wanted to arrive to it with some time cushion, climb it relaxed and see if after it I could go back to a similar pace.

Just when we crossed the bridge I saw that I had not slowed down but the pace was still at 5 minutes per km. This encouraged me. I took the second energetic gel bag and ate it (I consumed the first one at km. 15) and told to myself “let’s try to run a few more kilometres at 5′, one at a time”.

… and those were the best 10 kilometres of my race, from 25 to 35, where I employed less than 50′ and enjoyed it a lot. I was overtaking runners, very focused on my own pace, breathing correctly, drinking at every supply post, eating another energy gel bar at km. 33, refreshing myself with sponges…

Rotterdam marathon: pace (min / km) evolution.

Rotterdam marathon: pace (min / km) evolution.

Running at km. 40.

Running at km. 40.

At some point, seeing that I was maintaining paces of 5′ and that I had only a cumulative 1’30” over the time for 3h30′, I thought that would be possible. However, at km. 36 I started feeling stiffer. The running was less smooth. Nevertheless, I told again to myself “let’s try to clock kilometres at about 5’20” “, and so I did with the exception of km. 41, but offset with 42. The last 500 metres I sprinted to try to clock a time under 3h35′, which I did: 3h34’52”, a new personal best time in marathon.

Rotterdam marathon 5k splits, paces and predicted finish times.

Rotterdam marathon 5k splits, paces and predicted finish times.

Finish photo.

Finish photo.

From the marathons I have completed in these last 3 years, Rotterdam marathon does not have the best scenery (Rome, Paris), nor is the flattest (Berlin), or the one with the best start (Rome) or finish (Athens, Berlin)… but it has been in Rotterdam where I have enjoyed the most running, where I have had the best feelings and the best race management.

One take away for me of this marathon is something which I had read often: don’t give all out from start, keep something for the second half. After the race, I have made the numbers and the comparison: Rotterdam and Paris (my previous PB) have been the slowest 2 marathons till the half marathon.

Comparison of splits in the last 6 marathons.

Comparison of splits in the last 6 marathons.

Finish photo: 11th marathon.

Finish photo: 11th marathon.

In Rotterdam, the starting at pace above 5′ was not intended in order to keep faster paces for the second half. I wish I had had such confidence and good strategy from the outset. No, we started at those paces in order to see if we could be between 3h40′ and 3h45′. But I take the lesson for the future, for the 12th marathon…

Rotterdam marathon diploma.

Rotterdam marathon diploma.


Filed under Sports

Rotterdam Marathon preview

Next Sunday, April 13th, I will take part in the Rotterdam Marathon together with the usual suspects (Jaime, Serna and Manuel). I am arriving to this marathon a bit short of training as I already reflected at the time of running Blagnac’s half marathon about a month ago. I may have completed just about 2/3 of the training plan I followed, having run just about 500km in the 16 weeks preceding the marathon. Thus, in this preview instead of talking about how I arrive to it I wanted to focus on the front of the race.

Rotterdam marathon is one of the fastest marathons in the world nowadays. On top of that, I learnt a few weeks ago that Kenyan athlete Eliud Kipchoge will take part in it. Kipchoge has today the 7th best time (1) in the distance (2h4’5″), achieved in only his second attempt at a marathon, in Berlin on the 29th of September 2013, when Wilson Kipsang beat the World Record (2h3’23”). I then wondered whether on Sunday a new world record could be set.

To be clear, setting up an athletics record is not an easy feat. Especially not in a marathon. But taking that question as a departure point I deep dived a bit into the data in order to learn more about the race.

The last time the marathon WR record was set in Rotterdam was in 1988 (26 years ago), when Belayneh Densamo left it at 2:06:50. Since then the WR has been beaten 8 times; once in Chicago, once in London and 6 times in Berlin, among them the last 5 times (see here the progression). Thus, we could confidently say that Berlin is the fastest marathon nowadays.

I then made a comparison of those 4 fast marathons over the last 14 years (since 2000), to see which one was the fastest race each of those years. See the results in the table below:

World fastest marathons (2000-2014).

World fastest marathons (2000-2014).

