Race report: Zevenheuvelenloop 2014

My biggest fear for Zeven Heuvelen Loop came true. It was raining! Not a tropical downpour but the typical Dutch rain – drizzling, unending drizzle all throughout the day.

I didn’t bring my running rain jacket. I didn’t even bring an extra pair of running sock.  I knew that my first ever race would be uncomfortable. To say the least.

We made rain jackets out of trash bags to keep ourselves dry later.

Breakfast was rice, two Tender Juicy hotdogs and fried egg at 8:45 am and two cups of home-made ginger tea. I also ate a pack of Snelle Jelle ontbijtkoek at 11am. Our start time was about 13:30PM (or so I thought) and I didn’t want to be too full or too hungry while running. We left the apartment in Bungalowpark Cantecleer at 11:15AM because we thought that it’ll be horrible to find a parking space. We arrived early so that means long waiting at the start section.

We drop off our bag at the parking garage of SNS bank so we can change here later.

From all the running blogs I’ve read, nobody tells you about the chaos of the changing areas. There is no privacy whatsoever. And I think I haven’t seen so many bare bottoms in one day. It was not a pretty sight.

At 13:15, we were among hundreds of people at the Pink area, for those who registered for an estimated finish of 1:30mins. We were waiting like mga basang sisiw (wet chicks) at the start line for 45 minutes!  I was able to score three pairs running socks at the Asics booth earlier for €10 but they were paper thin so I had to put on two pairs. It kept my foot dry for a good 10 minutes and the drizzle soaked it up again.

photo 4

Before the start. We were not the only ones wearing trash bags – apparently a favourite running outfit when it rains.

At the start

My first thought was “too many people” – 25,446 to be exact. But my height was an advantage. I could easily slip between the towering Dutch people to overtake them. Not two seconds after the start, my dear husband already said “Goodbye and see you later” to me. And I thought, “Yeah right, and you said, we are doing this together!”

5KM

The first five kilometers went well. Despite the rain, I was feeling great, no pain and my body temperature was starting to rise. I was passing other runners as well so that’s a boost of confidence. I was able to catch up with Robin and we ran side by side for a couple of kilometers. After the 6KM, I lost him again.

7-10KM
After the drinking station, I was able to catch up with Robin again, this time almost knocking him down because I accidentally overtake him from the right. My tempo still felt great but I knew that the hills are looming. That’s when I started feeling irritated.

Robin was way ahead of me. My shoes were soaking wet and they felt like a few kilograms heavy. My feet were very cold. There’s not much crowd along the streets, maybe because of the rain, but the few ones who were cheering irritated me. I thought their cheering was too lifeless. But those with blaring speakers, I found too loud. My olfactory senses are heightened as well. I can smell people’s arm pits and mouths.

“Did they not use deodorants? This one should stop talking!”

I knew at this point, I was getting tired.

What cheered me up however was the photo area, right after the steepest hill. I made sure to slow down a bit, put my hands up and give my biggest smile. Yes, I am still Filipino like that.

10-15KM
Most of my thoughts on the last leg were about how I felt forsaken. Robin and I trained together, we promised to always run races together and yet…he abandoned me with no one cheering me along the way.

I know I shouldn’t feel that way. He is taller, with legs longer than a bridge and he is just running on his own tempo. But this feeling continued for at least two more kilometers.

And then the countdown began. You’d see signs after each kilometer. This annoyed me even more. I felt like I was being pressured to run faster as the finish is getting nearer. I tried but I couldn’t go faster anymore. My body was sticking to my tempo.

1km…750 meters…500meters…200 meters… finally the finish line!

Finish
I felt like I was running very slow all throughout the 15km. In reality, I was running faster than my normal pace. But I had too many references, the other runners, and they were faster than me. People were sprinting to the finish line while I felt like I was slowing down. I wasn’t very hopeful. But like I said in an earlier blog, I am already happy if I finish with 1:26.

It wasn’t like in the movies. Nobody was waiting to congratulate me at the finish line. Instead I was trailing behind hundreds of people to get my medal. Robin was nowhere in sight. There was no familiar face. All I could think of was to get off those damn shoes and my wet socks.

That euphoria that they are all raving about, I didn’t get that….at least not until I had my medal engraved.

We went back to the changing room at the SNS parking garage. Great! More naked butts.

Robin and his parents were waiting for me at the entrance but I was in a sour mood. It was childish and though I struggled, I was able to shed off the childish attitude and gave him a hug. We proceeded to the engraving area right away.

When they handed my engraved medal, my smile was up to my ears. My official finish time was 1:21:09 a good five minutes faster that expected. But most of all Robin finished with 1:16 minutes. He was aiming for 1:20!

I was so hungry and I couldn’t wait to eat. But first a bubble bath in the mini-jacuzzi. The warm water felt so good, our tired muscles began to relax right away. I wish I had a bath tub at home.

To tell you honestly, the race feeling has not yet caught up on me. I didn’t like the waiting, the chaos, the overtaking. I didn’t feel super when my feet touched the finish line. However I loved seeing my finish time. It was my fastest run ever since I started seven months ago.

One thing that I’ve learned though, is not relying on someone to push me ahead. I usually don’t. But training together, I kind of expected that Robin and I will be running side by side. Overcoming this insecurity was more important than finishing itself.

Running is an individual endeavor. That’s what I loved it about when I started. So is it for Robin. He has his own reasons for running as well. It was wrong of me to expect him to give that up so that the race would be comfortable for me. Running races would never be comfortable. I know that now. Next time I will perform better.

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