EuroRace Adventure Week #1
The First Few Days
On July 8th I boarded a plane and headed off to Paris to see what it was like racing over in Europe. Somehow as luck would have it I slept for before the plane took off until the wheels bounced in Paris, which I was very thankful for since my first race was scheduled for July 12th.
Coach Ross picked up our rental car and we were headed into Paris for a couple of days of sight seeing. They say one shouldn’t nap upon arriving in Europe but I was in a car in traffic in Paris and my eyes just wouldn’t stay open!
We were staying at a hotel near the Eiffel Tower. As an engineer I love the tour for her structure. She is not the most graceful tower, but a strong one with elegance intertwined in her grande masse. So naturally when we arrived I went for an easy, recovery run to visit the tower and explore the Bois de Boulogne Gardens.
The next morning the first thing I had to do was put some delicious French pasty and coffee in my belly. TJ found a fantastic little patisserie with divine pain au chocolat; a slight crispiness on the outside and melted, buttery goodness in the middle, and of course dark chocolate at its centre.
Unfortunately my computer decided that it was tired and stopped working that morning. TJ and Ross were off to Musée D’Orsay while I went searching for someone to help me with my sad Mac. Unfortunately I was left with an 8lb paperweight for the remainder of the trip.
To cheer myself up I put my shoes in and went for a run along the Seine, with a planned stop at the end for a Nutella crèpe…when in Paris! A walk through the Latin Quarter, passed Saint Michel and then a weave through the 7th Arrondissement brought me right back to my hotel.
With the goal of getting TJ to a pool by 4:00 we headed out of Paris early in the morning with a planned stop at Vimy Ridge. There are no words to describe the awe inspiring stature that rises from the ridge and looks over the forests and neighbouring towns. From afar its white makes it look like a dove perched amongst the trees. It is a must visit for any Canadian.
From Vimy it was onward to Leuven. We also figured out that our little Toyota had GPS and Josephine (what Ross named the GPS voice) guided us all the way to Leuven.
Between Vimy and Leuven there were signs for Roubaix, the end point for the infamous cycling Paris-Roubaix route. While we didn’t have a chance to stop there it is a definite must-see for me in the future.
We arrived at the hotel and it was pre-race warmup time. With race day the next day I needed to get my shakeout run, drills, and strides in. With approximately 63k remaining in the days Tour de France stage I decided a warmup in and around the hotel was best. I was back to watch the last 18km and unfortunately see Teejay VanGaarteren go down and then another two crashes! Ouch.
TdF done for the day, showered, it was time to explore the town a little and find my pre-race dinner. Three was some sort of celebration going on in the towns main square and I was entertained as I enjoyed my chef’s spaghetti; who doesn’t like pasta in a rose suave with two kinds of bacon mad mushrooms!? And when in Belgium you should always carbo-load with a Belgian beer!
I woke on race day to some cold and clammy weather. Unfortunately I brought rainy weather with me on this trip. With my regular breakfast of yogurt, cereal and fruit plus a lot of coffee I went up to my room to relax before the 11am 10-minute shakeout run.
After a little TdF it was time to hit the road to Kortrijk. With my pre-race necessities, banana, race gear, lots of water, and am emergency CLIF Builder bar if I get seriously hungry we were off. Again Josephine lead the way.
As we arrived in Kortrijk it looked like we were driving through any Belgium town. Row homes, narrow streets, and then out of no where a football stadium and track on either side of the road.
It was a beautiful evening in Kortrijk, no wind, mild temperatures and a little humidity. Check-in was 2€! 2€ for some great competition, amazing! Spectators 0€, as it should be!
We arrived with just enough time for me to get the lay of the land. Just like twilight meets back home you there was no checkin tent, you just needed to be there for the start of the race. So relaxed, so organized.
With 50 minutes to go before the race I started my usual warmup routine. A little running, followed by drills, and finally strides.
It was a huge field and there were 19 girls on the track including the rabbit. Our bunny was aiming to go out in 2:10, which was a little quick for what I was aiming for. Ross said, ‘no l leading this race.’ Our plan was to go through in 67, then 2:14 and see what happened.
I worked through the splits over and over in my head, visualizing that first 800m. 16.67s for the first 100m, 34.33s through 200m, 50s through 300m… I was a little quick coming through 300m in 49 low. No need to panic, work through with the pack and see what happens.
The pace bunny did not hit 2:10, she was around 2:14 and I trailed just in behind her at 2:15 low. She was out and I was placed 5th in the pack, in a perfect position. I telling myself to stay with the pack and when my legs started to hurt to embrace it, because if they don’t hurt at some point you’re doing it wrong! At 600 to go the pace got a wee bit quicker…
With 400 to go I was right with that first pack. My legs weren’t hurting yet but I could feel them. The leaders had picked the pace up again and I went with them. I stayed focused, sat in and kept pushing my legs to go.
I was about 3:55 coming through 1400m, just off 4:10 pace. My legs were screaming at me, but I was screaming back to keep going and hang on. With 50m to go I felt like I was really tying up but I kept on trying to push forward.
In the end, 5th, 4:13.47 and another PB!
We had a great meal plus another delicious Belgian Leffe Blonde in Kortrijk before heading back to Leuven. It was the perfect meal and car drive to set me up for recovery sleep back at the hotel.
One of my favourite things to do on a Sunday is a long run. I read up on the best places to run and headed over the the Haverleeloo Forest by the University to go play in the trails. 80 minutes of pure zen. The forest did not disappoint.
Leuven is a known training place
I wanted to head to Oxford, UK to see some family so I decided I would do my workout early over at the university track. TJ was looking to get a bike workout in so we headed over there together at 8.
I had this beautiful (although oddly shaped) track all to myself. The straightaways were quite short and the corners quite long, so I always felt like I was leaning into the right, somewhat like running on an indoor track.
Done and done. As we were leaving Ross and I ran into some runners getting ready to do their workout, including (we think) Molly Huddle, a great American runner. I’m fairly certain that on my cool down back to the hotel that I ran into another American star.
I’m off to Oxford to start week 2. 2 races and 1 workout to go. I am definitely hooked on this European racing thing.