In the table you may see that out of the 14 years Berlin was the fastest of the 4 marathons in 7 (50%), however Rotterdam was the fastest marathon in 4 of those years (with a best time of 2h4’27”). By average winning times it would came 3rd (with a 2h6’32”) just after Berlin and London.

A curiosity, only twice in the past 14 years has the same runner won both Rotterdam and Berlin marathons in the same natural year: Felix Limo (2004) and Patrick Makau (2010) (2), both times each runner made a faster time in Rotterdam.

My train of thought then suggested: you are only paying attention to the winners’ times, you should compare more times to sense the profile of the race. I then found the following terrific website with all time best performances in track and field (maintained by Peter Larsson). With that database the analysis was rather simple.

I focused on the top 100 all-time marathon best times, of those:

  1. Berlin: 15 of the 100 all-time best times were achieved in Berlin, with a top 5 average time of 2h3’53” and a top 10 average of 2h4’18”.
  2. Chicago: 13/100; 2h4’29” (top 5); 2h5’4″ (top 10).
  3. Dubai: 18/100; 2h4’39” (top 5); 2h4’46” (top 10).
  4. Rotterdam: 14/100; 2h4’40” (top 5); 2h5’54” (top 10).
  5. London: 14/100; 2h5’02” (top 5); 2h5’15” (top 10).

Taking into account the top 100 times, Rotterdam marathon falls to the 4th place, seeing the irruption of Dubai as one of the top marathons, with all those times achieved in the last 6 years (run since 2000).

I then went a further step and made the following graph taking into account the top 1,000 times achieved in the last 45 years and highlighted in red those achieved in Rotterdam:

Marathon top 1000 times vs. those achieved in Rotterdam.

Marathon top 1000 times vs. those achieved in Rotterdam.

With those top 1,000 times, I then went back to compare the head to head of Rotterdam vs. Berlin, this time not only comparing winners times as above (Limo and Makau) but all those runners who run consecutively Rotterdam and Berlin, and checked in which race did they achieve the fastest of the 2 (or 3) times. See the results:

Runners among top 1,000 marathon times having run consecutively in Rotterdam and Berlin.

Runners among top 1,000 marathon times having run consecutively in Rotterdam and Berlin.

Of the top 1,000 marathon times, 16 runners achieved some of then running consecutively in Rotterdam and Berlin (or viceversa) (3). I made this comparison assuming that they must have been in a similar fitness (though not necessary). Of the 16, 9 of them achieved the better time in Rotterdam, 7 in Berlin. Among those times, the best 4 were achieved in Rotterdam (James Kipsang Kwambai, Patrick Makau, Geoffrey Mutai, Abel Kirui).

Then, having seen all these times, tables and graphics:

  • In the last 16 years the marathon WR has been beaten once every second year (8 times).
  • Rotterdam is arguably between the 2nd and the 4th fastest marathon.
  • However, the best time in Rotterdam (2h4’27”, Duncan Kipkemboi in 2009) is only the 14th best time overall.
  • Kipchoge PB is among the top 7 times after only his 2nd attempt at the distance.
  • Kipchoge ran in Berlin in September 2013 (2h4’5″), chances are that he beats that time running consecutively in Rotterdam in 2014.

Given the size of the feat I would not bet much on it, but I would not discard it either. Either way, I will only discover what happened about 2 hours after the race, at the front, has finished.

In case you feel like cheering me up and feel sorry for being thousands of kilometers away, don’t worry: click on this link and you will arrive at a website provided by the organization in which you can leave either one or two support messages that will be shown to me when I run by the kilometer 37 or I am just 500m from the finish line (my bib number for this race will be 1599).

Finally, find a classic picture from my brother (and marathon pal) Jaime symbolizing this marathon:

(1) Excluding times from Boston and other races not qualifying for IAAF world records.

(2) A year later, in 2011, Patrick Makau set a new WR in Berlin, 2h3’38”.

(3) Felix Limo, Geoffrey Kipsang and Jackson Koech run 3 consecutive races in a row each.


Filed under Sports

Summary of (my) 2013

Let me share with you a brief recap of my 2013. (1)

I defined my 2011 as a year on the run and my 2012 as a year of change, and yet 2013 brought more running and more change that either 2011 or 2012! To me 2013 will be a family year: as Luca and I got married and we got a baby, Andrea.

