June 3rd – 4th The OLAT 28th International Walking Event in Weert, Netherlands. I can’t start to describe how excited I was to race in The Netherlands. The Dutch Centurions and Dutch people in support of the races I have met, all over the World, has been VERY positive. It is not just walking events for the Dutch. It is a way of Life. Healthy people with a healthy way of life.
How many Centurions will come to a Qualifier in the Netherlands? A Bunch. Sandra Brown, Antoine Hunting, Sandra de Graaff, Bertus van Ginkel. Frans Leijtens, Frank van der Gulik, Jauntinus Meints, Jack Bertrums, Jimmy Millard, Marco Bloemerts, Gino Masto, Boetje Huliselan, Chris van Cauwenberghe, Bert Timmermans, Wim van Cappelle, Guido Vermeir, Peter Asselman, Ilona Klinkendon, Mathijs Timmermans, Gertrude Achterberg, Arie Kandelarrs, David Vandercoilden, Jannie Bos, Appie Bos, Con Bollmann, Arie Pieter Klootwijk, Martin Vos, Hans de Vries, Hanny Klumpkens, Wilma Driessen, Dwight Kluijver, Vincent Yeung, Daniel Lhoest, Anne van Andel, Remy van den Brand, Jenny Bergs, Hans Pranger, Eric Geudens, Dirk-jan Nieuwenhuizen, Ernie Dorré, Dwight Kluijver, Jos Wyngaert, Adrie Ros, Gerrit de Jong, Fred Rohner and Ap van Gelderen. I know I have left several out. I will add their names as I remember. I was overwhelmed by the number of Centurions present to say the least.
I had the pleasure to meet Centurion David Vandercoilden the day before the race. Him French. Me American. Our being centurion brothers we had a bond even if all the words did not. David would try to earn a Honderdman Pin. 100 km in under 11 hour and 30 minutes. Before I watched David I thought that would be a worthy goal to try for me. After watching David earn that pin. I can forget about that for me. I have never seen anything like it. Congratulations David.
This years race was on a different Two mile loop road course in Weert that incorporated part of a 400 meter track. My favorite Centurion layout is the two mile loop. Makes it Very easy to track your splits. The drink and food tables right on the track for easy access. Early in the race a second water table was set up at mile one. This was a very well supported race. Thanks to everyone that kept me fed and hydrated.
The weather was warmer than I would have guessed this far north. Seems I brought rain with me also. About 75 for the high. 55 over night. The night up here in June is only about five hours. Good thing it is short. It rained for most of the night.
Every one walked out to the start line. Introductions and rules were all given in Dutch. It is so sad that I only speak English. Most Europeans speak two to five languages. This worked for me because I was going to follow everyone anyway. I did have several barriers as a result. Once I asked for a ham sandwich. When I got to the pick up table. Everyone was looking at each other. What is a ham sandwich? About 600 meters of each lap of the race was on the rubberized sports track. Two thirds of the rest on well groomed asphalt. One third on cement paving stone. During the first hour something was wrong. I was mentally and physically prepared. For some reason I did not feel right but was walking well. Then the top of both feet started to hurt. This spread to my right hip. Then both knees. Three demons rearing their ugly heads. I just walked thru the pain. Not to be deterred two more demons showed up. The paving stones hurt the bottom of my feet. Then the most evil of them all my digestive track was not happy. All of this in the first six hours. Was I going to have to be a Centurion and an exorcist? I stayed mentally strong and walked thru the pain. Finding some relief by eating different foods. Only to have each demon return many times later. Then came the overnight rain. Not heavy rain. Just a cool rain after a hot day and warm night. The next demon, wet socks. This one brought his ugly brother foot blisters. By stopping, changing socks, patching at mile 76 I was able to get another 14 miles. My sweet wife earned her pay this weekend. I needed a lot of help. Food, feet and encouragement. I kept her running, she got a blister. Thanks Bren. By mile 90 both feet were blistered. Toes and fore foot pads. Those uneven paving stones. With only 10 miles to go I just gritted my teeth and kept going.
After my first Centurion in 2015. I thought the more races I did the easier it would become. It has mentally. Physically these races are never easy. A hundred things can go wrong. At this race for me they all went wrong. Over and over again. I never felt like I would not be able to finish. Mentally I was above all of it. It all boils down to one simple question. How bad do you want it?
65 racers started the 24 hour. 24 made it to the 100 mile mark. 11 New Continental Centurions including Gertrude Achterberg and myself. Nine first time Centurions. Rene Wakkee, Paul Jansen, Ignace Matthys, Corina Riezebos, Peter Duijst, Dick Stoevelaar, Wilko Koster, Arjan Lukken and Larissa Droogendijk. I finished with 22 hours 55 minutes 52 seconds. I stayed out and walked another 4 miles with a Friend for His first Centurion. I Became Continental Centurion C454.
Yea the Finish.
My wife Brenda in support watching for me.
Photo by Jannie Bos
This race transcended into something else. What it turned into was the highlight of the weekend for me. With six laps to go I caught up with Centurion Sandra De Graaff. She was walking with Arjan Lukken. After visiting with Sandra I found out Arjan needed eight laps. A quick look at my watch told the story. Arjan was going to be very close to the cut off. Sandra was committed to helping him make it. She could only pace him every other lap. I told them I would stay with Arjan to the finish. When Arjan hit 92 miles he had just over two hour to go. After walking 92 miles needing 8 miles sounds easy but our minds don’t work that way. In a Centurion race what 8 miles means is, on tired legs, mentally drained, you need two more hours of all out effort. Arjan said he couldn’t do it. Sandra and I convince him other wise. All he needed was four laps with no more than 30 minutes per lap. Sandra would pace a lap. I would call out split times at the mile and two mile marks. Then he only had me calling out times for a lap. Helping Arjan took all my attention off my own pain. Sandra wanted to know what would happen when I hit 100 miles two laps before Arjan. I reassured both of them I was with Arjan to the end. My own 100 miles plus four extra miles. We stayed just under our splits. Like all Centurion attempts late in the race Arjan had to reach deep down inside. Watching Arjan cross the line as a Centurion was more emotional for me than my own crossing earlier. The highlight of my weekend.
Sandra, Arjan and I. The Dutch Train.
Photo by Jannie Bos