From fat to Viking....
Guest blog: Rene Laenen
End of 2011: A colleague at work asks me if I want to participate at the Tour for life; a biking tour for charity, from Italy to the Netherlands. 1250 kilometres in 8 days. I didn’t even have a racing bike! My last racing bike had a rim that was completely ruined, and I never thought about buying a new bike. At that time, I weighed more than 100 kilos and I was out of breath after walking up the stairs. I thought this could be a great opportunity to get back in shape. I already tried running a few times before, but my knees always prevented me from really pursuing. After every run I would need about five days to fully recover. So maybe I should give biking a try.
Halfway through 2012: I’m starting to like biking. And without really noticing I am already starting to lose some weight. In the mean time I have lost 10 kilos and I notice my energy level is higher than before. I am starting to look at running events, because I hate to bike when the weather is bad. At rainy days I start running again. I notice I need less time to recover and also the pain in my knee is almost gone. Because the running does not hurt anymore I want to go for a run more often and I also go on longer runs. Normal running events on asphalt are a bit boring to me, so I choose to do trail runs, where your time is not important, but the experience is. After some trail runs obstacle running comes to my mind. One of the biggest obstacle runs is taking place close to my home and I decide to apply for the long distance, which at that time was 12K.
When I plan on doing something, I want to do it as good as possible. So, I decided to join a bootcamp club to also train my upper body. The first few trainings were extremely heavy, because you need a completely different kind of condition than you need for biking. But the progress is going fast, and I am starting to enjoy the trainings more and more. At this time, you could find me at the woods three to four times a week and another 10 kilos were gone. In total I lost 20 kilos by working out hard and making small changes in my diet.
My first obstacle run was exactly as it should be: muddy, wet, cold but incredibly awesome! My first run I ran in a kilt and somehow, I continued to do that. I was addicted right away and immediately started looking at other events. It took some time until I planned my next run, but I still had the Tour for Life coming up and was very busy preparing for that.
End of 2013: I am riding the last kilometres of the last stage of the Tour for life. The finish was at the Cauberg, my parents and family were waiting for me at the finish. When I was asked to participate in the end of 2011 I thought this was completely impossible for me. But in the last two years so much had changed that the Tour actually went quite smooth. I was happy that I had finished it. But to be honest I was already thinking about what my next challenge could be when I drove home. I decided to set one big challenge for myself every year, in order to stay motivated. The bike went to shed, and I started running again.
In 2014 I ran the New York marathon. In 2015 I ran the Man vs Mountain in Wales and I participated the first Iron Viking challenge. In 2016 I decide I want to try qualifying for the World Championship in Obstacle Running and from that moment on I stayed with OCR (Obstacle Course Racing). I succeeded to qualify already very early in the season during the Strong Viking Mud Edition.
I was getting more and more interested in OCR and I decided that this is my sport. Together with Maarten Swart we started an OCR team: Team B4men, also known as team Beard. I started specific power training and I joined clinics to get myself as ready as possible for the World Championship in Canada. Unfortunately, all the effort I put in was not good enough. At the stairway to heaven my bracelet was cut. After I finished I said to myself: ‘this will definitely not happen to me again’ and luckily in 2017 it went better, and I got to keep my bracelet.
The challenges got crazier every time, you just keep pushing yourself to the limits. In 2017 Maarten and I ran two Iron Vikings in one weekend. A lot of people asked us why we did that. Our answer was simple: to see if it is possible. And the answer is yes, it is possible😊. We got so much positive reactions about this challenge that we decided to take on a new one for 2018. In this year we are going to run all Iron Vikings (there are eight of them in 2018!). And not to forget the Ultra Viking. So that makes this year’s challenge again, crazier than the last one.
It is quite heavy for your body to run eight marathons (next to the ‘normal’ runs) in one year. So, we decided to get help and advice for a nutrition plan and supplements to make sure we have energy to complete the runs and also to recover as quickly as possible. With eight marathons in one year, you do not have a lot of time to recover. Nutrition is incredibly important and is the key to success at endurance events. When your tank gets empty, your engine will stop. You must refill it, to keep your engine running. Another very import thing people tend to forget is the start of the run. You should never start too fast! At races I’ve seen a lot of athletes starting very fast, at round two and three I see most of them again. If I could give one piece of advice to the Iron Viking runner it would be the same advice I always get from an experienced Ultra runner: Start slowly, your win is at the end.
So, for this year we still have three Iron Vikings and one Ultra Viking to conquer. Soon we start to train for obstacle runs again, so we are ready for the first of the last races of the season of Strong Viking at 1 September in Gent.
Author: Rene Laenen - also known from the "How the FOQ!" videos