Well, the morning of the marathon began with a minor disaster - biking all the way to the starting line at the Olympic Stadium, only to realize that I'd left my waist belt with my water bottle and all my energy gels (hauled all the way from Seattle!) on the floor of our apartment. Jeetje! Fortunately, because I'm a Nervous Nelly when it comes to time, we had about an hour to hop back on our bikes, ride furiously back to the apartment, gather my gear, and ride our bikes back to the stadium in time for the official race start. We made it back in plenty of time, but I got a little more of a warmup than I was anticipating!
Ready to ride to the starting line, smiling because I haven't yet realized I've forgotten my hydration belt.
Nevertheless, with 13,000 some runners, there was a huge bottleneck getting into the stadium for the start. I, along with thousands of others (including Cinta, who ran as a pacer for runners gunning for a 3:45 time) were still outside of the stadium in a huge mass of people trying to get in when the gun went off and the elite runners took off. My mom snapped the following photo of me right before I joined the crowd and made my way to the start.
I didn't cross the starting line for a full 11 minutes (and then some) after the official start of the race, but of course, chip timing assures you still get an accurate time. The start, then, was quick - out through the stadium and into the streets of Amsterdam, every bit as crisp and sleepy as Sunday mornings in Seattle, save the pattering of thousands of footsteps on the pavement.
The first few kilometers were really an exercise in strategic stepping, weaving between other runners to find the space among the crowd to be able to run a steady pace. Cinta and the two other 3:45 pacers, who ran with purple helium balloons above their heads, set a steady clip at the beginning, so I fought the running crowd to be able to stay even with them.
Eventually, the crowd thinned and spread out a bit, and I fell into a comfortable - albeit challenging - pace. Having run a 3:45:16 in Eugene last May, but having done about the same mileage in training this time around, I had no hopes for this race other than to thoroughly enjoy the course and hopefully come in under 3:45.
For the vast majority of the race, I stayed within range of the 3:45 pacers, occasionally dropping in next to Cinta to say hi. Despite my best efforts to pick up my pace a notch and put some distance between myself and the 3:45 pacers, inevitably the phrase I heard most from spectators along the sidelines was, "Ohh, hier komen de drie uur, vijfenviertig lopers!" - here come the 3:45 runners! Almost invariably, when I pulled over a few seconds at the aid stations to chug some water or AA drink, the pacing group would pass me again.
Meanwhile, the course was beautiful! In many ways, it was very similar to the Eugene course - a virtually flat course, starting in the stadium, running a small initial loop that lapped by the stadium again before taking off for the outskirts of the city, and running a long out-and-back up and down a scenic river...
...and eventually winding through a bit more urban scenery before finishing at the stadium. The weather was also reminiscent of Eugene - cloudless blue skies, pure sunlight, and cool, crisp morning air. In other words, ideal running weather.
My mom was an amazing supporter and cheerleader, hopping on and off her bike all morning to see me pass at several points along the course - at the ready with a bag of BodyGlide, alternate running shoes (because the ones I planned to run in mysteriously developed a little hole two days before the marathon!), and other gear...none of which I wound up needing, happily. It was wonderful to be able to see my mom along the way, hear her yell excitedly, and give her quick hugs before running on.
With that said, I learned that my mom's trademark whooping and cheers are not so trademark after all...I can't tell you how many whooping Dutch people along the course sidelines I mistook to be her all morning long! On another note, this really was an international marathon - runners not only from Holland, but from France, Israel, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Japan, England, Scotland, Portugal, Kenya, Ethiopia, Brazil, Italy...apparently there was a small handful of other Americans, too, but I didn't meet any of them.
Because I couldn't find my Garmin before leaving for Europe, I ran only with a stopwatch - and because all the signs were in kilometers instead of miles, I never had the moment when I ran by a 20-mile marker and felt obligated to get nervous about hitting the wall. Whether the common 20-mile bonk is a placebo problem or not, who knows - but somehow, for me, not having that sign or marker seemed to help. Though I could definitely feel my legs tiring after the first couple hours - I've only done two running workouts in the past 8 weeks that could really classify as "speedwork" or training "at race pace" - the remainder of the miles felt challenging but not increasingly so, and there was enough left in the tank to sprint out the final 200m on the track. I crossed the finishing mats a full two and a half minutes faster than my last (and previously best) marathon.
Cinta and I at the finish line!
My mom steals my medal and space blanket, and strikes a pose.
RACE RECAP! (mostly for my future reference, and for the curious running geeks amongst my blog readers, too...)
Average weekly mileage in 8 weeks leading up to marathon day: 29 miles + 2-4 cross-training sessions
Longest single run in training: 23 miles
Race Day Breakfast: Raw Revolution Spirulina & Cashew bar, glass of water with a generous spoonful of chia seeds, a few pieces of dark chocolate
During the run: 2 packs of (non-caffeinated) Clif ShotBloks (1/3 of a pack every 35-40 minutes), ample water and a bit of AA Drink (Dutch Gatorade)
By The Numbers:
1st Half-marathon split: 1:51:39 (8:31 pace)
2nd Half-marathon split: 1:51:02 (8:28 pace)
Overall time: 3:42:41 (8:29 pace)
Slowest 5K: The first one (27:19, 8:47 pace)
Fastest 5K: The second and fifth ones (26:00, 8:22 pace)
Weeks Until My Next Marathon: 6