At the beginning of 2013 I did not set a list of objectives to be fulfilled along the year as with the wedding preparations and the coming of Andrea I was going to have plenty of occupations. However, that does not mean that it was a quiet 2013.

Getting married.

Getting married.

May 11, 2013. On that day Luca and I celebrated our wedding. That was our highlight of the first half of the year. We celebrated it close to my parents’ place, in the hills close to Madrid, on a great spring evening , surrounded by most of our relatives and friends (many of you, coming not only from all corners in Spain but from Canada, Brazil, The Netherlands, France, Italy, Switzerland…). Apart from being a very emotive day we had lots of fun.

The monday after the wedding we departed for a honeymoon around the US west coast. We took the opportunity to visit the usual suspects of the area (LA, San Francisco, Grand Canyon, Sequoia Park, Yosemite…) and the not so common places: the aircraft cemetery known as The Boneyard and the AF Flight Test Center (this required visiting 2 US Air Force bases: Davids-Monthan and Edwards), the aviation museums of Pima and Seattle, the Lowell observatory, the Boeing 787 / 777 /747 Final Assembly Lines…

Family Irastorza Van Veen.

In February we announced here that we were expecting a baby. On August 11th, Andrea was born in Toulouse (2).

She weighed 3,610 grams at birth and measured 50cm tall. Now, 4 and half months later she is over 7kg and over 63cm. She has been the highlight of the second half of the year.

Family 2.0. All these events made me slow down the blog posts production rate at some times during the year, though not for the lack of ideas or contents! Nevertheless, I managed to write about 90 posts! Plus the blog received over 50,000 visits in 2013 and surpassed the 100,000 since I started it in 2010.

On top of that, we saw how Luca went forward with her own blog, check it here.

Learning. What did I learn this year? The main job here has been to internalize on time the turn to becoming a father. Once that was assumed, I would say that, with the good health Andrea has had so far, it has been rather easy, albeit energy and time-consuming.

I would say that trickiest that I am finding is the balancing of time between family, hobbies and work. And it has been at the other side of the work-life balance, at the work, where another leap forward was required: in terms of new concepts, new position within the team and several challenges encountered. Though, with the great courage and support from Ruth and Loreto, the year has passed way smoother than one could have suspected.

Other than that, this year I did not manage to formally study neither French (booh! to myself) or Dutch (another big booh! to myself), and this is something that I will have to make up for in 2014 (otherwise I risk to be left out in conversations between wife and daughter!).

Online education: after getting started in 2012 with online courses, in 2013 I completed in Coursera platform the following 4 courses: “Energy 101” (Georgia Tech), “Model Thinking” (Uni. of Michigan), “Nutrition and Physical Activity for Health” (Uni. of Pittsburgh) and “Exercise Physiology: Understanding the Athlete Within” (Uni. of Melbourne). On the down side, I did not fully complete other 3 online courses for which I obtained only about 60% of the credits, even though I enjoyed them even more than the previous ones: “Game Theory” (Stanford), “A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior” (Duke) and “Understanding Einstein: The Special Theory of Relativity” (Stanford), in all three cases I missed some deadlines due to being travelling without time and proper connections to complete assignments.

Reading. This year I didn’t set any objectives in terms of books due to the reasons mentioned above. Add to that that my eReader broke at the beginning of the year and I only replaced it in June and only started to use the new eReader in December (!). I have only read 7 books in 2013 (“Thinking Fast and Slow”, “Calico Joe”, “Born to Run”, “Les Cow-boys d’Airbus”, “Personal Memoirs of US Grant”, “Moneyball” and “The Art of War” for a second time). I think I will soon write a post about them.

Sports. After about 16 years, I got to practice again skiing (!), which used to be one of my favourite sports. We went with colleagues to Val Louron, Saint-Lary and Baqueira. I also got to play soccer again after about 3 years without playing… with the misfortune of getting injured (left leg adductor) just weeks prior to a marathon.

Skiing in Val Louron (France).

Running the San Diego marathon.

