Sunday, 10 June 2012

10 juneathon - a real race. almost

 I raced 10 km in Rotterdam today in a "Ladies Run."  I am fairly ambivalent about events pitched at women for reasons I will try to explain in a minute. I registered for this one because it fit on my training calendar and I like to race. I want to run faster. Last year my coach said I should be trying to race a 10 k every month. He told me this well into my training season and it wasn't possible to make it happen.  This year I am focusing on shorter distances while trying not to injure myself with the increased intensity needed to learn to run faster.  Today I got a good idea of how much effort I will need to bring to beat an hour. Just a little bit more, and on the right course.

Because this event was a training effort, not an "A" race, I was a bit lackadaisical in my preparations. I admit having some difficulty figuring out what to wear.  I thought about my "girls first" pink shirt. But it doesn't breathe, and today was warm. The heat disqualified another shirt I like. I settled on the red Adidas shirt I wore the last time I ran in Rotterdam, which was for the marathon.  I picked through my running socks and found my favorites, selected the shoes and shorts - I have been losing weight and my shorts are now too big. A problem.  Then I hemmed and hawed about whether to carry a water belt. I decided instead to recycle an empty disposable Gatorade bottle, which I filled with HEED. I felt smart about that idea.

Races here often start in the afternoon, which suits me. This one started at 13:45. The problem with an afternoon start though is you have to eat all day, which leads to the WC. I made a smoothie with avocado and chia seeds for breakfast, which ensured I got all the WC business done before leaving the house. (I hardly talk about these things except amongst runners and triathletes, because this is the business of sport after all - not stopping after you start).

I took the train to Rotterdam. America, by the way, you're sunk. Railways and metros and trams are essential to civilization.    It is so wonderful to be able to walk out of my house, over to the bus/tram stop and get into a clean and quiet mode of public transportation and arrive at my destination (without the need to park a car). Besides, you get to look out the window instead of having to pay attention to the bumper in front of you.

And even better is grabbing a delicious sandwich at the station and enjoying it while looking out the window.

A Starbucks recently opened at the Central Station in The Hague. At first, I enjoyed the novelty but not the price. So I went back to the "bread sack" or whatever it's called. Local and tasty. And they even sliced up an egg for me to put on the smoked salmon.

Rotterdam is busy remodeling its Central Station - I had never ridden the metro. This is a view of the underground. Walking down from daylight into the artificial lighting was a bit surreal. The lighting was intense and quite even and thus felt unnatural.  But the design is cool.
You may be asking yourself, isn't this a running blog? Why am I in the basement of the Rotterdam station. Well, part of the fun of racing to me is doing new things and traveling.  I've raced in five countries!

The other advantage to traveling to a race by train is that you don't really need to know where you're going.   At some point the coach fills up with people wearing running shoes (*trainers for my UK readers). You just need to follow them to the start. It's quite exciting to see the athletes gathering.

The first women I saw who were dressed to run were also wearing make up. It is quite often that I feel like I got only half the necessary girl genes.  I do not wear make up when I race. I have stopped trying to have nice hair for photos, in favor of pouring cold water on my head to cool down.  I dressed in a cool t-shirt discarded by my teenaged son, and warm-ups.  And of course, I used my 70.3 backpack. And wrote on my hand with a pen a reminder for when the race got spicy.
I wanted to finish in under an hour. I should have written 59 on my hand. Instead I wrote PR. Which I did, at 1:02:52. Proving when you ask the heavens for something you need to be specific.
I am really quite pleased with this because I used to finish in the way back. And my first 10k in 2009 was something like 87 minutes or something. (Now I have to go look it up).

My trainer suggested going out fast and banking time against feeling tired at the end. The target pace of 5:33 min/km turned out to be a little too aggressive for me to hold in the heat on a congested course. Turns out this was a cruddy choice for trying to break under an hour. And this leads me to why I don't favor "ladies races."

Well, first what I liked about it. They ran a 5k just before the 10k. And there were lots and lots and lots of very proud women finishers. Crowds of supporters turned out and lined the course - lots of children and parents and partners. I was impressed by the influence of women in the community - demonstrated by the love and cheers offered by the spectators.  Many people held bouquets of flowers or banners.  I think maybe a "ladies race" attracts  more first time racers, women who couldn't envision themselves running even five km. This is good, and I support this.

The race also attracted several runners wearing hijabs styled for running - close-fitting black scarves, long sleeved shirts and long tights. Respect to them. Going outside their social comfort zone no doubt, and withstanding the heat.

What I didn't like was pitching the event as a shopping experience with a bonus run.  High-heeled trainers? ACK!  sparkly running kits? ACK! Maybe this is just the side effect of getting short-changed on the girl genes, mentioned above. Or maybe it is the consequence of having worn too much blue eye shadow when I was a teenager.  And I like calling women women, not ladies, which seems too delicate for the strong capable sea of humanity that poured out and around the course.

Here's the real problem. In contrast to the course I ran last month (also a women's event), this one sucked. There, I said it.  It was as if the organisers didn't take us seriously as runners. First, there was no division of starters by projected finish. Arranging people so the faster people start first reduces course congestion and allows [faster] people [like me!!] to find their pace.  This was one big group start, and I was stuck in among people running a full minute slower than my target pace. That meant I had to weave and cut and run on the shoulders.  And this course was very narrow, with a lot of turns and fences and posts that created pinch points. So when I wanted to pick up the pace, I couldn't. Wahh!

I also thought it was unnecessary (for me anyway) to have drink posts every 1.5 km. Maybe they were farther apart, but in fact, there were two and the course was two rounds. So the course stayed congested as all these gals pulled over to get a cup of sports drink. [No doubt consuming more calories on the course than burnt]. I saw one woman who was ready for a three-day hike, judging from the number of items in her sport belt. She had drink, crackers, gel, etc.  I ran like that when I first started. Then I learned I wasn't going to starve to death or perish from thirst on the course. Maybe I just got into better shape.

Okay, whining over.  oh, not yet. I forgot about the goody bag.  Here it is. What women need:
I really preferred the  Marikenloop I did last month. No bling. No swag. All fundraising to educate and care for girls in need. The decor was still pink. But I'm okay with that.


  1. Many thanks for writing and posting this report. I was hesitant about attending this race till several days ago and then it got sold out. From what you write, I am happy we spent the day running quietly in the dunes. Congrats with your PB!

    1. i did enjoy myself, even if I was a little cranky about the high lipstick factor. We need to plan a meet up one of these days!

  2. RAR - I hate patrinsing women onlhy events like that - GRRR. And laundry soap in a RUNNING good bag - REALLY??? More GRRRR.

    1. it was the laundry soap that did me in.

  3. High heel trainers? Please tell me you're joking!

    1. okay, truthfully, the only one I saw was on the poster for the event (pictured). but the very thought meant to me women aren't real runners - just decoration!

  4. Great job Chris. Keep it up and you will break the 1hr mark. Consistency is the key!

    Eric S


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