Tuesday, 23 October 2007

DNF and other things

It all began with a club outing last year – I didn’t go, but many of the club went to Mablethorpe, where there was a marathon, a half and a 10km. Amsterdam had the same set of races, so it seemed a good idea for the next outing. I though a 10k was doable, so I was up for it. I asked Womble to come too – with the enticement of a marathon to draw her in. In fact this year the short race was a 5km - so I decided on the half.

Womble had arrived on Thursday evening and at the crack of dawn (well, before actually) we were off to the airport to fly to Amsterdam. Once there I had a couple of appointments with virtual friends.

First coffee with a fellow blogger who I had not met. We had a good natter about life, the Universe and running (and we also mentioned the Tri word from time to time – not for me you understand). It was so good to meet and chat.

And then to lunch with fellow WAISTer, Chuggie. She is an outstanding member of the WAISTer family – just the sort of person you need, she keeps track of what everyone is doing, knows who needs the hugs, who needs the cheers and pompoms. We really miss her when she goes on holiday. Anyway I went to her work place (and was very impressed, she had the biggest office in the corridor!). We had a lovely lunch, a walk through the Hague, coffee and cake and some shopping. As you may imagine we didn’t stop talking – families, the trials of being a working mother, fellow waisters and even running. Too soon it was time to catch the train into Amsterdam.
Womble is a seasoned traveller and many-time visitor to Amsterdam – what a great choice for a holiday companion! We ventured into town for food – finding an Italian restaurant that did suitable pizzas for hungry runners.

The hotel was pretty good – breakfast went on until 10.30 so no urgent need to get up early – which was good after our early rising the day before. And a good spread for breakfast – only downside no proper muesli – but otherwise lots of choice.

And then to registration. Jules and Mik from the club had booked the hotel and it was ideal, close to the tram route into town and only 25 minutes walk to the Olympic Stadium, which is close to all the starts, finish and registration.

Registration was not quite a slick as FLM, and the expo considerable smaller. But after collecting my bits we met up with Highway Kind – another blogger. HK is in a different class of blogging though, as he commented, we all do our blogs in different ways; his being more philosophy than everyday life, always a read to look forward to.
After a tram ride into town we wandered around before settling on a great café, overlooking the Amstel river although the only non veggie at the table I opted for the vegetable lasagne, which was really tasty. More chat which included getting to know each other better and finding out a bit more about families etc. Eventually it was time to move on.

We went on a wander to look for the botanical gardens – which were worth the walk, particularly the glass houses – the butterflies and moths (?) were fantastic.

And the company even better.

It also had a great cafe – so we had coffee and cake of course.
And then back to the hotel. Where we found more of the club crowd. Some of whom had been drinking since the airport first thing in the morning! We decided not to join the club on a jolly back into town for food – after all Womble had a marathon to run!

So we tried the snack bar in the hotel – panino and pizza were the two choices. We made do.

For reasons of logistics, the Amsterdam marathon and half marathon are not run concurrently – the marathon starts at 10.30, the half not until 2.00. So Womble went off early to her race and I tried to chill the morning away, watching the fast runners on TV.

There were dark warnings in all the bumf about the cut off times – 3 hours for the half, 6 hours for the full. I knew that that meant I had to run at an average of 13:44 pace to beat the cut-off. I also knew that in training I had been running well within that pace on my 6 mile runs, although our long runs had been slower.

So we set off to cross the line at the back of about 8500 runners. I was soon last with my TP not far ahead. The first mile passed - 12:52 – a bit fast but inevitable really, the following mile was 13:28 and the third 13:11. At 5 km my first encounter with the race referee, who told me I had to run quicker – my Garmin said average pace was 13:16 so I found it hard to believe that he was saying this. I also pointed out to him that it took me about 10 minutes to cross the start line (I now know that it took us 9 minutes). He just said, you have to run faster. After that I had a motorbike on my tail for the next 3 km. The referee was back – he told me if I didn’t run faster I would not beat the cutoff and he’d have to pull me out of the race. I said I couldn’t run faster– but that I was running fast enough (average pace still 13:16) and could complete. He refused to let me continue and took my number from me. The policeman who was also there said he understood how I felt but the referee’s word was final. I could continue to run and follow the route on the path, but the road would be opening gradually. The referee also said that if I finished in the time I would get my medal – but he didn’t believe I would do it.
I was distraught by now and turned down the offer of the bus and tried to continue. But I had lost time arguing and struggled to get going again. Although I continue for another mile or so I realised I was not going to get inside the time as I had lost so much. So I asked a marshal if there was a shorter way back to the stadium – but at this point I was almost exactly half way round and as far away as I could get. She gave me a map and I began to walk back – not using the route which would have been too depressing. Eventually I found a taxi who said he would take me as close as he could. So ended my Amsterdam Half marathon – in tears and my first ever DNF.

Another fairly leisurely breakfast and into town to the flower market – so colourful and lots of interesting plants. Actually the cacti specimens were better than at the botanic gardens! I managed to buy a few bulbs to bring home.

And other stuff which I didn't buy!

We found an opportunity for another take on coffee and cake before going back to the hotel to collect our luggage and make our way to the airport. Where we discovered the plane was delayed, first by an hour and then finally by two hours. Eventually we arrived at East Midlands where MrBeanz was waiting to take us home at last.

Everyone (and especially Womble) have been so kind and supportive. In fact I think I am fairly philosophical about it – nobody died.

And reading Steve Cram today, writing about all the English sporting ‘disasters’ this weekend:
Worst feeling in the world . . . until the next chance
......................But, for goodness sake, let us remember it is only sport. Life does go on, even though for the athlete those moments of defeat seem to encompass the world's end, at least for a while. Sportsmen and women grow up with defeat and learn how to use it to move on to the next success.

I look forward to my next chance at Brass Monkey and working out how to improve between now and then.


Highway Kind said...

That is just so bad. I feel for you and can only the admire the way you have picked yourself up.

Yes you can only do your best. Yes there is always a next time. But that does not make it feel better at the time.

It was a pleasure to meet you and Womble

womble said...

And it was lovely to meet you, HK, and Mrs HK. Where shall we go next?

[Somewhere without bureacracy and a cut-off]


beanz said...

Aagh I knew I forgot someone in my race report - seeing Mrs HK early in the race was SO good.