The girlfriend’s sister asked me on Sunday what my next race was. I realised I did not have any concrete plans for the near future and took a look around. I saw the Sly Fox Track Club (associated with the Sly Fox Brewing Company) was holding their 5 km “Hangover Classic” on Wednesday 1 January. I was not entirely sure yet how I would feel after New Year’s Eve so held off on signing up for a few more days, but eventually went through the motions the night before. New Year’s Day race, here I come.
After a rather disastrous November, due to illness, I had managed to get back in the saddle in December. Two 100 km weeks were followed by an 80 km down week in which I flew across the Atlantic Ocean to spend the holidays at the girlfriend’s family. Despite some jet lag after that, I got another 100 km week in. The week of the race also will end up being a 100 km week. I figured I would just be training through this 5 km race. Workouts were a long run every week and something else mid week in the non-recovery weeks. That something else was first an easy Threshold workout to get back into the swing of things after the illness. The second 100 km had an 8×400 metre Repetition workout that went quite alright. The week before the race was a more proper Threshold workout. I think I took it too easy in that one in terms of effort, though the distance was probably sufficient. In race week, the race replaced the midweek workout.
In the days leading up to the race, I did my long run (Sunday), a recovery run (Monday), general aerobic (Tuesday), ice skating and lots of walking around (Tuesday, for NYE). Sprinkle some beers throughout it all. I would not stay true to the name of the race though, I did not drink nearly enough to be hungover.
Goal and Strategy
A goal of mine in 2020 is to break 17 minutes in the 5 km. I did not know what the course would look like for this race, but the area did not look conducive for a PR: quite some ups and downs and the weather report predicted 20 km / h winds. The morning of the race, I woke up with a sore upper back and shot calves. Definitely not going to work any magic here.
I decided to somewhat play it by ear. If I thought I could control the other guys there, I would play it safe and go for a podium/win. If somebody immediately sped off, I would “go hard or go home” and start running sub 17 pace for as long as I could.
Everything felt shot in the warmup and my legs felt too heavy when I tried some strides. General shit feeling. Whoop. I still lined up at the front of the very wide start line and was encouraged in my podium ambition by not many people wanting to line up there.
From the start I immediately went to the front. As I zoomed down the hill for 200 metre, I heard some people latching on behind me. After that, I climbed for about 400 metre during which I saw a bright yellow shirt come alongside me. As we went downhill again towards the 1 km mark, I took the lead and kept my pace.
Upon reaching the end of the first kilometre, I turned right straight into a strong headwind and an uphill. I purposefully slowed down a bit and saw a guy in grey-black come up next to me. I forced the lead on him and ran behind him, but he did not appreciate that much it seemed. He went a bit to the side and forced me back into the wind. I came back abreast with him. At around 1.3 km it stays flat-ish and we kept abreast. I had stopped hearing footsteps behind us after that climb into the wind.
Up till km 2 we stayed like this and my effort felt rather controlled. The breathing of my companion, however, had gotten a bit more laboured. Around the 2 km mark, there was some downhill and I decided to see what would happen if I pushed a little more. I opened my stride and quickly dropped him. That went smoother than expected.
Soon after, the course looped around a block or two and then sends us back along the way we came for a while. I kept the effort honest, but was not pressured to push too hard. I had no problem finding air to return all the “goob jobs” and similar encouragements from the people running in the other direction. With a kilometre to go I passed a cop who called out to his partner “Oh that guy is already back! He’s going fast!”. Works as a nice encouragement. A little later I remembered to glance behind me to see if I was in the clear. With about 800 metre to go I had an alright gap, though a guy in a blue shirt I had not seen before had joined grey-black shirt. I figured I could start pushing a little more just to be sure that he would not catch up to me still. Who knows what kind of mad dash from behind blue shirt was working on.
I pushed on and never started hearing anyone behind me. With about 500 metre to go, I passed the girlfriend and felt like I had the time to act silly for her picture taking. I crested the hill and rushed downwards to the finish line.
I finished in 17:47 (strava, results), first overall of 240. That is my first real victory (it’s hard to really count a parkrun as a victory). Blue shirt finished 11 seconds behind. Grey-black that I dropped around the 2 km mark was third in 18:04 (+17s). I did not really feel tired and went for my cooldown jog almost immediately.
Some time later there was a brief giving away of the prizes, but it felt a bit ad hoc and disorganised. I got a nice trophy though. Alas no prize money, but that is probably why there were no way faster people blasting through this race. They did provide a glass of the “Dunkel Lager” beer brewed by the brewery where this race was hosted.
My eyes are on the spring track season, but I will have to wait for the Belgian calendar to be posted before I can do any planning there. I aim to go under 17 minutes on the 5000 metre. Probably should try a similar achievement on the 10,000 metre if I find any good ones. Besides those I will have to see what the calendar brings in my very first track season.