Rotterdam was my 4th marathon.
It brought me an unexpected PB of 3:25:15 with a 2 min negative split.
This is the story.
My best prior to this was Berlin last September 2011 which I did in 3:27:58.
Felt comfortable doing Berlin so decided that 2012 was the year to target sub 3:15.
Kicked off my 18 week P&D training plan with a time of 33:09 in the Aware 5 Mile which was bang on for my marathon target.
Had entered the Bohermeen 1/2 Marathon as my prep race for Rotterdam.
The first 9 weeks of the training went spot on but then an injury had me off running for 3 weeks. As a result I missed the Bohermeen race and came to the conclusion that Rotterdam wasn't going to happen so I cancelled the family flights and hotel booking.
I then put together a plan for Cork - basically the 12 week P&D schedule.
After a couple of weeks back running with no reaction from the injury I thought that Rotterdam may be back on the cards but simply as a (tough) training run for Cork.
Rebooked flights and a hotel and brought a mate with me as a sub for the missus and kids. One of the lads in work had also entered so I felt a bit of a responsibility to go as he had entered this because I was entered.
Just gave myself a 10 day taper given I'd had a good 3 weeks rest in training already!
Arrived in Rotterdam on Saturday lunchtime.
Picked up the race number at the Expo en route to the hotel - all very straightforward and no queues.
Relaxed in the hotel while my mate went for a run rather than a pint - think the occassion got to him.
Went out for dinner to a nice Italian restaurant on Saturday night.
One of the good aspects of the race starting at 10:30 is that you don't have to be in bed too early the night before the race. Watched Match of the Day and a magnificent Man City performance before going asleep. I've never been so relaxed leading up to a race before as I had not burdened myself with a target. Got a full night's sleep.
So to race morning. Got the breakfast in at 7:30 and got back into bed for another rest. Stopped drinking at 8:30.
Got togged out and left the hotel c. 9:15 to get to the start.
Met my colleague from work en-route. Fairly chilly morning with a bitter northerly wind blowing.
Got into my Pen - Pen D - and had space in there to get warmed up. Got in just in time because within a few mins it was rammed.
Threw tracksuit top and bottoms to my mate but held on to my hat and gloves.
Made use of one of the 'Dixie' loos in the Pen for the last time and got into position.
Enjoyed the cheesy rendition of 'You'll Never Walk Alone', the cannon fires, and we're off. Takes me just over a minute to cross the start line.
Started on the right hand side of the street. One of the strange things was that the Business Relay teams started in front of the Pen I was in so spent the 1st km weaving through hundreds of them.
It was a bit annoying and if I had been on edge with a target time I would have been a lot more annoyed. I elbowed one or two out of the way but told myself that it wasn't their fault and to relax.
By the time I crossed the Erasmus bridge I seemed to be past most of those going slower than me so was happy enough.
We merged with the group that started on the other side of the street after about 3k but by that stage things were moving along ok.
First 5k in 24:49 and I'm surprised it wasn't slower given the weaving at the start.
Tipping along nicely in this section at what definitely feels like a typical easy run training pace. Grab some water at 6k but get confused by the sponge on top so toss it and grab a cup without the sponge!
There's a little section here where you have to do a 180 degree turn so you get to wave to the other runners just in front and behind you. Get rid of the hat somewhere here as I start to heat up. Not much crowds of note in the 1st 10km.
This section done in 24:32.
Come to a water station soon enough and take my 1st gel. Take the cups with the sponge on top and stick my straw in. Now I have the hang of it. Arrive at a section after 13k really crowded with spectators around a couple of turns and low and behold my mate is in prime position to give me a good cheer.
Get rid of the gloves soon after this.
24:33 for this.
Grab another gel after about 16k.
A bunch of girls somewhere along here give me a big cheer and I'm beginning to understand the Dutch pronunciation of Paul. I consider going back to them but I'm here for the race! Still feels like a nice training run.
Just before the 20k mark the wind starts to feel really cold. I'm regretting the decision to toss the gloves.
24:19 for this 5k.
The wind feels stiff enough in this part. I find myself tucking in behind a group irrespective of the pace they are doing. As we pass through a water station and a sponge station the group disintigrates and takes a couple of mins. for a new group to form. I'm too selfish to go to the front of any of these groups.
Its along here that I notice that the runners are starting to get strung out a bit. I see a chap in a DCM 2010 top and I shout 'Up the Dubs' as I pass him but he hasn't a clue what I'm on about. Swallow a gel just before 25k as I almost miss the water station because I'm too busy high-fiving some kids.
Past halfway in 1:43:36. 24:24 for this 5k split.
We cross the Erasmus Bridge again and I'm telling myself to go easy on the upward slope but my legs just want to go quicker. My mate is there again the far side of the bridge and gets a good photo of me with my arms up although I'm thinking its still early to be over confident.
We encounter the only slope other than the bridge on the entire course when we dip down to an underpass and back up. There's a line of people banging drums making a terriffic noise. Its the first time I feel myself making an effort to keep up the pace.
We get to run up to and under that cool block of Cube homes. Somewhere around 28k I get to see the women's winner, Tiki Gelana, flying down the other side of the road inside her last mile - people say it can be hard looking at others near the finish but I feel privileged to see her in action like that.
24:21 - very consistent pace.
We enter the park section around here. Grab another gel. Crowds are sparse enough here but there's a giant message board at 33k offering runners encouragement. I keep an eye out for a message for me but it doesn't come and I start to question if my timing chip is working. Begin to feel a bit tired now and I have to concentrate more on the pace.
Given my state of mind for this race it would have been easy to ease off the pace. Then some dude with a perm and a tash straight out of a 1970s Euro porn movie rocks up alongside me. We're both motoring at the same pace - joined at the hip we're cutting our way through other runners and keeping each other up to the job.
Theres a cobble lock section for a km or so that's a bit rough to run on.
Take my last gel. My running twin says something to me that I don't understand so I reply with "I'm Irish" and he says "Belgium" back to me - end of conversation. Grab some water at 38k where some idiot wheels his bike in front of the water stop - he gets a torrent of abuse from me. I lose Belgian porn dude at this stage.
Getting plenty of shouts of "Go Paul" from the Dutch and a thumbs up to one group meets with a roar of approval.
Leave the park and am now on the way to the finish - other runners on the far side of the road get to look at me the same way I saw Tiki!
Start to put the boot down now. Grab my first taste of Extran and its good. Pass a couple of people with Irish flags so I let them know I'm Irish and they roar on some encouragement. I see 1000m painted on the road and check my watch. A 4 min final km will get me under 3:25. It's a bit late to be setting targets now!
As I turn up the Coolsingel and the huge crowd my mate is there to cheer me on again. I milk it from the crowd with arms outstretched looking like a smug tool.
Cross the line in 3:25:15. Guts of a 3 min PB so a decent "training" run.
Really enjoyed the race - Rotterdam loves their marathon. Has a "smallish" big race feel to it and with only 7,500 runners on a pancake flat course its great for those targetting a time. I found Berlin a lot more congested throughout. The water stations were very well manned. Crowds were decent enough although it was a bit sparse in places and they were a bit quietier than in Berlin. Apart from the cold wind the only negative is having the business relay runners starting in front of the 3:00-3:30 group.
Had too many pints in numerous places on Sunday night that have me the worst for wear early this week!
Next up hopefully is an all or nothing lash at 3:15 in Cork in June.