September 1944 to April 1945 was a period of the Second World War referred to as the Liberation of the Netherlands. The First Canadian Army was tasked with the difficult duty of clearing new supply lines along the North Sea to help aid in the allied offensive against the Germans.
When the Canadians first broke through the German defense and entered Holland they were devastated to come across a population stricken with famine that was starving, wasting away and “were literally eating tulip bulbs. They had nothing.”
After a rough winter of fighting, in particular the battle of the Schedlt, which required the Canadians to battle not only elite German forces, but also the harsh weather of cold, snow and rain. In the end once the Schedlt estuary was captured the death toll was over 6000 Canadian lives. However it was a pivotal moment in the allied offensive which allowed for the acceleration of supplies to the front lines of the war which would quickly bring an end to WW2.
Seventy-five started the race together. We’d swam the 750m in the rock quarry, rode into town and completed the hilly and technical loops on narrow European roads, and now it was down to eleven of us running together. Elbows up, errant steps on other feet, just fighting to hold position. I was at the back for most of the time, the pace was pretty rich, but I was doing all I could to hang on. All I could do to get to the last bit. Maybe they were hurting as much as me?
Ah I’ve asked this question before, and the answer seems to be the same.
With 400m to go the screws got turned even tighter and the elastic band began to break. I just focused on the guy ahead of me, eyes on his heels, never wavering.
I finished ninth out of eleven. Not exactly where I’d like to be (don’t you always want to win?) but if you told me awhile back that I’d have that result in a running race then I’d be pretty excited with that. These European races are bloody competitive and there’s so little room for any error.
After the race I took a few of the boys to the Holten Canadian War Cemetery. It’s literally a cemetery in the middle of the forest, well maintained by the local Dutch people who are forever grateful of the Canadian forces who gave their lives to free them from the Nazis. It’s a very surreal experience being there. Reading the tombstones and seeing young men; 25, 23, even 20 years old who sacrificed their lives for the greater good.
“He hath fought a good fight. He laid down his life for his friends.”
I’m currently in Hungary for the longstanding World Cup race in Tiszaujvaros. After a solid race in Holten I’ll be looking to put in another well executed event and get up on the stage Sunday night.
Until next time,