This small race is just around the corner from where I live, so I always feel a certain obligation to show up in order to support the local running community. I first found out about the race’s existence after their second edition in 2016 and subsequently took part in the 2017 edition. Last year I felt tired and decided I would show up if I woke up in time. I did not wake up in time. This year I approached it with a similar mindset.
I had initially completely forgotten about the race, then was reminded on Thursday that it was happening. Hey, facebook is useful for something‽ I made a mental note to “maybe pass by if I wake up early enough”. I ended up waking up by 8:30ish, with the start placed at 10:00. My mind changed to “maybe I will take part if I get ready quickly enough”. Eventually got out the door by 9:20, figured I might as well take part then.
I have been in base building mode. I am hoping to slowly and safely get my weekly distance up a bit more to a steady 100 km. I have done 85 km several times by now. I had planned in a 90 km week in the month before, but failed to get there twice due to a busy travelling schedule making things trickier. The week before the race I finally got there. The week of the race I wanted to do so again, which was no issue when I planned it as I had not yet realised the race was happening. When I found out, I was set on the 90 km, but also inclined to try and run the race. In other words, I trained through the race. In retrospect, I think I would have done so regardless.
Workouts in the past months have been far and few in-between. A week after the 20 km door Brussel, I did a 2000 metre time trial for Mooseleague, an online competition. That got me injured: my right achilles started acting up. A lot of scrapping of workouts happened since then, though I tried to keep the distance going still. Depending on the workout or the steepness of a climb, the achilles might start complaining again, so I try my best to keep it happy. I did do three more time trials of different length for Mooseleague and last week tried to reintroduce workouts too. An 8×200 metre R last week was a bit too hard on the achilles, though I think part of the blame lies with still being tired from a transatlantic flight on Sunday-Monday. A 2×10 min T workout in the week of the race did not do any damage. For what it is worth, neither did this race, as I write this a few days later.
As mentioned, I woke up around 8:30. Did the usual preparations. Had 100 g muesli with 150 ml soy milk. Eventually out the door by 9:20. Warmup felt like absolute dogshit. Did not feel like I had any energy in my legs, my body. Tried to get myself pepped up by telling myself I often feel like this before a race that ends up going at least alright.
I entered the waiting pack from the front to ensure I could start on the first row. I was third in the 4 km two years ago and, even if feeling shit, am definitely in better shape now. I figured I would check out the pace of the front few and decide how that felt from there.
From the gun I almost immediately am in third position. I also quickly notice the guys in front of me seemed to be going a bit too hot for me. I let them go. At 200m I get overtaken by two guys. I immediately pass by one who starts slowing down after passing me, but the other one (orange shirt) is going hard and closing the minor gap on the front two. I stick to my own pace. Another guy, this one in short tights, passes me, also going definitely too fast for me. I am now in fifth position across both races. I have no clue who is running which race, so I just assume it’s all 4 km people.
I see short tights overtake orange shirt as orange shirt clearly overestimated his abilities, he is struggling. I catch up to him after crossing the road at the 0.5 km mark and ensure I pass him before the path narrows a little again 100 meter further. In the distance I see short tights closing on the other two guys. Fourth position for me now.
Just past 1 km the climbing really starts in earnest. I know how long it lasts and try to dose my “power through it” feeling. I hear breathing behind me still till around 1.4 km when the climbing ends. I bomb down the hill and see the three in front of me somewhat strung out as they turn left onto a messy grass patch.
At 1.7 km I turn left for the grass patch myself, unaware of whether there is still someone close behind me. I try my best to really keep my head down and look at the grass. The ground is uneven and has holes in it; I do not want to twist my ankle while going fast. The grass part is about 300 metre long and I get through in one piece. Still fourth position. I also managed a glance back during the turn and think I might be 10 metre clear.
I go down an easier downwards path until a sharp turn onto the overgrown cobbles at 2.2 km into the race. I use the turn for another quick glance: still relatively safe. I had passed by here on my warmup to get a feel of where to run and I think it helps. I avoid the grass on the side as it is also not that great. I just stick to the line in the cobbles that looks most alright. About 300 metre further I turn left off of the cobbles and know from here on out the terrain will not try to kill me at least.
I try to keep the tempo honest, but am basically time trialling with a chaser I cannot see behind me. Then I suddenly notice short tights ahead of me, he got dropped by the other two and I seem to be slowly closing in on him. I do not adjust my speed, I do not necessarily care about gaining a spot. Besides, if the trend continues, I will catch up to him before the end anyway.
Indeed I do, I catch up to short tights as we go into some sharp turns with 700-800 metre to go. He is definitely not going very fast any more. I am behind him for two sharp turns and pass him on a short straight stretch after, before heading into the next sharp turn. Glancing back shows me I already gapped him by 5-10 metre over that 100 metre stretch. It also shows me his bib: he is running the 8 km and thus irrelevant for me. Few more metre behind him I see another guy, but I do not see his bib. Definitely enough to keep the gap till the line at least. Third position now.
At 500 metre from the line, the 4 and the 8 km split up. In the distance I see both the lead bike and just one guy. Guess one of the guys was doing the 4 km, the other the 8 km. I do not spot the guy doing the 4 km though. Second position now.
I keep the pace under control as I approach the line, I feel pretty safe I will not get overtaken. I cross the line and get a congratulations “hug” from the winner. He looks like he might actually be in a club and used to doing that after track races. Very forward for a Belgian.
The results put the winner at 13:07, me at 13:56. A 49 second difference is pretty substantial over this distance, we were never in the same race. Third and fourth had a little sprint for the line. 14:39 and 14:41. Well behind me. Third place was last year’s winner, he won last year with a time 12 seconds slower than he managed this year. Fourth place celebrates his loss in the sprint with a quick puke on the grass on the side.
If I am not mistaken, I broke the previous CR with my run. Sadly someone much faster showed up to break that old CR with a much larger margin. The winner’s trophy looked pretty nice. Take this CR breaking with a grain of salt though, usually the fast guys opt for the 8 km. Two years ago the 8 km winner did it in a faster pace than either of us did our 4 km today. Hey, the announcer called it a CR so who am I to disagree.
There are also the 8 km results for those interested.