On Monday I decided I really felt like racing something longer than the 10 km races I have been doing recently. I want to do the 20 km door Brussel at the end of May and I feel like I need a bit more of an idea of what to expect. It has been two years since I raced anything over 10 km. My eye fell on the “Jogging Den Bos Rond” which offered a 5.7 km, a 11.2 km, and a 16.7 km by doing one, two, or three loops, respectively. I decided to do the 16.7 km one.
In February I had some consistent weeks in a row. About 65 km per week with an LT workout, a long run, and some speedwork in it (“R” in Jack Daniels’ terminology). The rest of the day are filled up with easy runs and Mondays are a day off. In March I came down with a fever and less than ideal breathing, though I managed to mostly contain it to just one week in terms of runs skipped. However, it did interfere with the actual workouts. Between getting sick and this race, I did no real workouts any more.
The weeks leading up to the race, I did the following distances: 30.1 (fever week), 62.6, 65.6, and 66.4 (race week, including the race). I purposefully put the race at the end of three high weeks. I usually take an easier week every fourth week so figured I would combine it with recovery from the race.
There is about 100 metre of asphalt that takes you from/to to the start/finish. The rest is just doing the loop one, two, or three times. Most of the course is pretty much flat. Not enough to affect your pace more than a few seconds.
The loop starts with a few 100 metre of asphalt. After that is a left turn onto packed earth with a twist: lots of patches with mulch until becoming just mulch for a bit. It does not last too long and then you get some runnable ground. Around 2.5 km path gets a bit narrow, then some more mulch follows. Next follows 500 metre of gravel, which sucks. After that you go back onto the roads. From the gravel to the end of the loop, the sun is hitting down on you. In the last 1.5km of the loop, you spend quite some time in a straight line, running on a path next to train tracks.
There is one water stand on the loop, about halfway through it.
Goals and Strategy
I am doing the 20km door Brussel race at the end of May. Two years ago I blew up. Last year I did not take part due to being abroad at the time of the race. This year I want to do better. The goal during this race was just to keep my heart rate under control, not to go over LT training heart rate. In my case: low 170s. This way I could see where that would bring me and what I could expect from the goal race.
Woke up around 7:00, had a quick bite of spaghetti leftovers from the night before. Drank all the water I needed to. Left around 7:50 to walk to the train station to take the train. Got to the village around 8:35. Walked to the sign up location, the girlfriend and I were the first two to sign up for the 16.7km and got the bibs 1001 and 1002 for our efforts (“hurrah”). We were rather early due to train scheduling, so we waited around a bit chilling. Eventually changed, dropped the bag in the dressing room, and did a warm-up to keep up appearances (maybe 500-1000 metre tops). Did not feel like I really needed it for a race this length. Jogged to the finish line and placed myself a few lines down from the front to be ready for the race start at 10:00. A few lines down because the 5.7 and the 11.2km started at the same time, so there would be plenty of people ready to run faster than I had in mind.
As usual, I started out a bit too fast. I noticed it within the first few 100 metre and fixed it. I guess I started a bit further back than I should have as I was having trouble finding a group that was going my pace. Throughout the first lap I slowly pass people: hang behind someone briefly before deciding to slowly overtake them and leave them behind. I use the water stand on each lap, even the first one, grabbing a cup to empty it over my head to cool down. Was no need to actually drink from it.
Around the start of the path next to the train track, about 4 km in to the race, I catch up to a woman and some others who are going a pace I am feeling happy with. I decide to hang behind the woman for a bit. Around one kilometre further, one of the sign people yells at the woman that she is the second woman. This reminds me that she is likely doing the 5.7 km and that I may be losing “my pacer” soon. However, I was counting on at least one of the other people of our little group to be continuing for a second (or third!) lap.
As we reach the end of the first lap, everyone around me turns away towards the finish. Damn. 😑 In the distance I see two guys, I figure my best bet for lazy pacing is to see if I can slowly get close to them and then just follow. However, I also do not want to go too hard. I end up not really closing in on them. On the mulch of the second lap (around 6 km of running done) a guy in a yellow shirt blasts past me, puts 100-200 metre on me and then sort of hangs there for the rest of the full three laps. If only he had not added that extra distance! Meanwhile, the two guys I was hoping to catch up to have passed another guy who tries to hang on to them. Not much later both the other guy and one of the two guys start fading away: just a red shirt remains ahead. I pass the two that were fading away around 8-9 km in. I am also slowly closing in on red shirt. I am about to catch him near the end of lap two, but then he turns away towards the finish line. Sigh.
Behind me I hear some shouts of “come on dad”. I also notice that the guy getting the encouragements does turn with me to do a third lap. Yellow shirt is still about the same distance ahead of me as after blasting past. Not long after starting the third lap, with about 5 km to go, I decide it is time to start pushing a little bit harder. So far my heart rate had been in the high 160s, now I move it to the low 170s, which is around my LT training heart rate. The entire first half of the last loop is uneventful. The yellow shirt stays ahead of me and during turns I can spot come-on-dad 5-10 metre behind me.
The second half things change a bit as I start passing people doing their second loop. Luckily, most of them notice me in time and are friendly enough to make sure I can pass by. The further into this lap I get, the more of them I start passing (obviously).
With about 2 km to go I start thinking about the race results. I realise yellow shirt will not be fading away and I will not be catching up to him. However, I decide I will not let myself be passed by come-on-dad. He still hovers nearby, though I do not know how nearby. I allow my heart rate to creep up a bit higher towards 175. About 300 metre from the finish line, in the same spot as the lap before, come-on-dad gets another “come on dad” encouragement. This tells me he is too close for comfort. I will not gamble and start a little sprint towards the end.
I finished 10th out of 54 participants. Official time of 70:34. Strava has two seconds fewer since I was a few rows down (it was not chip time). Come-on-dad arrived four seconds behind me. He thanked me for the pacing, said it looked smooth. That was nice to hear. Yellow shirt finished 10 seconds ahead of me. The winner did it in 58:31, quite a bit ahead of me, though there is a big drop off after him and the second place guy (59:22): third place was in 65:15.
Only seven women took part in the 16.7 km and none of them especially competitively so: 79:10, 79:21, and 82:15. Coincidentally, that third spot was the girlfriend, who was taking this race as just a slightly faster long run. Neither of us really expected it, but it made us stay around to allow her to enjoy getting a trophy and a small cash prize.
The main goal for this spring has become the 20km door Brussel on 27 May. I have not been doing much specific training and I do not think that will change. I will however try to do some tempos more consistently and try a few progression long runs. At least one of those I will combine with the 10km de l’ULB race on 22 April. Besides that, I might do the Woluwe-St-Lambert 15km which is two weeks before the 20km. How exactly I would race that one though, I do not know yet.