Looking for something different in my spring planning, I checked out some of the bigger flat options in the area. For the first time, I gave the 10 mile (16.093 km) in Antwerp a serious look. It is an odd distance in most of the world. Checking Tinman’s running calculator with some of my race times placed me around the low 6Xs for most of my PRs. My parkrun in November however gave me a time of 59 high. Straw, prepare to be grasped at. I had a race and a crazy one hour goal to aim for.
I detailed most of my training in my last race report on the Natuurloopcriterium Lier. As mentioned there, I was trying out six day cycles while preparing for that 10 km race. From the Lier race to this one, there were 29 days (this one included). I used the first five days as a recovery cycle. That left four six day cycles to work with. The plan was to have 2.5 to 3 regular cycles, followed by tapering the last 1.5 to 1 cycle. In the regular cycles, the workouts would be Thresholds and Long runs. Tapering would be about dropping some volume and having a race pace workout the Tuesday before the race.
The plan fell apart.
The days after the Lier race, my right knee was feeling a bit iffy during runs. Not to the point that I felt worried, I just noticed it weirdly from time to time. I continued my plan as is. On day eight, I had my first real workout: 6k @ T. It was a hot day, but it went alright. I did notice the right knee some on a climb after the T work. Two days later the knee issues seemed gone, but instead I started having a tight right calf on that day’s run. The L on day 11 is probably where things went wrong. I ran 22 km and my calf was tight from the start. In retrospect, I should have probably called it quits earlier. In a combination of bad news, I caught some illness for a day or two.
After the sickness, the calf still felt tight and I dropped a T run altogether. The days following, my calf swung back and forth some between being rather tight and barely noticeable. To remedy things, I kept my runs in the GA range, maxing out at an hour. I resolved to not try anything special until I had two days of completely not noticing the calf. Eventually that moment came… with about a week to go till the Antwerp 10 miles. I had lost slightly over a week of intensity in what already was a reasonably tight schedule. With all my GA runs, my volume had not suffered too much though. It bummed me out slightly, but I figured there was nothing I could do to fix it any more. Play the hand you are dealt.
It was too late to do anything intensive, so I just continued largely as originally planned: taper time. I did my race pace workout on Tuesday and it did not inspire confidence. The pace felt too hot. Regardless, no other goal interested me, so I was not to be swayed.
Quick take: I still think my original motivation (more rest than three workouts per week, more intense than two workouts per week) for trying out six day cycles is sound. However, even with my somewhat lenient schedule, I found it a real pain to plan around at times (“wait when do I have a long run this week?”). I will likely switch back to seven day cycles just for the easier planning.
Side note: I restarted bike commuting in this training period, but I do not think that affected me much. I do them really easy usually.
Goals and Strategy
I had my stretch goal that, after the race pace workout, really felt like a stretch goal: 1 hour. Nothing else really interested me here. I am not very good at setting B or C goals. I was glad to find out the race would have a pacer for the 1 hour people. Just hang on to him with everything I have in my body and I should be good.
For reference, the pace to aim for is 3:43.6 per km.
The first 2 km are pretty much flat. After that you turn onto a highway, which means climbing up its ramp. After that first climb you get a brief respite as you descend into the Kennedytunnel under the Schelde river. Of course, that also means climbing back out of it. After emerging on the other side of the river, you take the ramp off the highway. This one sends you through another quick tunnel. After climbing back out, you get a nice π turn to really slow you down. This all covers the first 7ish km of the race.
Next up you run towards the older parts of the city. The streets get a bit more narrow, there are some more turns, but it is all flat. Main downside: a decent amount of cobble sections. I lost track of how much exactly. Cobbles suck though.
After 13 km, you have left the old city behind you, make another π turn and almost immediately head into the Waaslandtunnel back to the other side of the Schelde river. A long tunnel, 2.1 km with about 1.8 km of covered area. Half of it is heading down to 37 metre below sea level, the other half is climbing back out. About 4% each way. When you leave the tunnel, you are 15.1 km into the race, one km to go. One final π turn puts you on the final 500 some metre.
