It washz time to head to De Nederlandshz for Den Haag Halve Marathon!
The road trip was on. At 7:50am on Saturday morning, myself, Mrs HMC and eatingtrees, left The Boy with the Grandparents and hit the road. 524km of tarmac minus around 50km for a train tunnel lay between us and a swimming pool, sauna and that accent that makes 3 people in a car attempt to say everything with that dutch twang.
The drive was good and pain free, we arrived in loads of time and got ourselves settled before heading out for the night to a little Italian restaurant we'd found on the world wide web. We had to wander around for 10 minutes before we found the restaurant but it gave us time to appreciate how pretty the centre of The Hague is. It just added to the excitement of the next day's race. Casa Caroni is a fantastic little restaurant with fantastic food, run like a family kitchen and amusing staff too and was perfect for what we wanted the night before a race.
CPC Loop Den Haag was going to be an unusual race for me. It was in the afternoon. I don't run in the afternoon at all really. I'm usually a 'get it out of the way early' kind of runner but Sunday I'd have to amend my plan some-what. As the bus we used to get into town travelled along one of the roads of the race, we had to head into town before 11am to make sure we could get there but with us needing to pick up numbers and timing chips etc, it didn't matter too much. In fact, it gave us more time to look around and see all the other races (they had 2.5k, 5k and 10k all before the HM). We could have had even more time but due to everything being in Dutch (as you'd expect) and being 1 of 3 incompetents who travelled without knowing a word of Dutch, it took longer than it probably should have. We walked right past it! 15 mins later, we were back.
A sandwich, some snackage and a couple of hours later, we were ready. The bag was checked in, Mrs HMC knew where she was heading and into the starting pens we went. Within 5/10 minutes, we were off. I had some stomach cramps just before the race and they were similar to the Cranleigh 10k last year but there was no way I was dropping out of this and I suspected that just like Cranleigh, it would sort itself out. The first 5-6km were quite hard. It was extremely busy with many people taking detours on cycle paths and across tram lines and but to be honest, I couldn't pick up the pace anyway. I guess the best description was uncomfortable. An irritant rather than a screaming pain.
However, after that, it just clicked. Suddenly it felt right. Suddenly the pain subsided. I just hit my consistent stride like I know how to do and settled in! It was feeling really good. Not fast, not slow but just good. I knew after the first quarter that a PB was nowhere near but I never expected it to be so it didn't bother me however, I knew I could still post a time I was very happy with and with the way it felt (did I mention it felt really good), under 2 hours was a definite.
The KM's were being ticked off and with a rough course map in my head, I knew where I was, how far I had to go and when I'd be running past Mrs HMC and her camera. 13.5km ish to be exact ish. I threw my cap to her (or to the foot of the lady next to her if I'm honest) as I'd gone without after 2km as I was just too hot and headed for the 'pier' part of the course. The support was still there cheering and blowing those little plastic trumpets as it had been all the way round and although I doubt my face showed it, I was smiling inside. When there's an event in The Hague, people make the effort to come out and see you!
More KM's were ticked off and there was even a hill. Well slope. Slight incline really but it even had a tiny down bit too. The most I'd had to deal with up to that point was a speed bump. I didn't feel like I tired at all. Then suddenly, there was Central Station in the distance and I was near the finish! I carried on, head up, still feeling good and crossed the finish with a chip time of 1:57:37. Very bloody happy with that and honestly felt like I could have continued which is a first EVER for me! A few minutes later, a very smiley eatingtrees crossed the line and I could just tell he felt great too. You can check out videos, photos and my splits here and enter bib number 3286. Although I don't have a half way point time, by looking at the average speed and also the first and second 10k splits, I ran a negative split which only the second time ever I think!! I told you it felt good.
A quick jaunt back to the hotel for another swim and sauna followed by the best meal of the weekend at a Kenyan restaurant called 3Stones and then a shisha once back at the hotel topped off what was probably my best race day ever!
The return drive had 'Gent' programmed into the Sat Nav as we were stopping for lunch in Belgium for eatingtrees birthday and sitting in a little local cafe, we chatted about how good the weekend had been while eating yet more great food before setting off for the final drive and cuddles with my little boy.
Thank you to the babysitting grandparents, a great city, some wonderful locals, some awesome food and mostly to my 2 travelling companions. I just have one question... Where to next year?