I found out there was a small race on walking distance from my house, the Jaarmarktjogging Jette 4k and 8k. It is located in a park I have run through hundreds of times. I could not let that slip by. I signed up for the 4k, despite the lack of shape I am in.
I have mostly been in a sort of base building mode as of late. Sick of getting injured more often than I want to, I decided to just take it easy and add distance till I reach something reasonable. Reasonable in my mind would be about 70 km per week, for the time being. After I would have reached that very comfortably for some time, I figure I could add some more intensity back into the grind.
However, my body once more decided differently. After coming back home from vacation around the start of August, I had been mostly comfortable around 60 km per week. I thought I would push it a bit further till 65 km and then slowly start adding in some Tempo workouts in light of a likely half at the end of October.
However, those plans never got executed. About 10 days after returning, I got injured at my right knee/upper shin area. The right calf had been tight for several days before that, but I had been ignoring it with the idea it would fix itself. It did not and instead I got the short end of the stick. In retrospect, I am just blaming myself for not listening to my body. That is sounding all too familiar. I think my legs got extra tired from my return to bike commuting. If only I had considered that beforehand.
The weeks before the race, I ended up running 62.8km, 40.8km, and 45.1km. I was somewhat pushing through the injury by keeping my daily distance very low, enabling me to react to any developing pain. In the week of this race however, I decided I was balancing a very narrow ledge by pushing through pain and injury. After running 8.8 on Tuesday and 5.1 on Wednesday, I did not run till Sunday, the day of the race. Instead, I swam some on Thursday and Saturday. That had been a long time ago.
Despite it being in a park I have seen more often than I can count, I had no idea what to actually expect of the race. They do not have a website, nor is a route displayed anywhere prominently. So this one I did not know about till after the fact.
For the first 1.5 km you are net gaining about 36 metre of elevation. You start out on a brick road for about 200-300 metre. After that you get packed earth and earth-with-rocks. Some parts have roots sticking out, a lot of parts have the rocks sticking out. It is not until 900 metre in that most of that elevation is gained in a series of a steep uphill-some downhill-more steep uphill. At 1.5 km a downhill starts. You are briefly diverted onto a grassy patch for 200 metre. The grass is long enough that you really have to watch out not to twist your ankle from hidden bumps and holes. Afterwards you continue descending till 2.3km in. You take a sharp right and have to run on wonderful Belgian cobbles overgrown by grass. Each of the cobbles is pointing up weirdly of course. From here on out it is a mostly flat affair though. At 2.6 km you are back on brick road for the rest of the run. There are some turns, four of which a bit too sharp. The last of them is a π turn about 600 metre out from the finish. After that, you are on the home stretch.
Goals and Strategy
Last year’s results indicated I might place well (top 5 or better), but the preceding weeks had mostly dashed those hopes. I figured I would just race and make sure to not leave anything in the tank.
The girlfriend and I walked over around 9:15, got there by 9:30, got our bib, and went for a bit of a warmup. When lining up I ended up around the fourth row, but most people there looked decently fast. No old ladies or little kids at the front. Both the 4 km and the 8 km started at the same time.
Right after the start has been given, I find myself veering to the outside to pass some people. I also immediately see someone create a small gap in the first 100 metre. I assume he must be doing the 4 km. I fall in with a group of about seven or eight people and for a bit the feeling of running in a pack is elating. It does not last long. At about 500 metre in I reckon they are going faster than I can handle. I let them run off.
Around the 1 km mark, most of it had been a slight climb so far, there is a short steep uphill. It zaps the pace out of me and someone that had been closing in on me, passes me. He looks to be wearing a cycling jersey (with bottle holders). I never see him again. There are another two such uphills in the next few 100 meter and they ruin my pace every time. Right before cresting the main hill of this race, somebody in a purple-blue shirt passes me. Turns out to be a guy that added me on Strava a week or two before. Right after cresting the hill, someone in a bright yellow shirt passes me.
With the downhill starting, I figure I can easily keep up or reel them back in. I am usually better at these. To my surprise, this is not at all the case. I manage to keep them in sight, but cannot close the gap. Turning onto the few 100 meter of grassy underground suppresses the speed again, but my “opponents” seem equally affected. After this we keep going downhill uneventfully.
With 1.5 km to go, there’s about 300 meter of bad cobbles with grass in between. I am a bit wary of these and slow down some while crossing them. Doing so makes me lose more terrain on purple and yellow shirt. Worse, I am hearing someone behind me closing in by the end of the cobble section. I do not know what my position in the 4 km race is by now. There are about 10 people ahead of me, if I were to guess (later counting with the photos tells me there are 12 people ahead of me), but I do not know who is doing the 4 and who the 8.
Less than 1 km from the line, we briefly cross paths with those ahead of us. I take the opportunity to look for 4 km bibs and spot spot two of them. Adding the quick starter to that (whom I had not seen since the start), that places me in fourth position at best. At a π turn, I manage to glance at the guy behind me. He too has a 4 km bib. In other words: with about 600 metre to go I find myself battling for (possibly) fourth position. Whether it really is for fourth place or, say, tenth, I do not know at the time, but battle for it I will.
I start speeding up, but with 400 metre to go I realise I am overshooting a bit. I manage to dial myself back in so that I can keep up the effort till the finish line. (Hey, look, I actually learned from one of my past mistakes) I listen carefully too, trying to anticipate the other 4 km runner coming from behind. Nothing gives that indication. In the last 100 metre I realise I have got this and bother throwing a moose sign at the photographer (which he ends up missing).
As I reach the line, I hear the announcer say I am third. I am surprised and confused, but most of all I am dead. I go to lie on the grass for a while to recover.
I finished in 15:15 according to the official results. My GPS makes 14:54 out of that. Inclined to believe the latter. Regardless, I finish over a minute behind the first (14:09) and second (14:14) place: the two guys whose bib I read. The girlfriend was not in the mood for a fast race and finished second female in 18:09, 56 seconds behind the first female.
The 8 km was dominated by the fast starter who won it in 25:45, nearly a minute in front of the second. Purple shirted Strava friend finished 10th in 29:15.
I think it is clear that a lot of the fast people were doing the 8 km instead of the 4 km. Nevertheless, I am quite happy with “podiuming”. I even got a 18 euro gift card for some running magazine. Yay.
Note: Both races were short. Think of it as an “around that distance” race. Welcome to Belgium.
The girlfriend had the idea of doing a flat half in the Netherlands at the end of October. I was OK with following her plan. We have not signed up for it yet (there is still quite some time). Possibly a good thing: the girlfriend is hesitant about even bothering with it due to being out of shape. Rather: not in the shape she wants to be. This somewhat affects the immediate future, but not too much. I think I will just focus on base building and remaining injury free for the coming months: steady distance, some strides, eventually some LT type workouts. I still want to eventually get to 70km a week while remaining in one piece. Besides that, I intend to keep on swimming twice a week as well (despite my body not being very good at handling chlorine).
In terms of races, I feel like I might have to make up some sort of A goal for fall/winter now that the half will likely be cut. For now, these are some race options:
- 1/10: Jogging ‘80, the 10k. Only one on this list I will definitely do. (They also offer 5, 15, and 20)
- 22/10: Brussels Canal Run (has 4k, 8k, and 12k)
- 11/11: Jogging van de Vrede (also 4, 8, and 12)
- 20/11: Foulées Joyeuses (5k and 10k)
None of them scream “A goal” to me though. Maybe that is for the best, then I can more easily focus on just the base.