Precisely if you run a half marathon for diabetes awareness, the blood sugars don't go well. Getting a breath of fresh air at Schipluiden's.
It is extraordinary how runners from all over the world come together through the virtual races. This time I participated in a race organized by the French Type 1 Running Teamled by ultra-runner and Barkley Marathons contestant David Limousin. The run had to take place on June 6 to replace an existing race, and you could choose the distance: 5 km, 10 km, a half or a whole marathon. Because it was mainly about awareness of diabetes, the run itself was free and you had to run in blue, the colour of the diabetes symbol. A donation for diabetes research was and is of course welcome.
I myself decided to go for a half marathon. That's usually not that much effort for me and should be easy to do after last week's marathon. But where? I've already ran most routes close by. And many other beautiful (trail) routes are still too far away, although I looked at the rhododendrons with jealousy, they were still out of reach. After a search on Google I found a couple ‘flowery’ routes by Natuurmonumenten, a society to preserve the Dutch landscape. The ‘Hiking route through the Vlietlanden, near Vlaardingen and Maasland‘ was nearly 20 km and was not too far from home. A nice route to extend to a half marathon.
I'll be honest: it's been a day of bad decisions. The most important one was that I almost ran out of my supply of Generation Ucan sports nutrition and thought, a half marathon is fine without using it. It's generally the Ucan that keeps my blood sugars stable.
In addition to the food, the location was a miss as it was incredibly windy. In the polder, without wind protection. Cycling back and forth for 12 km. The way there took me a terrible 55 minutes, although I had to re-inflate the still unrepaired rear tire halfway. It was heavy duty and my feeding plan was not calculated for heavy bike rides. To top it of, I immediately got a ‘try again in 10 minutes ’ warning from the Freestyle Libre at the start, so I decided to just run.
By the way, the outfit was fine for the challenge. Blue t-shirt from Type One run, blue socks, blue underwear, a blue racing vest and blue in my Altra Escalante Racer Boston 2020. So I was able to tick off that requirement.
Years ago I took part in the Kadeloop, a running race from Schipluiden that goes partly along the water. Of that race I especially remember that I started way too fast. The fastest runners of my athletics club caught up with me after a few km. On the 12 km run, I broke my record on the 5 km. In short, the strong wind along those high dikes caught me in the end. With the canal guiding the wind, it can be truly spooky in the polder. And in the open field you can easily burn through the sun.
With the Me-Mover I also make grateful use of some of these dikes. The breeze is refreshing in the summer and the surroundings are beautiful to see. From the dike next to the Vlaardingervaart you have a good overview of the surroundings. The polder landscape on one side, the reeds and water on the other. And in between a bunch of historic farms, on the loam path you feel like you're in other times.
That loamy path is actually a modern version of the towpath. It used to be the place where the horses walked that pulled the barge. In this way, goods could be transported over the water without wind. Today I also felt like such a work horse that needed a sugar cube to entice him to continue walking. Well, within 5 km or so I already munched a piece of nougat.
Because the route was largely along the canals, it was not so complicated from a navigational point of view. Until I went over a bridge to the other side of the Vlaardingervaart. Here the towpath wasn't as clear as on the other side. It was full of nettles and blackberry bushes, man-sized grass with a path of 20 cm in between. Maybe I have the reputation of being a trail cub, but in this one I took a detour of a few hundred meters until the path got a bit better. Because of the high grass I couldn't have seen anything anyway.
I myself like the canals and polder landscapes very much. But what about the promised flowers, which would be at their best in May and June? Well, that was a bit disappointing. The blackberries had almost finished flowering, but the other flowers had certainly already blossomed. Except for a few thistles and lisdodden, there was little to see. Not even the cottongrass, which I know well from the moors of Drenthe. I think it was mainly a matter of coming too late. Because it was warm early in the season, the flowering might have started earlier.
Around 10 kilometers or so I completely broke down again. The blood sugar was now around 4.5 mmol/l. Additional gel, more sports drink. 2 km later: 4.9 mol/l. Another gel. 15 km: another nougat, because I was still at 4.9 mol/l; and I drank the rest of my sports drink. I continued slowly and stopped a bit more for photos. When I measured at the 20 km point again, I was at 7.8 mmol/l, finally good to go. I noticed that those last few kilometers of running went much better.
For a long time I had the choice between a bicycle path (official) or a piece of grass on top of the dike. Of course I usually chose the grass, which reduced the speed even further. On the last part of the canal, there was only a path for pedestrians. That path was mostly over heirlooms and through meadows. Discovery: sheep are not only a traffic obstacle in the UK. Here too, they can block the road. In this case by lying down in front of a gate. The beast walked away very grumpily when I rattled the fence.
By the way, the image on the right is of the Johan Barthold Jongkind. An impressionist painter from Vlaardingen whose bronze image overlooks the confluence of two canals. He also painted the towpaths several times. I certainly believe that this landscape can lead to beautiful impressionist works. It even starts to tickle a little to make one myself.
Across the water
The last part of the route went well. I didn't understand beforehand why the route planner didn't want to steer me over a certain bridge. The Trambrug bridge above is just a bicycle bridge, even though it used to be a railway bridge for a local tram company. But in the end I was happy with it, because it allowed me to take a manually operated ferry to the other side. Because of the wind and waves it was not very stable and trust giving, but it was funny to do.
Who has never visited Schipluiden: it is a very beautiful village, built around the canal. The fact that it is not a bigger attraction, just like Giethoorn, is actually quite special.
Once I passed the village, my journey was soon over. I'm a little less happy with the result: 22.72 km in 2 hours 54 minutes and 41 seconds, so I'm sure I won't do well in the virtual race. It is what it is. After the race I took a consolation coke and chips as a treat, that helps to forget my time. I thought the route itself was definitely worth it and maybe I'll extend the mileage in the near future. There are a number of nature reserves like Broekpolder that can be used for that. With mostly loam, gravel and grass, that doesn't need to be paved either. Stay tuned.