“De 15 van Wassenaar” was my last preparation race before the ITU Half-Distance European Championship in Peguera – Mallorca (Oct 18th, 2014). As the name suggests it is a 15km run, the only running race organized in our town. I had done a rather mad workout 3 days before (14x1000m with 90 sec intervals) and my legs were telling me that racing on Sunday was not the idea of the Century. Fast forward. 15:15 on Sunday, perfect weather conditions, 320 athletes lining up and booom! I had posted myself in the first block (ETA 1:00 – 1:10) and start in the first group of 15 athletes.
I assess the field and quickly put my “Macca” hat on (see previous post). I spot a fast looking guy (I will call him “El Greko”) and ask him what is his expected time. He tells me “1 hour”. I answer “hmmm…”. Shortly after this, 4 runners take off at a 3:40 pace. I let them go as I know I could not hold at this pace for 15km. My pace is nonetheless around 3:50 to make sure I do not lose eyesight. El Greko is also clearly pacing himself and backs off. I am staying behind him in 6th position.
KM3: the distance between the first 4 stabilizes to 25 seconds.
KM4: 2 of the 4 are starting to struggle and loose contact with the lead. 1st internal maniacal laugh.
Km5, El Greko slows down slightly and I overtake but he stays on my heels, soon after we both overtake the struggling runners paying a high price for overpacing so early. So I am now in 3rd after 5km!!! not bad at all for the oldest runner in the leading group with shot legs. My HR tells me I could catch, but I do not need to as we are now gaining 1-2 seconds every 300m or so.
KM6: what’s that? a new runner comes from the back and starts running by my side. He is clearly panting from the catch-up effort. I take a deep breath and speak to him in a calm matter of fact way: “we will have caught up on the lead in 3 km…”. 2nd internal maniacal laugh.
Km7: the young runner that had caught up falls back. El Greko overtakes him as well but is not keeping up with me anymore. I am now chasing the first 2 runners alone.
Km9: As predicted, without increasing the pace, or just slightly, I am on the heels of a tall, slim runner in his mid-20’s and another runner in his forties. The older runner is just hanging in there by a thread.
Km10: I therefore force the pace and go for the first time “in the red” just to see what will happen, the older runner (or should I say my peer as I was probably as old) loses contact. It is the beginning of the end for him (he will end up in 5th or 6th place).
I am in the lead!!!!
Km11: The young runner stays on my heels…hm…smart…so I slow down a bit. He seems happy about this and run alongside.
Km12: Mother Trucker! the young buck takes off like a bullet!!! I feel tricked, getting a taste of my own medicine. Was he running so easy? I try to follow him, my watch says 3:30…no way I can hold this, so I back off and go back to a 3:50 pace. I lose quickly 30 meters on him. At the same time, I decide that the guy was bluffing. Not only was the gap not growing but I also felt that he would have taken off much earlier, if it had been so easy for him. And then a small miracle, a female supporter on the side of the street shouts to me in English: “CATCH HIM”. She is right!
Km13: I catch him! and my mind projects immediately pictures of Andy Raelert catching up on Chris McCormack at the end of the marathon of the Ironman 2009 in Hawaii. Andy does not make the pass… in the end he loses in the last mile.
I will not make the same mistake and plough on accelerating for the final 2 KM.
KM15: I run the last one in 3:45, looking back, making sure he is not making a last surge on the final meters. No, he is 80 meters behind. The final straight line, my friends are here, both daughters are here completely surprised to see me just behind the lead motor bike announcing the first runner in the finish chute. I relax in the last meters, soak it all in, smile and get my first win at a running race. Time: 1:00:12. It is a small local race, but a race nonetheless. After the finish line I turn around, wave and clap to the (huge) crowd (of 250) totally happy. A few minutes later I am on the podium with my daughter and a crown on top of my head like they do for the winners in Hawaii… A good omen?
2 hours and a few Grimbergen beers later. The prize ceremony. Daddy gets the trophy and is handed the mike by the super friendly organiser Bernard Menken …oops, what should I say. I have immediately pictures of Roger Federer always polite thanking the great crowd and the ball boys so I try to do the same: “Thank you to the organisers, the volunteers, great race, etc…” but in the end, I cannot help it “..and you…young runners….train harder”.