The idea was relatively simple : I wanted to get a big run in the month of April, but I wasn't sure of what I wanted to do. In the end I had it planned out between Amsterdam-Brussels, 200km and a running version of Paris-Roubaix, 260km. Although after looking more into it I'd found out that I would have been bothered by cyclists all weekend since I was taking up a bit of road that was definitely destined to them for the beautiful race. So, I decided to head up north and make my way almost to my front door (that way it would be easier to waddle home once I'd finished)
But I knew that Amsterdam-Brussels would be an amazing event and it was set out to be the furthest I'd ever gone. I had no idea how the legs would be feeling nor if I'd reduced my kilometres enough doing the week. I'd pretty much stuck to the basics during the week, going and coming back from work (70km all week).
But anyway! All 'normal' runners doubts aside. We set off on what was sure to be an amazing adventure. I'd tricked two good friends of mine, Joscha and Fred, to crew me throughout this non-race challenge, one would follow by bike throughout the day and the other would take a car from point to point. A bit like how this summer is going to be!
So after a quick night on a blow up mattress in Fred's cousin's apartment in Amsterdam we were off! The idea was to have a bike with me throughout most of the day and have the car meet us from time to time, at least once every 10km, to fill up water bottles and eat a bit. The crew would switch between car and bike every 20k to come have some fun and not stay alone all day. Honestly, can't thank them enough for keeping me sane and trying to keep conversation for 12hrs each. Their job was certainly as hard as mine.
As the day got started, we left the Amsterdam area to be met by water. There is so much water in the Netherlands! Just like how France has garden pride in each city, I'm sure they have water pride. Even houses had bridges and moats. It was beautiful. We ran down a river for a good marathon and every thing had gone perfectly to plan until the 60th km.
It's at that point where planning would have gotten us across faster. Who knows? Maybe I would have gotten an hour faster?
We'd taken a wrong turn and suddenly realise that we actually had to cross the river. Fred and I looked at each other and asked if either of us have any money. Of course not... Obviously... After further investigation in our best dutch, we realised that the boat captain won't let us through. And that we had to pay 1.05 euros each to get across. Then, between the extremely unpleasant boat captain constantly pretending he didn't understand a word of english and repeating :
eerste betalen (first you pay)
and Joscha telling us he'd be there as soon as possible. There was not much we could do.
The boat captain was having none of our story that our friend was on the other side, and that as soon as we'd gotten over the guy would pay for both of us. In hindsight it was pretty good of him, since Joscha was nowhere near the other side of the river. Luckily, we'd found a lovely dutch couple out for their Saturday lunch ride who were willing to loan us the money.
In the 30 second boat crossing we were briefly able to explain what we were doing that day and what we planned on doing that summer. The woman, looking very dubious about my random story said, ''Here, consider this our contribution to your race.'' (Thank you, if ever for some reason you read this).
With the boat captain telling each of us to have a great day, pretending it was the most normal encounter he had just had. I just couldn't help myself from replying:
'''Asshole...'' (I could really say what I want, he doesn't speak english remember)
We then continued running and called Josch to tell him we made it over and that we'd continue until he met us up. But we also knew that another ferry was coming up shortly and that we would have to face the same problem. We then proposed that Joscha meet us on the second ferry so that we didn't have to miss a lot of time.
Once we get to the second ferry (67km, 2PM, sunny, hot, no water):
Ralph: Alright Josch says he's stuck in a traffic jam to cross a bridge and that he should be here shortly.
20 minutes pass.
(on the phone) Josch man, where are you? We're kinda starting to stress we have no water left and its starting to get drastic. Panic buttons are starting to go off.
Joscha: I'm at the ferry. Which one are you at? Oh, shit... Man you're gonna have to deal with that ferry I must have missed the first and was at the second one before.
Ralph: Fuck... Fred... now its your turn to find 1 euro 50 for us both to cross this stupid water.
So after a lot of explanation to a lovely Belgian couple that was exploring God-knows-where 20km east of Rotterdam. We got our 1.50 and were able to continue on our journey. The fact we lost an hour wasn't drastic. Things like that happen. We soon met Josch, who had spent the last 3 hours, in a car rushing from point A to point B to try to find us. We ate a good deal, drank and went on our way.