As you can imagine if you are a frequent reader of the blog, what I practiced often was running. In 2013 I managed to run over 2,000 kilometres, I took part in 16 races including: 3 marathons (Rome, San Diego – while on honeymoon!- and Athens), 2 half marathons (La Latina – Madrid – and Toulouse) and 4 trails of around 20km each. For the last marathon I manage to complete a training plan to the end which made me very proud and helped to beat my 10k and half personal records.

I don’t remember from whom I picked the sentence “the running shoes, always in the suitcase”, but I follow it to the point: The year 2012 caught me running in Toulouse (all kind of corners in the French south west region), Gruissan, Madrid (the day I got married included), Torrelodones, Rome, Santander, Murcia, Santa Monica, San Diego, San Francisco (Bay to Breakers race included, and along the Golden Gate bridge), Sequoia National Park, Mojave desert, Tucson, San Diego, Everett, Oakland, San Lorenzo de la Parrilla (Cuenca), Comillas (Cantabria), Athens, Wijchen… so in a way it was also a year on the run. Many of these times I have been running with friends (Jaime, Serna, Manuel, Juan, Kike, Jon, Nacho, Gon, Juan, Nervi, Pablete…), which made it even better.

Investing & helping others: with the organization of the wedding in sight, I had a cash preference for the use of savings. With the wedding gone, I will re-start looking for investment opportunities in 2014 (hopefully the stock market isn’t so hot then).  In a few weeks I will publish how our investments (made in previous years) have fared in 2013, but they have gone well (as most of the stock markets). On the charities side: this year I directed 1.1% of my net income to different NGOs and non-profits (soon I’ll make a similar contribution, check out which ones will I support this time).

Travelling. This year either with Luca, with friends or alone, I visited Santander, Murcia, United States (LA, SF, Seattle, Mojave, Flagstaff, Tucson, San Diego…), Comillas, Greece (Athens, Delphi, Meteora, Marathon), The Netherlands (Wijchen, Den Bosch)… take the case of Andrea, who with just 4 months has been 3 times in Spain, 3 times in The Netherlands and Greece (having flown 11 times already)… those were the leisure trips; the job made me go to Madrid another 20-25 times (?), that made it tiresome and difficult to combine with other things.

My first flight on-board the A400M.

My first flight on-board the A400M.

Flying: again, 2013 has been a difficult year to find slots to fly with the instructor. Due to weather conditions, work, etc., we had to cancelled several sessions. In the end I could only fly over 13 hours. However, on August, 30, I did my first solo flight!. That was another highlight of the year. During the summer time, while my parents and in-laws were visiting to see our newborn, I could take onboard my mother and father-in-law. 

On top of that, on August 29, I got to fly onboard the aircraft I work on at Airbus Military, the A400M! (yet another highlight).

Other reasons for joy in 2013 have been:

  • Family: My brother switched jobs within the same company and will soon depart again for Germany. My sister, after completing her degree in Political Sciences, pursuing a course on Energy Security in Madrid and getting yet another certificate in English, moved to Odense (Denmark) to study a Master in Energy Security (you can follow her in her blog). My mother keeps working on her massage business, and my father is now engaged with 2 or 3 NGOs spending part of is time as a pensioner teaching maths, physics, etc., to disfavoured people in Madrid.
  • Some more friends and relatives got married: Marlies, Pablo, Jose, Unai, Marlies.
  • And apart from Andrea, these newborns will share her promotion: Julia, Aaron, Mencía, Diego, Julia, Maeva

Now it’s time to rest, celebrate and soon to plan how we want the 2014 to turn out. I believe the next year I’m going to give it a try to the processes’ approach at the time of setting goals. I have been repeating to myself for years that each year that passes is getting better than the previous one. If I see at the account above, improving 2013 seems difficult, but who am I to question that 2014 will be, again, the best year of my life!?

I wish you the same: the best for 2014, enjoy it!



(1) This post is becoming a classic of the blog (like those talking about aircraft discounts, best and worst posts, charities I support, etc). You can see my 20102011 and 2012 recaps.

(2) For the avoidance of doubt: despite of being born in France and due to her parents being Dutch and Spanish, Andrea is of Spanish and Dutch nationality, not French. Quoting a work colleague: “here [on the possibility of getting French nationality at birth or not], French law protects our children…” 🙂


Filed under Personal development & HR