So this one is actually two reports combined into one. Why? Two reasons:
- The 12-urenloop happened on 10 May. The Plantentuinjogging on 14 May.
- The plan was not to race race either of them. The 12-urenloop should be taken easy enough so that I was fully recovered to pace the girlfriend in the Plantentuinjogging.
It felt a bit silly to do those separate, so here we are.
I had some injuries throughout January and February, leading me to cancel most of my spring plans. Instead, it was base building time again. History has made me cautious, so the weeks before the races I have only been in the 50s km range, spread over five days. The week before the race I made that six days, the first time I had ever run five days in a row, let alone six. All of the runs have been easy (General Aerobic in Pete Pfitzinger terms) with some recovery and some strides sprinkled throughout. One increase in intensity at a time I figure and for now I just want to up my distance again first.
The concept here is that teams compete against one another over a time period of 12 hours. The course consists of one ~575 metre long loop (as measured by my GPS). Members of the team complete the loop as often as possible. Your team has to switch person every lap, so you are essentially running almost 600 metre and then waiting for your next turn. In practice this meant 2-3 minutes of waiting per other person running. Usually you are not lucky enough to only have to wait for one other person, so the waiting in between can get a bit annoying. My colleague had convinced me to run for one of the weakest teams in the line up (they were second to last last time). The reasoning was that we could ask that team for a timeslot of one hour and just run between the two of us, minimising the waiting time.
Besides an awful downhill turn on earth with tree roots sticking out at the start, the course is on either asphalt or on the campus’ track. There are three bottlenecks: that awful turn (since you want the main path which is slightly smoother), the entrance to the track, and the exit of the track. The area where the teams are gathered is pretty crowded at all times but you can mostly get through unscathed.
For this one, I will just refer to my description from last year. The course is unchanged, though some rain in the past days made the grassy parts too soft and created several puddles and muddy patches.
Goals and Strategy
For our one hour slot at the 12 urenloop I figured I would take a lap or two to warm up, go hard for a while, and then possibly do some cool down in the laps. With how bad their team did last time, I figured it might still help them. I did have the intention of not going too fast since I wanted to be rested enough to pace the girlfriend.
The Plantentuinjogging only had the goal of having the girlfriend repeat last year’s victory and set a new CR in the process. She set the CR last year, but took it a bit easy at times so that was a soft CR in a way. I did not consider myself really race ready yet (i.e., capable to equal or improve on last year’s performance), but a tempo like effort could have been enough to pace her anyway.
We arrived shortly before 18:00, eight hours into the race. The team actually had quite a bit of people ready and willing to run. So far for our calm one hour of alternating between the two of us. All pacing plans quickly went out the window too. When I got handed the baton the first time, I immediately raced off, forgetting all about my warm up. Excitement of the crowd, I guess? I am never good at taking race starts easy and this one would have a lot of starts. I went out too fast on each one of them.
I quickly noticed I was not going to get as much running in as I had hoped for. I decided to run another hour for a team more dear to me, that of the science student group. The waiting for a turn was much longer than anticipated throughout. On the flipside, this made the laps I did do faster without tiring out my body as quickly. In that second hour, the sun became an annoying distraction too. It was setting and getting closer to the horizon. To see your teammates coming, you had to squint westward into that setting sun.
Most laps were uneventful, but some laps dragged me into racing a bit more. In one of them someone started right as I passed their team’s stand, I immediately tried to make sure I dropped him (and succeeded). In another two girls were ahead of me in the first 100-200 metre as I slowly reeled them in. Passed one easily enough, but the other gave a bit more trouble. Once I reached her around the halfway mark, she slowed down quite a bit though. Guess she went too hard, I quickly left her. In a third lap, our teammate that ran before us arrived with both our baton and the baton of another team. I was rather confused with that until I passed a member of the other team, lying in the grass on the side, looking a bit dazed. Still not sure what happened there. Finally every hour had a “fun” lap. The two I witnessed was a naked round at 18:00 and a run in flippers at 19:00. Much to nobody’s surprise, the naked run had pretty much just men. One girl braved it as well, but ran the entire loop while covering and holding her breasts. I cannot blame her, it sounds terribly painful otherwise.
Finally, here is a bit of an overview of my laps (and waiting time).
|Lap||Time||Wait till next|
That is a median time of 2:16 and waiting time of 7:27 (averages of 2:15 and 6:47). Quite a bit harder than I had planned to do and without warming up. After two laps above 2:20, I decided to call it a day. I was nearing the two hour mark, clearly losing my edge, and the girlfriend was waiting at home expecting me to only run one hour. The Strava activity for your enjoyment.
The Inbetweener Period
I was dead tired that evening and quickly decided that I did not want to get up early and run my planned recovery. Instead I would do it in the evening, after work. I did still bike to work and back. In the final kilometre on the way back, however, I felt a twinge in my right achilles twice shortly after one another. As I walked around the house, that area was also quite noticeable. Achilles injuries scare me, so I decided to skip the planned recovery run altogether.
For Friday morning I had planned another recovery run. However, I woke up for a bathroom break around 4:30 at night and still felt the achilles. It kept me worried and I decided to skip Friday’s recovery run as well. The girlfriend was giving me some looks, she did not want me to fail to pace her on Sunday. During Friday afternoon the achilles feeling cleared up and in the evening I briefly debated squeezing a run in. Instead we played it lazy and did a movie night with Chinese take out.
Saturday morning we went for a 6k recovery with some strides together. My calves felt terrible at the start (does not help that I did not foam roll at all the past days, I guess). During the strides, I did not drop her as easily as I normally do. On top of that, I rather felt my quads during the strides. Suffice to say, I was not feeling overly confident for Sunday.
