Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Maas Half Marathon Race and Trip report

One of the best things I've ever done! The planning I mean. It was spot on. As for the rest of the trip, sublime. 6 days, 5 nights with one of your best mates who shares the same beliefs of doing something a little bit silly and pushing your boundaries as you do.

From the first Royal Parks Half Marathon we ran in 2008, we've almost egged each other on, year on year. From eatingtrees first suggestion in a pub afterwards that we should do a European Half 'next year' which put us in Prague to our first Dunwich Dynamo in 2011. We like a challenge and this little adventure had been in the making for 2 years but got put on hold when we decided to tackle the Berlin Marathon last year. Now it was time for the silliest one yet.

If you've read anything of mine recently, I won't go through all the detail again but essentially it was a 3 day cycle across Netherlands & Belgium with one day of rest (when we did a little more cycling) before running the Maas Half Marathon. Oh sod it, here's the detail...

After meeting at the station, the first day was a gentle 30ish km to Harwich to catch the overnight ferry where we froze to death (almost) due to some Dutch cargo loader deciding that lorries were more important! I have to be honest this is the only thing the Dutch did wrong the entire time!! When we disembarked at the other end, we just had these views (and quite a lot of mist).

If fact it felt so good, we decided on a 25+ km detour to Rotterdam purely on the basis of 'we could'. Thats the kind of thinking that came back to bite us on the arse later as surviving only on coffee and cake that we had earlier, we struggled to find anywhere for lunch. Eventually and by the power of Open Source mapping and GPS, we came across the tiniest of places and by the power of charades, play acting, guesswork and luck, managed to get coke, coffee, water, chips and rolls. Honestly, it's like the carb gods were smiling down on us! Oh... and a mars bar!

After finding our most wonderful B&B which I fully and whole heartedly recommend, the heavens opened and stopped our trek up the road to find a restaurant BUT... we were then saved by our wonderful B&B owner who took some of our cash and drove up the road to get us a Chinese takeaway. After explaining the eatingtrees only eats trees and not proper food, she headed off to get us a mixture of stuff. Vegetarian to Chinese restaurant owners in Netherlands means the following. Try and hide the meat under the non meat. Needless to say, I ate like a king. Grant enjoyed some rice. And some soup. Well until he found meat in that too. The chicken omelette in a sticky sauce wasn't exactly welcomed either. Anyway, this completely unstaged picture was taken the next morning when still full from the banquette, we headed off!

Day 2 was the most enjoyable day cycling for me. Nearly all on wonderfully flat, even cycle paths without a pothole in sight through some absolutely beautiful countryside as Grant demonstrates below.

We also cycled along the massive Albert Canal which for a transport geek like me was just brilliant. Huge, huge ships and the canal was as straight as an arrow for miles upon miles on the smoothest bike path that the world could throw at us. Lunches were planned slightly better too meaning we didn't starve and when we got to our apartment, an awesome 3 bed place near nowhere but a forest and a bar, it gave the perfect end to the perfect day. Well that was until we tried to get food. On a public holiday. In Belgium. After a 14km round trip, we had a box of pasta and a jar of sauce. Still it could have been worse, the Chinese might have been open!

That evening, after discussing where we were heading with Josee, the apartment owner, she made an up and down movement with her arm. Grant assumed this wasn't an up and down movement at all, more a we were going from place to place movement and there would be no hills. In the morning when we left, Josee's husband confirmed my fears. There were hills. After 2 days when a bridge over a river was our biggest problem, it seemed we were going to be tested a little more. With that in mind, we decided, after a breakfast of coffee and biscuits (the shops were shut remember) to try and crack on that morning and get a good portion of the days ride done before lunch. Although there was still time for an action shot!

And one to prove there were hills!

Anyway, we certainly did and 60km was ticked off before a lunch of milk rolls containing pate, cheese and sweet chilli crisps and a can of beer. Don't judge me, it was all fuel...

Mid afternoon and rush hour in Vise meant that we arrived and saw more traffic in 15 minutes than we had for the entire trip previous! And then the second biggest hill of the trip so far which over the next 2 days, we rode up and over too many times to mention!

Anyway, to the race itself. The Maas Half Marathon. Brilliant. Organisation was second to none (they had 6 different distances from 300m for the very young children to the full marathon for odd people). The Half was our race of choice and having cycled 370km up to this point, I wasn't expecting a quick time. In fact completion was the goal and because of the lovely course, great support and shere bloody mindedness that my my aching legs would get me over that line, I finished in just under 2 hours. That I didn't expect and was chuffed to bits. The screen shot shows my relief quite well I believe!

This race cost me 10 euros. For that, I got a brilliantly organised race, loads of support, a full buffet, race rucksack, a technical t-shirt and loads of great memories. This trip will live on with me for a long time so next time you fancy a race that's outside of your local area and has some good cycling routes on the way, this is a must! Here's the post run shot for you all!

For the final jaunt, we had to get changed (very quickly), get back on the bikes and head off to catch a train. By the time I got home late Sunday night, the odometer was reading 400.5km ridden and 21.1km run. Not bad for a weeks work. Now if I could just stand up without other people's help or having to use furniture as a balance, everything would be fine!

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