The winters in the Netherlands are mostly very wet, as in rainy wet and soggy snow. So when the winter gods bless us with some colder weather, the fever kick in.
The media starts speculating about a new 11-city-race (I'll explain this phenomenon later on in this blogpost) after only to nights of frost. A lot of Dutchies get really excided when this happens, and so am I. There will be hourly updates on the news on which skating rinks are open and if the ice on the lakes is thickening. It is a crazy, typically Dutch thing and I love it!
I have been skating whole my life, since I can remember I have been on the ice every winter (The picture explains a lot don't you think?, that is me and my dad!). And when I was a lot younger, around the age of 8 to 10, the winters where a lot colder than the ones we have been getting the last ten years. I remember going skating with my dad skating the tours set out on the lakes when I was around ten. When I was in the 5th group (as the grades are called in the Netherlands) I decided gym wasn't for me and I traded the gym hours for skating hours. I trained two to three times a week until I was 17 and left for Canada, after which I only skated recreationally. I still get very excided when we have natural ice, then I will be skating!
That brings me back to the recent weather developments, the skating rinks in every town in the Noordoostpolder (the municipal where I live) are opened. The middle schools even get the morning or afternoon off to go skating with the teachers, which of course is great exercise for them!
The various skating clubs (almost every town in the Netherlands has a skating rink, well maybe not every town but quite a lot of them do) organize tours, school races and marathons. THE ultimate speed skating championship of all championships is the 11-city-race, this race is over 200 km over lakes and waterways throughout the province Friesland and it passes through elven cities. If you have won this race, you will be forever famous in the Netherlands! One of my uncles won it twice in a row which is pretty unique. First of all to have two very chilly winters that made it possible, but also because it is 200 km over natural ice, anything can happen! (Oh even the Crown Prince of the Netherlands skated the 11-city-race (not the race but the recreational tour))
The last time we have had an 11-city-race was in 1997, at this race my other uncle placed fourth! Which is awesome because this is the race I remember watching at my grandmother's and I'll never forget!. The start is very early in the morning at six o'clock in Leeuwarden. The finish is somewhere between 5 and 6 o'clock at night. It is an event more than half of the Netherlands watches either somewhere on the route or at home on the couch. I hope we will get the posibility to see one again, or maybe I get to skate the 200 km myself. I do not think it will be this year though, it was around 0 degrees the whole day, it will need to be much colder than that to even come close to 10 cm of ice that is needed on the whole route.
I will leave you with a great quote for the day and a picture of the 11-city-race of 1997 (number 11 is my uncle, notice all the people watching on the bridge??? Crazy eh?):
~ Dutch people REALLY get crazy when it comes to natural ice and skating ~