And then things got worse. The girlfriend had a bit of a cough/snot going during the day and that got worse during the night. She did not sleep much and had a headache. Oh boy.
Plantentuinjogging Meise Race
We still went out there to just give it a try. I have a feeling if it were not for me though, she might have skipped it altogether. As it is, we arrived there around 12:15 for a 13:00 race start, quickly went through the motions of getting ready, and did a short warm up. We lined up near the startline. I wanted to be on the startline, but the girlfriend did not care as much. There were some kids in front of us. Kids are OK, they generally start with a sprint, clearing them out of your way, and then die anyway. Soon after three old ladies also went to stand there. I have no clue what they thought they were doing there, but I could not squeeze past them without feeling rude too.
As soon as the start signal was given, the girlfriend squeezed next to them on the left. I got stuck immediately as the three ladies started some slow jog-walk-thing. I thought “fuck being rude” and pushed myself through them with my hands. Do not stand on the front line if you do not belong at all…
I ran towards the girlfriend and adjusted to her pace. I always start too quick, so in the first several 100 metre I would just follow her and let her set the pace. After about 300 metre we turn into the park where most of the race is run. I see one girl up ahead, so she is immediately the main target.
We seem to be going at an OK pace and move closer to her. Around the 700 metre mark we catch up to her, but also get caught up to by another woman. We have also started climbing some and I feel like it is not going super smooth for the girlfriend. I let her set the pace here since she is usually better at uphills. In the downhill I take the lead again to make sure she does not ease up too much. On the flatter ground right after I feel like she is having trouble to keep up. I manually click the lap button when I see the 2km pass by (I had forgotten to turn on autolap). Just over nine minutes for two km, slower than we should be going. My own heart rate is only in the low 160s.
As we start climbing again, a girl and her father (?) pass us. The girlfriend starts to slow down some more. The sickness is getting to her. As it gets worse, I ask her how things are feeling. She says DNFing sounds nice. Yikes. She ends up deciding to walk for a bit and then see where her body takes her. I will continue on without her. We are at this point 2.8 km in the race, covered in a bit over 13 minutes. She is third female.
I get going and see 3 km pass by on my watch, manually pressing lap again. That lap was 5:17. I do not recall whether the 3 km sign was nearby at this point. I quickly spot the second female and pass her. I pick up people that passed us earlier one by one. Around 3.5km, I fall in behind a group with a younger kid in it. I have the idea of following them briefly to regain composure. This does not last even 100 metre as I still feel I have plenty left in the tank. I press the lap button as I pass the 4km sign. Time of 3:27, though the GPS tells me that lap was about 800 metre.
As I suffer through ups and downs, grass and mud, I sometimes see the first female in the distance. She seems too far, though I make it my mission to try my best to pass her still. Defending the girlfriend’s honour, clearly. The 5km sign is 1km behind the 4 km sign according to my GPS (this is not self evident in Belgium). Lap time: 4:20. As I run downwards to a section where the route briefly touches on an earlier point, I hear someone yell. The girlfriend is running again which feels reassuring. It puts her about 600 metre behind me. She later tells me she also saw the first female a bit ahead of me and “within reach”. I however do not see her and think I will be too late. I pass the 6 km sign with a lap time of 4:30.
At this point there is a downhill and a water stand. Without breaking my stride, I grab a cup of water, pour it over my head, and throw it in the trash in one smooth movement. My own perception of this event is confirmed by a spectator yelling that it looked nice. I leave the park and see the first female up ahead, turning a corner. As I go around the corner myself, I see her on the next uphill. This one starts out very gradually and I already see her struggling. A biker is next to her to show her the way (and probably some encouragement). I creep closer by, not quite catching her yet. However, I remember this section from last year. There is a right turn up ahead after which the gradual uphill becomes, essentially, a wall upwards. Total buzz- and legkiller.
As I make the turn, I see she has not gotten very far yet. She is dying. I decide to give it an extra boost up the hill. I know I can basically give it my all upwards since there is a slight downhill right after. I definitely can stay ahead of her on a downhill. I pass her a bit over halfway this final nasty climb and zoom off. The biker jokingly yells at me: “Is that a way to treat a lady?”. I just extend my arms in a shrug and continue. I crest the hill and cruise to the finish. Lapped the 7 km sign somewhere in that climb in 4:09 and the final bit (366 metre says the GPS watch) at 4:00 pace.
The official results have me at 32:12, putting me as 13th overall, just under 6 minutes from the overall winner. Slower than the girlfriend’s CR from last year as well, so I know her CR will not be broken by today’s winner. The female winner finished in 32:24. The girlfriend still clocked in fifth somehow, but over five minutes behind the female winner.
The GPS clocked in at 7144 metre in 32:18. The 2.8 km with the girlfriend were done at an average of 4:43 pace and 163 heart rate. The 4.3 km without her was at 4:23 and 180 respectively. All in all I felt pretty great still after the race, which was nice.
The three old ladies at the start line finished in 52:57, 52:57, and 49:19. OK.
I do not have any immediate race goals. I will just continue building a base distance-wise for a while longer and getting used to six days of running a week. Immediate future has two conferences (or four, technically) that will zap my energy. They and their travel fall between 18 May (yes, four days after the race) and 11 June. I will have to make sure I do not kill my legs during those lack-of-sleep days. I figure keeping distance steady should be enough.
After all that I want to get back to 70 km a week and get very used to that. Maybe I will decide on a fall half to keep things goal-oriented. (I think the girlfriend showed some interest in Copenhagen).