Building a better self

So you want the whole story? Not just TL;DR? You came to the right place.

I’m a 49-year-old web developer living in the Netherlands. Previous to living in my home country, I lived in California for almost seven years (2003 – 2010). Here I started running. I remember I was fascinated by the Nike+ running pod. A simple device you put in your (Nike) running shoe, and it would send data to your iPod. I thought this was innovative, but I never ran before. Next morning I went to Fleet Feet in Santa Rosa to get my first pair of running shoes. The running Nike+ running pod I got at footlocker. Got some running gear and was good to go.


At that time, I was living in Santa Rosa CA, and it had this beautiful trail right across the street from where I lived. You could run along the Santa Rosa Creek to Graton. For the time being, I stick to a C25K podcast. I would run 2.5K, turn around, and finish my routine at the point where I started. After halfway through the program, I discovered this trail in Santa Rosa: Howarth Park. The run was quite hilly with two lakes in between. One full round was 5K. At this park, I finished my C25K. I now was able to run an entire 5K without stopping. In the meantime, I made my podcast with a friend of mine. He was a voice actor for some big videogame titles, and he had this motivating voice. We made audible cues of when to start running and when to start walking. Very helpful.

After finishing the C25K, I started running 5K’s three times a week. Sometimes up to the creek, sometimes at Howarth Park. Each time I was extending my run. 5.1K, 5.2K, until at one point I was running 6-7K.

Red and blue
Photo by Matt Jones / Unsplash

Clearlake Oaks

The financial crisis of 2007 started, and I was forced to move out of Santa Rosa. I moved to Clearlake Oaks were I lived in a fifth-wheel camper. My girlfriend’s dad had one stalled in the backyard, a property of an acre. We painted the camper and made it suitable for living. I was making money doing some freelance web design jobs and other than that I had plenty of spare time. I first started running in the backyard. One round was half a K, and at that time, I was able to run 10K. So every other day I was running 20 laps. I got bored by running the same lap over and over again, and soon I was running in and around Clearlake.

I needed a challenge, so I signed up for the San Jose Rock ‘n Roll half marathon. I was upping my mileage every week, and my long run was 18K. I was ready for it.

San Jose Rock ‘N Roll half marathon

The San Jose 1/2 marathon is part of the Rock ‘n Roll marathon series. These are fun to run. Every mile there will be a band playing, and the audience is enthusiastic (I guess this is the case with all marathons/sports events). The day before we arrived in San Jose, picked up my BIB, and got a little familiar with the track. It’s a mostly flat race, so not too tricky.

After a good but short night, I showed up at the start. It was pretty hectic. Loud music. Runners warming up. Long lines in front of the porta-potties. Runners were looking for the right start section. You could see all kind of runners: short, tall, big, and small. The most important thing I noticed: everyone seemed to enjoy this. So was I! From running 5K next to a creek to running a half marathon!

San Jose, CA
Canon 550d FullSpectrum IRChrome
Photo by Andrii Ganzevych / Unsplash

No matter how good you prepare for your first race, there will always be something you didn’t think of that comes along. In my case, it was nutrition. Sounds like a no-brainer but I studied the course meticulously days, months before and made a mental note of the gel stations next to the road. I completely missed it and about 16K in the run I felt hungry. I saw gel packs on the floor left and right and realized I missed the station. No way I was turning around looking for the gel stand. I was on my own. I asked a lady next to me if she had any left. She didn’t.

My savior was standing at 18K. It was this little boy with his dad standing next to the road with a huge platter full of homemade chocolate chip cookies! I stopped and munched away a cookie. They tasted so good! I asked if I could grab three(!) more and the kid just smiled. I guess he was happy someone ate some of his cookies. Months before the race, I read an article with a tip not to drink or eat from the audience (you never know what they are offering), but I couldn’t care less. These cookies made me finish my first half marathon.

I enjoyed running this race, and my tip for first-time runners is to soak it all up. Don’t aim for PRs. Just run and enjoy yourself. Below you will find a short video of my last K to the finish. Excuse me for the potato quality. It was after all 2009.


So I ran and finished my first half. I felt sore the day after but managed to run a slow 3K. Shortly after the marathon, I moved to Cobb mountain. Yes, I moved to a hill. Training is nearly impossible. Too many steep slopes and the nearest ‘flat’ track was a 20-minute drive. My running aspiration went South around the time I was going back for a vacation to the Netherlands. Little did I know I was moving back to my home country less than a year from then.


In 2010 I moved back to the Netherlands. I ended up in Rotterdam, the city my SO was living. I was to occupied with getting my life back on track after the move I barely had time to run. There were some efforts, but after a few weeks I just gave up. In 2012 our twins were born. Raising kids is a whole new ballgame, and at this time, running was out of my system. After moving around a few times, we finally settled in Maastricht. We both grew up in this region, and it was the obvious choice to raise our kids here. We both found jobs, and life was good.

Rotterdam by Night
Photo by Stijn Hanegraaf / Unsplash

Fast forward to today. After not running for several years, my weight exploded to 103 Kg (227 lbs.). After returning from our holiday in Italy, I felt something had to change. My digital scale would notify me: obese. That same week the Iron Man Maastricht was taking place. I got up at 06:30 to see the start of the race which was around the block. All these fit bodies triggered me to become a better self. The same day I signed up at my local gym (just 200m from where I live). The gym is open 24/7, which is fantastic — time to not only change my fitness but my overall health as well. Getting back into shape means changing your lifestyle. Losing weight means working out and a healthy diet. Not just short term, it’s for life.

Building a better self

I love data. I love today’s technology in retrieving this data. In 2009 I was intrigued by the Nike+ running pod. Nowadays, I rely on my Wahoo TICKR X and several other apps. I’m using Lifesum to track all the calories I’m eating. I’m using Wahoo Fitness to record my workouts which I then sync with Strava. I also signed up with the Nerd Academy. The academy gives you complete exercises designed for your fitness level. It also has a little gamification build into it. Somewhat nerdy (hence the name) but I like it.

So that’s my story. As of this writing, I’m into my second week of the C25 program. I’m spot on with my diet (high protein) and religiously get up around 05:00 AM to start my morning routine. Next week holiday is over, and the kids go back to school. It will shift my program a bit, but for now, I’m sticking to it. Also checking /r/loseit and /r/progresspics keeps me motivated. Want to read all about my progress? Read my blog! You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram.

Let’s do this!