Next stop Dordrecht! One more ferry taken, with money, our story shared one more time with the ship captain and off we were again!
We were back on track! No more ferries to take. No more problems to immediately face and everything we needed to do now was rely on my legs to keep us moving.
As the day started winding down the kilometres kept racking up. The day had gone pretty well and I wasn't showing any signs of fatigue yet. It was the good life, you know? Running through 18° weather with two great friends in a place you don't know. Perfect! At one point we even crossed an enormous river, on the side of a high way. This being the Netherlands of course, there was a cycle path on the highway!
We had just passed the 100k barrier in 11h and were headed into the final sun part of the day and into the night and of course only 20km from Belgium.
As night falls, hallucinations, optical illusions, and demons come to play in my mind. Therefore from 123k in until I'd say 193k it was naturally time for Ralph Mesquita to feel cold, speedy digestion and fatigue. I say all this but I think I was delightful through most parts of the evening... More or less...
As soon as we got into Belgium there were just little quirks here and there that made things more challenging. I don't know if it was the contrast between the fact I felt perfect all day, or the fact that it was 1AM but that's really when things started cracking.
The crew decided to take 15km checkpoints instead of 10. So they could sleep somewhat in between. And from 1AM on it was a matter of counting, which I absolutely hate doing
.... 14... 13... 12... peepee time 11...10...9 alright less than 10 to go!
Damn, a kilometre goes by slowly at this pace.
Damn, a kilometre goes by slowly when you can't stop thinking about every moving step.
Ahh! But I pooped like an hour ago! How is this possible?! (Sorry for the potty talk its part of running)
8!! yes!!! Alright Ralphy if you can do 8 you can do 7. 7, chiiiiil,
Alright you must be at 4 or 5 now. You haven't been paying attention to the watch for a while. What?! still 7 what?!
This is what 4AM and 163km in looked like:
From then on it was all about following one single road to Mechelen then Vilvoorde and seeing people finish off there Saturday nightlife activities. Shoutout to the goers of the Copacabana club for completely ignoring my presence, and being more focused on the Kebab line right outside the night club. A second shoutout to the prostitute that waved to us through her pink window.
I won't lie it wasn't a gruelling hard running. In fact, once I ran things were actually quite nice. They went faster. The hardest thing was starting off after a pit stop at the car! Every time I stopped everything would cool down. My muscles would stop working and I'd feel the 2° temperature. It was then a routine of starting again with two pairs of gloves and a hat. Every km onwards I'd take one item of clothing off. Strip-ultrarunning of some sort.
The worst pit stop restart was the 6AM one where shops are opening. The sun is almost out and its suuuuuuuuuuper cooooooold. So there I was. 175km in, no sleep, Mc Donald's coffee at hand and an athletics jacket from a club I'd never been too. Looking good huh?
Still things didn't start getting better just yet. I still had to cry for it to be a real ultra event. This time it was because of Cuba Gooding Jr's movie : Man of Honour. If that guy could get through that moment and still pass the diving program in the marines. Then hell, I could do this. Actually don't get me started on that movie or I might start crying again.
We get to Vilvoorde and everyone is exhausted. I was always secretly wishing to get in before 24hrs. But once I see that there is 1h30 minutes left and 12kms to go I was really skeptical. I leave the last pitstop at my grandpa's running pace and of course things start picking up again.
Somehow mysteriously all aches, pains, and itches were gone. I was hitting 4:30/km pace at 23 hours of running!! It made us do the 12km in around an hour which is much more than I could say about most of the previous 8 hours to finally make it to the Cinquentenaire!
That feeling of finishing something is too hard to describe. But it feels pretty much like this I'd say!
See you for new adventures soon! D-43 until crowdfunding ends! If you got this far in my blog post then you surely want to see us do this crazy thing this summer. Don't hesitate to send some love our way! All, I repeat, ALL DONATIONS ARE RELEVANT!