Pre Race Agony
My sleep was largely OK in the final days leading up to the race. On the day itself I slept in as much as possible: the race start was not till 14h30. The weather also promised good times: 12ish C, likely drizzly. I had about 100g of muesli and some leftover spaghetti bolognese from the night before. Besides that, the usual drinking of copious amounts of water till about an hour before the start. We made our way over through public transport. This went alright until we hit Antwerp itself: all the trams were stuffed with runners and very delayed. Not very pleasant, but we got there in the end.
Once arrived, with little over an hour to go till the start, I picked up my bib at the expo. There was almost no line. I wanted to also grab a pacing bracelet that the site mentioned they were offering. However, the lady told me they had none for a one hour goal. She tried to help my by offering their lowest one: the 1h10 bracelet. I politely declined. I tried to use the toilet (long lines that took a while) and changed into my running clothes. I went for a jog to warm up, forced another pee, and passed by the girlfriend for the final time. She was nice enough to have come along on the trip to carry my stuff and maybe snap some pictures. With maybe 15-20 minutes to go, it started lightly raining some. I took out a rain poncho, had some final swigs of water, and made my way to the start.
As I got nearer, it turned out you had to go allll the way around to reach the end of the wave, the only place through which you could enter. Fuck, getting shorter on time here. I jogged behind some others, weaving through people who seemed less in a hurry. After a few 100 metre I reached the entrance to the wave. Now to get all the way to the bloody front again. I should have probably tried to jump a fence somewhere instead, but it was too late for that. I slowly made my way closer to the front of the wave, looking for my 1h pacer. Not an easy task in a race with ~22500 finishers and only three waves. Most people let me pass, some people refused to make way. Eventually, with about 5 minutes to go, I got stuck 5-10 rows down from the front of the wave. Ish. Turns out there was another box ahead of us for people with a bib under 1550 (mine was not). The 1h pacer? He was in that zone, obviously. When signing up I had filled in 1:02 as expected time, thinking that should be an “easy” task even on a slightly worse day. Apparently that was not enough for the organisers to put me in that special first 1550 people box. For reference, 1h02 would have put you in 264th spot on the final results. Fuckers. I lost my cool and my mind was racing to find an alternative to “run hard at the start to catch up to the pacer”.
Nothing came to mind. As I crossed the start line, the one hour pacer did not seem too far away. The “run harder” plan was on. I ran on the edge of the road and passed plenty of people that first two km. The rain had stopped minutes before starting, but there were puddles still. Some people made crazy cat jumps to avoid hitting one, but I just stormed through the puddles. They were not very deep anyway.
Going on to the highway ramp slowed me down some, I always seem to have trouble with climbs compared to others. After the climb, I followed two guys as we kept up a high pace heading down into the Kennedytunnel. Climbing back out of the tunnel did not go as smoothly and I had to let them go.
I passed their 5 km sign somewhere in the low 18 minutes (the first sign I noticed, supposedly there were signs every km). I should have started manually lapping when I passed it, but at the time I did not realise how badly the tunnel had affected the GPS already. Pity. For a one hour 10 miler, I needed an 18:38 5 km so I was ahead of schedule (as expected with my “catch up to the pacer” plan). However, I was starting to feel it. Worse, the one hour pacer still seemed equally far off. I was starting to realise this would not work.
Things stayed flat for a few minutes after the 5 km sign. Then we dipped back into a short tunnel, climbed back out, and made a full turn. Welp, I was blowing up a little with still 9 km to go. I knew I needed to try to just hang on to someone for a bit to regain my senses and my cool. If I did not, I would start slowing down slightly. My mental game always has some trouble with these moments. There was no plan or assessment as to who to follow and I soon found myself behind a ginger guy in a red shirt who seemed to be doing alright. The next kilometres are a bit of a haze as I followed him as much as I could. I honestly do not really remember much from this part, even when trying to right after the race. I was dying a little and my brain must have gone into some partial shut down just to keep the legs moving.
