Sunday, April 13, 2014

Day 5: Race Day



That was about all I wanted to write as I was walking in the final 7k of the race today.  I had already shut it down – stopped pushing around 23-24k, but I was determined to keep jogging to at least cover the distance.  By 35k, I was really in a lot of pain (part of what stopped me from racing at 23k, only with another 12k of easy running to exacerbate it), and – to be honest – I was sick of having people cheer me on. I know the spectators mean well when they encourage struggling runners….and on another day I might do the same, myself.  On another day, I might even have picked up the pace and finished at a jog.  Today was not that day.

I don’t feel like re-living the race, so I’ll keep this short (by my standards!): I felt good as we got to the start line.  Body felt ready to race.  The early kilometers were good – I kept having to slow myself down.  Unfortunately, after cruising with the lead women for a few kms, I realized they were consistently running 3:18 per km – too fast for me to hang on for 42k.  I dropped back, and found myself alone on the course.  The story of so many marathons!  There’s a pack going 2:20ish pace, and a pack going 2:30ish pace…but nobody in between. (I haven’t checked the results, so my estimates may be off.  All I know is that at 3:22-3:25 per km, there was a guy about 20m ahead of me, and the third woman made her way onto my shoulder for a while. Nobody else nearby.) To add to my frustration, it was a blustery day.  I noticed my pace slowing to 3:30ish on the kms we were facing the headwind. Happily the course twists and turns, so there weren’t too many long straight-aways into the wind. (Of course, that also meant there weren’t too many straight-aways with a tail-wind, either…) Effort felt pretty good, and my legs had speed…. About 12k in, my body started hurting – calves, quads, arms, back….what the hell? Things went downhill from there.  Except at Rotterdam, there are no real downhills to spur you on.

Given the winter we had, I did most of my training on treadmills.  As a result, my legs aren’t as tough as they once were.  Nevertheless, I handled a couple of 45k training runs alright. (Alright as far as the legs go….I did run out of sugar on one and eventually hitch-hiked back to my car after weaving all over the road, struggling to keep moving on a downhill.  That’s another story!).  I don’t know if it’s something to do with that, or maybe just that I’ve forgotten how a marathon feels – it has been a long time since I’ve raced one.  Do they always hurt that much…?

I sat and felt sorry for myself for a while in the empty locker room at the Athletic Centre to which we “sub-elites” were given access today.  I felt like a bit of a poseur in there, though Kenyan elites are the first to drop out of any race that isn’t going well. (I saw some do that today!)  I don’t really know what stubborn part of me wasn’t willing to drop out when the figure-eight course crossed back over the finishing area at 24-25k.  I saw some other guys walking off the course then….. Was that some ridiculous version of optimism on my part? Anyway, I sat there, feeling like the whole trip was a waste, until a nudge from a friend over email reminded me that “I’m in FUCKING HOLLAND!!” True. I’m on vacation, and it’s just a stupid race. In my minimal experience (Comrades marathon and now Rotterdam), I don’t seem to race well after a long flight and a time change.  Guess it’s a good thing I’m not going to qualify for the Olympics!

It’s also a good thing I was able to (forced to?) rebound post-race, because my day had a few more hiccoughs in store.  First: no hot water for my shower at the Athletic Centre.  None.  I was already cold, and then this was just a slap in the face on a bad day.  I suppose it was better than the no water I had by the time I left my hotel room this morning (miraculously, I did have hot water for my shower this morning), but….I think that last time I flushed the toilet used up whatever was left in the hotel’s reserves.  Finally, after I left the Athletic Centre, I went to retrieve my bag from the start line.  We “sub-elites” were instructed to leave bags in our own separate area until after the race. I fought my way through the crowds back to the start (the Dutch reliance on bicycles is great, until they are adding to the frustration of fighting through a crowd!) and…my bag was gone. Not sure how I’m going to tell Skechers that I need to be re-stocked so soon! Whereas I have generally found everyone to be extremely helpful and kind here so far, I simply got blank stares and shrugged shoulders when I asked where the bags might have gone.  Lacking any other plan, I returned to the Athletic Centre again (it wasn’t exactly far, but it wasn’t next door, either!) and proceeded to argue with the woman at the front desk about whether or not I was allowed back up to the pre-marathon room.  She assured me that no-one was left up there.  Finally she relented and allowed me to go see for myself.  There were still people there, thankfully, packing up, and wondering what to do with the remaining bags.  Mine included!

As I walked to a Laundromat this afternoon (yep, that’s my exciting post race adventure), I saw piles and piles of empty cups and water bottles, discarded plastic bags, and assorted other garbage.  What a disturbing cost to a race.  Not only the production of such waste, but the unconstrained discarding of it around an otherwise scenic fountain on a roundabout.

Oh, but the Dutch live up to their reputation for cleanliness!  An hour later, as I returned from the Laundromat, I looked at the fountain that had been a veritable trash-heap shortly before:

I asked at the front desk of the hotel what would be a fun way to spend my last evening in Rotterdam.  Apparently the football (soccer) team is playing, so she suggested finding my way to a pub and enjoying the atmosphere.  Could be fun.  I mean, even though I find watching football (soccer) on TV to be rather boring.  Shhh!!!! ;)


I’ve just returned from a evening of wandering around Rotterdam. (I didn’t go to a pub.) The downtown core get pretty sleepy on a Sunday evening, it seems.  Picturesque, looking out on the harbour and the river:

Even the graffiti here has a nautical theme!

Finally, it seems the Dutch penchant for inspiring quotations continues at this hotel.  I like this:

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