I heard about this event from a DailyMile friend – a skating tour organized by a group of local skating clubs, with options to skate a route of between 20km and 80km. I was already super excited about getting to skate outside on natural ice for the first time ever last weekend, but I certainly never imagined I’d have the chance to take on a 20km (which turned out in reality to only be 16km) skating tour between three local villages.
Possibly the whole local population along with their aunts and uncles were also out there today, it was very busy, and there was a great atmosphere. Hard core skaters flying by as well as family groups, all taking to the ice. I’ve walked quite a large part of this route a couple years ago when I was training for the Vierdaagse, but seeing it from the ice was a whole new experience.
The first section out of Schipluiden was headed into the sun, and I was very grateful for my new sunglasses which I picked up at the gas station in Schipluiden after a very uncomfortable cycle ride into the sun. The ice quality here was pretty good, and once my legs warmed up a little I managed to keep quite a nice rhythm.
Then, a right turn off towards Maasland, and I already had the feeling I was making progress… this stretch was lovely, with the wind at our backs it was very easy going. I took one tumble, on a patch of rough ice, but was back on my feet and moving again with little hesitation. Before I knew it I’d reached Maasland and the first check in point. I got my card stamped and then stopped to have a drink and a snack. I was already feeling pretty thirsty, and I’d finished the water I brought with me.
Back up again the way we came to the main canal, and as I expected, this was really tough going – the wind of course was now in my face. It was bitterly cold, and my eyes were watering constantly, even with the protection of the sunglasses. I could also really feel the difference in my legs, not only was I tiring, but I was having to work harder against the wind. I was really struggling in this part, and very glad indeed when I finally got back to the main canal.
Then a right turn back onto the main canal, in the direction of Vlaardingen. We were more sheltered from the wind here, but unfortunately the paths marked out were very narrow and crowded. The ice quality on this stretch was also far inferior to the first part of the route, and dodging both people and cracks was challenging and tiring. There was also an ice party going on at one point, which was a challenge to move through.
This stretch was surprisingly short, definitely shorter than marked on the map, and presumably accounts for the missing 4km. I was surprised to reach Vlaardingen so soon, not to mention a little relieved. After getting my card stamped I sat and drank some more water, and had some potato chips. Considering my huge pasta lunch and the gingerbread cake I ate at the first stop, I was surprisingly hungry! Of course, I had run 5K already this morning.
Then I pushed off, doubling back again, fighting my way through all the people who thought it was a good idea to skate on the wrong side of the path, back through the party people, and finally on to the clearer main stretch. It wasn’t that long before I saw the bridge come back into view and beyond it the windmill marking my starting point.
I was really tiring by this point, and my muscles were beginning to let me know what they thought of my bright idea! While part of me knew that I hadn’t covered the 20km I’d set out to do and thought that was a pity, the larger part of me was rather glad to reach the end. I’d had a fantastic time, but I was definitely flagging. If I’d had to do another 4km, I’m sure I’d have made it, but I’m not so sure that I wouldn’t have landed on the ice a few times in the process, as my skating was getting far less smooth.
Got my official stamp, and the much coveted medal… ironically with 30km on the back since they’d run out of 20k ones!
As I fetched my bike I saw people skating out in the opposite direction, for the other part of the tour – you could do another 20km heading out towards Wateringen and De Lier. There was a small part of me that wanted to get back out there…. but believe me, it was a very small part!