When I decided going all the way down there to Amsterdam to compete, I didn't know exactly what to expect. Actually I knew it would be something bigger than what we use to have here in the neighborhood since the tournament was organized by the Dutch Canicross Federation.
It has been a busy period at home, but when I read about this tournament, I really wanted to join it. Mostly because of the route, but also because I wanted to check out how exactly Marujo and I are compared to the top Dutch teams before getting deeper in a new training scheme.
Even though the start from the 6Km was planned to begin on 19:30, the start nummers and trackers should be picked up until 17:30. So we left Groningen around 15h and drove 2 hours until the Amsterdamse Bos. And if you think that's far, keep in mind there were people from France, Germany and England participating as well.
By checkin-in, we received a bag with lots of dog's food and treats, our start number t-shirt and the tracker. I loved the start-number t-shirt idea, by the way. It's so much smarter than the paper versions: it can be used looooooots of times (it's sustainable) and the nummers (in the front and back) can be seen from far away. The tracker was also pretty easy to put and take out from the ankle with a velcro.
During the checkin-in process at the event's secretary, some dogs were randomly chosen to get checked up by a vet. We all must, therefore, bring dog's passport with all their info, vaccination and health certificates.
After picking up everything we still had to wait for at least two hours before getting ready to start. We walked a bit around and found out the organization kindly wrote letters making sure non-runners understood what was going on and therefore collaborated not walking through the race route.
At 17:45, they started the fun and kids run. At 18:30 they began the 3Km start process. More than 60 participants and one start at every 15 seconds (on ascending order). That means around 15 minutes busy and, therefore, when the last one was starting, some where already back to the finish. To calculate the results, they simply take notes of the (precise) start time and finish and then calculate the participant's lap time. The faster, of course, wins - not mattering if he/she was one of the last ones to finish the race.
It's a great system, I think. I like it also because it's almost impossible to compare yourself to others while racing. So just do your best and see how far and fast you can go!
After thousands of times on the toilet (yes, I get anxious about racing and I pee a lot because of that), at 19:15 I was warmin up and at 19:30 I was around the start line. My start number was 128. That means there were still 27 people in front of me. (Oh yeah! Start numbers for the 3Km were 200 series and for the 6Km were 100 series). There were around 40 participants for the 6Km race.
Even though the start is done separately as I mentioned above, there's no way to avoid the mess. Some dogs get pretty exited and bark a lot while waiting. Marujo was unflappable. On our turn, we peacefully walked to the line and waited for 15 seconds to our start alarm.
When the alarm rang, Marujo started running and pulling me, but only after being surpassed by a German girl who started right after us (and happens to be the winner), he started pulling insanely! We ran the first km in 3'48'' (+-16Km/h). Around 1,5Km we faced 50 meters of a 1,5m deep water plash where Marujo didn't hesitate and kept pulling me even while swimming! Crazy dog!!!
After that, however, he kind of slowed down and ran by my side for a while. It was my turn to keep our pace strong. But after a while he looked at me like he was asking for something. I knew that look; He wasn't tired at all...and just before we got to the water part again (our race was running 2 times the 3x route), he finally sat down to poop!!!!! "No problem, buddy! Take your time!" I thought - and with a stock, I threw the shit into the woods where no-one would occasionally step in.
Well, than he saw the water and guess what? Turbo was on again!!! He swam like Phelps and when we got out of water he was pulling me hard. What a great teamwork! Precisely when I was about to get tired he was on again!!!
Thanks to him we still surpassed around 5 women on the last 1,5Km - including number 109 - who, if you do the math you'd realize started about 5 minutes before us! - Surpassing, by the way, wasn't a problem; The route, besides amazingly well signalized, was wide and roomy. When not on the water, we ran on the sand or grass.
On the last 50m, we did our final sprint and another overtaking. Bas was at the finish line with arms wide open, but I couldn't really talk - just kissed and thanked Marujo! What a race! What a great experience!!! And when most of the dogs were lying down on water tubs, Marujo wasn't even gasping... what a beast!!!
When I felt recovered, I kissed Bas and thanked him to be there with us and started telling him about how much fun we had. I saw him a couple of times while racing. He was walking the route on the opposite way and making most of the amazing photo's you see in here, but even though I wanted to tell him everything; and also that I wanted to stay and wait for the results.
There were some water tubs and boxes for us to drop the number t-shirts and tracers in right after the finish line. Pretty well organized and decent how everybody collaborates to make sure everything works well.
So we went back to the car and I changed my self and than got back to the secretary, where a couple of minutes later the results where publicized. We ended up as 6th. Pretty decent for a team that spent the last entire year focused on long distance races, just started training for the short ones and competed for the first time in a level higher than the regionals.
Importantly and undoubtedly, however, is that we had lots of fun and learned a lot. And even though I don't really agree with or admire all the many ways people see and practice canicross (some are a waaaaaaay too extreme and fanatic and even seem to treat their dogs as nothing more than running tools crating them before and right after the race), being able to run against the fastest national teams and seeing all the different kinds of people and dogs was a great experience!
Finally, two more hours ride and we were back home and on the couch with Rocky, who was excited to hear about our adventure! Also in time for some vegan ice cream before going to bed! And even though I was no winner, I got the best award: being with my boys Bas, Rocky and Marujo at the end of the day.