After the disappointment that was the 20km door Brussel almost three weeks ago, the girlfriend set her eye on the 5km race of the “12km Anderlecht” event to perhaps find us some redemption. At first I was not very convinced to take part, the race was on a Friday evening, the idea sounded positively horrible to me. I thought I could just have a go at pacing her instead, but eventually I warmed to the idea of the race itself.
For the 20km, I had followed Pete Pfitzinger’s lowest half marathon plan. The weeks since have been a recovery week (~50km), a transition week (~60km), and race week (19km prior to the race itself). In other words, no special focus on the 5km, just coming of the bigger plan and hoping to ride the gains from that.
I had some issues with my right calf the past week: soreness along a horizontal line somewhere midway in it. There was even a stab at times that felt like it could be from the bone itself. I admit I was slightly worried about this and considered that if it were to happen during the race, I should call it a day and DNF.
The course starts in the Astridpark, the park surrounding the RSC Anderlecht stadium, and goes from park to park in that area. As you may or may not guess, this means a lot of running on dirt roads. There has also been enough rain to create puddles and muddy spots in plenty of places.
You climb the first 500 metre, can descend for over a kilometre, then climb for about 1.5 km. After that it is mostly flat for a while as you go into the RSC Anderlecht stadium and run along the field. Once past the stadium, you have some 100 metre of downhill to the finish line.
Oh and just to make sure you have trouble keeping your pace, there are three π turns and some other turns that were needlessly sharp too.
Goals and Strategy
I had no particular goal going into this race. The strategy was to have a try at The Blowout Race workout, i.e., just go hard from the start and somehow try to hold on. In all honesty, this seems to be how I inadvertently run all my races anyway (oops). At the starting line itself I adjusted this slightly: the girlfriend had spotted a girl that was just a bit faster than me, so I decided to tail that girl and see if I could hold on.
Day of the Race
Normally I describe my morning routine here, but the race start was not until 20:00. To fit things in the schedule, I worked from home that day. It made the hours before the race less stressy and I could more easily handle my food the way I like it, at the times I wanted it. I had a regular breakfast and lunch, a last small meal around 16:00 and stopped drinking water close to 18:00. This way I figured I would not be bothered during the race with possible needs to use the toilet.
As mentioned in the strategy section, I planned on hanging on to the faster girl and seeing how long I could survive. I realised this would be impossible during the narrow crowded start, but hoped that once past the worst of that I would be able to spot her and catch on (she started on about the second row, I was on row four).
With about six minutes delay, we were off. The crowded start was not as terrible as I had feared. This race had a “fast start” corral, in which we were positioned, and within this corral most people seemed to be honest about their capabilities, positioning themselves about where they thought they belonged. The climb at the start also helped, I believe. People could not go as fast, making weaving slightly easier while everyone finds their pace.
As I crested the hill and left the park, I spotted the fast girl about ten metres ahead of me. Since she was the one to follow, I tried to make sure I would catch up to her without doing some useless sprint. I ran slightly faster and was a step behind her about 500 metre further, settling into her wake. Following her was easy enough on the downhill as well as in the second park we hit, which was flat.
At about 1.7 km, the 5km race split away from the longer race (which had started at the same time). We soon had to start climbing again and I noticed I had more trouble on those sections than the fast girl did. Regardless, I hanged on. By 2.5 km it briefly levelled out before climbing again after a sharp turn and I started to lose ground on her. As we got past the worst of the hills, I was about 15 metre behind her and gave up on trying to follow her. While slightly regaining breath and navigating two way too sharp turns, two other people passed me. One of them zoomed out of sight, the second remained slightly ahead of me. By the end of the park, with about 1.5 km to go, I had the guy that passed me, the fast girl, and a guy in a bright yellow shirt maybe 30 metre (?) ahead. I have difficulty estimating these distances. Yellow shirt looked like he had some trouble keeping his pace, but he was still hanging on.
A short stint on actual roads brought us to the RSC Anderlecht grounds and into the stadium. Getting in it was a bit narrow and stepping onto the slightly soggy feeling grass is a definite adjustment again, but running within the stadium is quite a nice experience. They also had two photographers placed in the stadium, so hope a nice picture comes out of that. A glance back while leaving the stadium showed nobody close behind me.
After leaving the stadium, there is a final π turn in which I used the pole around which you turn in hopes of better propelling myself out of the turn. Did not help that much. At least it was about time to descend towards the finish line. During that last descent I realised I should have started my final push already. Kicking into gear, I felt like my form was great, hope someone took a picture of that. Did not catch up to any of the people in front of me though. Crossed the line feeling OK with my race, though pitying not starting my kick earlier.
Time was 19:03, Strava pretty close to it. I was 13th overall. The girl ended in 18:42, yellow shirt ended up six seconds ahead of me. Even with an earlier sprint that may have been too much to catch up to. The winner of the race ran 15:53. The girlfriend arrived as second female in 20:24.
I do like 5k races better. It also helps that I had no real goals coming into this race, that way it is hard to get disappointed. Still not 100% sure on my next goal. Base build and have fun seems like the way to go.