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Wild Rumpus Sports

Racing in a Foreign Country

You might think that after a year in Holland – a country where almost everyone speaks good English – I would have the logistics of racing figured out. I thought so too. I was wrong.
Buses don’t run early on Sunday morning, so in order to get to Amsterdam for the Dam tot Damloop 10 miler, I had to first bike the the Leiden train station. There were two detours along the way. The first had signs indicating the alternate route, but the second had nothing (I later learned the the best course of action was to ignore the barrier and ride through the “closed” path). I didn’t do that in the morning though, so I missed the train I was hoping to take and got to Amsterdam 15 minutes later than I hoped.
I still had plenty of time before my race, and I got in a decent warm-up, found a port-a-john with a short line, and was ready to drop my bag in a truck to get it to the finish line. This is where things got tricky.
I found the truck that I thought should take my bag, but was told that as I was in the elite wave, there was a special truck for me – right by the start line, very easy to find. I jogged back to the start line (a kilometer away, so some of this was good warm-up but the crush of people made some of it less so). I found several volunteers, but no one knew anything about the truck for my bag, and there were no signs. I didn’t have time to get through the crowd two more times, so I changed to my flats there, taped by public transport card to my bib, found a construction fence to hide my bag behind, and hoped for the best.
Once I was racing things went well. I went out a little too fast, but still was passing a lot more people than passed me from 2 km on. It was rather windy, and so it seemed wiser to draft the runners near me than to slow down to the pace I had thought I should run. I went through 5 km in 15:58 and 10 km in 32:05. Around that point I lost contact with the group, and was running alone. The headwind was not as strong on that section of course, and there was a straggling runner ahead for me to try to chase down. Still, I continued to slow, getting to 15 km in 48:23. I thought that I put up a very strong effort in the final kilometer, but in fact I ran another 3:16.
Even with a second half fade, this is a new personal best for 10 miles. While I believe the wind was a bit stronger than last year, I took 11 seconds off my time. And when I got back to the start my bag was safe and sound. So it was a good day at the races, even if I was reminded that I still haven’t quite figured this country out.