I do remember swearing at every cobble section we hit and there were quite a few. Luckily, the longest stretch of cobbles had a tiny edge (maybe 50 cm?) of cement on the side. I am guessing it was placed there for bikers. We happily used it and everyone ran in single file along that section. It crossed my mind that those running in the bigger crowds would not be as fortunate.
There was another section where we ran on some green outdoor mat thing. I thought “how silly to place that here”. When the mat ended however, the tiled floor turned out rather slippery from the earlier rain still. Maybe the mat was not the worst idea.
The girlfriend was waiting for me somewhere along the 9-10 km mark, but I did not notice. I was not expecting her this side of the river. She managed to snap some pictures though.
Eventually we left the old city. However, my mind remains a haze as to anything particular that might have happened. I did not snap out of it till right around we started descending into the final and longest tunnel, the Waaslandtunnel. Somebody passed me and ginger red shirt and I realised I should start speeding up too. This was a downhill (checking it later puts it around 4% for 1 km), which means I would probably want to bank some time for my eventual slower uphill. I latched onto the guy (largely dark clothes and with headphones in) and we raced into the tunnel.
Going downhill was nice and it lasted quite a while. We passed quite some people and everything started feeling alright again. Passing the 14 km marker even made me think I could still be on track for my sub 1h goal without much effort. As evidenced by the above race split calculation, that is likely incorrect, though depending on how hard we were storming downhill, maybe it was not too far off. I will admit I do not trust my mind much after everything written above and I remember staring at my time and giving up with a guesstimate rather than trying any actual calculations. After the downhill came the uphill (also about 4% over 1 km) and I quickly had to let headphones guy go. More people started passing me, some I tried to briefly latch on to. You would think I would be better at climbing with all the climbing I do in Brussels. We got out of the covered part of the tunnel (still needing to climb a few 100 metre further) and I noticed how much nicer a slight breeze was in terms of perceived warmth.
At this point I still thought I could make my goal so I gathered everything I had left and kept the pace high. There was no indication of how far you still had to go besides a “100m to go” banner in the distance. I figured I might come there with x seconds to spare, figure this would boost me for a crazy final 100 metre sprint. Instead, when I glanced at my watch I saw the dreaded 1:00:00 had already passed by. Goodbye my goal. I saw a photographer at the line and managed a moose sign as I crossed the line.
The final verdict is 60:28 and 195th position. So close, yet so far. You can also have a look at my Strava activity as well as the full official results. Here an overview of the official splits (and my 5k estimate) with paces.
|Distance||Time||Cumul pace||Block’s pace||Projected|
I found the pacer in the results afterwards. He crossed the start line 43 seconds before I did. However, looking at the Strava FlyBy information, I never actually got closer to him during my attempt to catch up to him. I reckon that means he also started a bit harder than one hour pace. It does explain why it feels like I could not get closer despite definitely going harder than goal pace for several kilometres. Makes me wonder if I could have bridged the gap otherwise, with the mental boost of seeing them get closer.
I put 11 seconds on my impromptu pacer (ginger red shirt) in that final three kilometre. However, he had also started before me, so his time is a little bit slower still: 61:03.
As usual a far cry from the winner, who did it in 48:42. The female winner managed 57:58.
In the near future I have first got the VUB’s 12 urenloop planned (relays of 550 metre each for 12 hours), but that will likely just be a fucked up long run. After that follows the 20 km door Brussel, though I do not see that as a real goal. I will likely just train through it or have a minimal taper. I just figure that I should be able to easily PR if the weather is not horrendous.
I will move back to a seven day cycle, just because it makes the planning easier. The workouts I will fill it with will be 1500m-3000m racing oriented until I find an actual fall goal to aim for.