I raced the Défi Boreal in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue yesterday. It was tough, for a lot of reasons.
The plan was to try to run between 70-72min for 20k. I didn’t think this was out of the range of possibility, though probably I would have even been happy with under 74. I did not account for the toughness of the course (I always forget how this race is really half cross-country, half road race), and certainly not for the humidity.
I checked out some of the recent results from the road guys. I figured that I could hang with Louis-Phillipe Garnier, a strong, masters marathoner who had run a 74min half in Yamachiche. Before the race, he was saying he was going to try to run around 72 so I figured that I could just hang with him as he’s a veteran, and a really good pacer. The other guys (Terry, David, Dany) I knew I couldn’t handle.
So as the gun went off about 5 guys moved up to the front, and I hung back, and noticed Louis-Phillipe just behind me, also being conservative. I just chilled, and even though the first K split read 3:55, I figured LP knew what he was doing, and it felt ok, so I let it ride. We went through 3k in around 11min, and LP said that 3:40 would be fine, and we’d catch the guys up front, other than Terry, Croteau and LePorho, if we stuck with it. As we went into the trails I got a little excited and dropped a 3:34, but LP was right there and so I didn’t think it would be a big deal. I wasn’t trying to drop him or anything, just looking to do some work. We did reel in a few 10k runners on that back stretch. (The 10k start was at the same time as us, but about 200m or so up the road, so we were catching some 10kers as we moved up).
At 5k the split was 18:12, which was just fine. But after that, it wasn’t fine. LP took over the work, and moved ahead, and I sort of drifted. I didn’t fall asleep or anything, I just didn’t feel comfortable going with him. I wanted to take it easy on the first loop so that I could bring some people back on the second one. That’s not really what happened.
The second 5k I probably ran in about just under 20min (though I didn’t see an exact 10k split). I spent Ks 6-9 encouraging this guy, Laurent Jugant I think his name is, who was running the 10k. He kept looking behind him, pulling over to the side like he was going to drop out, then starting up again. I told him to look ahead and stay strong: he only had a couple K to go. But he kept doing it. I have raced this guy a few times, and what he usually does is goes out way too hard, and then fades big time, so I can understand the instinct to look back when that happens: you know you’re done and you are just waiting for people to run you down. Still, he was doing fine, and he probably could have run a solid race if he hadn’t fussed about so much. In any case, I discovered that I’m probably more of a coach now than a runner: even out on the course I was more concerned with helping get this guy through his though stretch than with my own race. Anyway, I knew I had another 10k to go, so I had to occupy my time with something!
Once he peeled off, I looked ahead to see who was where. I could see LP and Lopez (wearing a bright green singlet, hard to miss!) and I figured if I had a decent second half, I might be able to get closer. At about 11k, I went by Floribert, who had some kind of shoe malfunction. I thought he was done, but he actually managed to get me back by the time we entered the trails. Strong guy.
At this point I started feeling pretty sorry for myself. I went through the usual questioning of it all, noting that I get quite a competitive fix from helping out the athletes I coach, so this whole racing thing might not be necessary after all…I sucked it up and headed into the trails. Another guy passed me at this point: Rejean Bourgouin, a 50+ guy from St Jerome. Look, I am in no position to be judging who is or who isn’t a big name, but I usually know the names of the people who can beat me in a race, and I didn’t recognize this guy at all, and I admit it rankled. But, hey, good for him, that’s my damage, not his!
So as I got into the woods, I was working hard to get to that 15k mark, then I figured I could really push, maybe pick off a straggler or two. It’s amazing how the mind rationalises during a race… I hit the split and was a little surprised at how slow it was. Something like 58min so another 20min 5k. I poured it on for the next K, figuring I’d run around 18:45 for the last 5k, and that would give me a reasonable time of sub-77. I hit the next K and I’m at 62:24 or something. WTF? I mean, I know I was fading, but 4:24? Whatever. I tried to speed up for the next one. 66:43. Seriously? I got to the next one in just under 4:00 and I resolved not to look at my watch anymore. Just get it done…sigh.
With 1k to go, however, friend to all and consummate team player Sebastien Monette came over the bridge. “Monette!” I yelled. “Hey, c’est justement ce qui je cherchais!” he says. I told him it wasn’t going well, but he would have none of it, as he is relentlessly positive. Let’s go, let’s go, he jumped in front of me and urged me on. Thanks to Seb I managed to run 3:30 for the last (downhill, paved) km. At one point, probably about 500m to the end, I actually thought “Don’t leave me Monette, I still need you.” I am probably not the first person to have thought that. lol.
The race ended and I realised how drenched I was. I ran 1:18:51. Pretty weak, but all things considered, I got a good effort in. LP ended up 1:15:13, so he did not run as planned either. I probably started too hard for the conditions, so maybe if I’d chilled a bit, I could have knocked a minute or so off. Doesn’t matter. I was glad to go through the gauntlet of racing, to get my mind ready for October. I have been told that the STWM goes out VERY fast (like sub-3min) so I’ll have to be super conservative there to make sure I don’t blow it early.
Also big thanks to Bert from Endurance for driving me out there, and Harold for listening to me talk while he drove me back. Harold, in case you didn’t know, has PBs of 64:52 over 20k. Here’s his story about that one: “64:52 in 20 km in Parc Lafontaine at the Quebec Road Racing Championships in October 1980. Hard to forget that one: I got drunk in Ottawa the night before, all part of my lame attempt to put my hand on a brown-eyed girl’s name. The next day, in the race, I went through 5 km in 15:30, feeling awesome, with the leaders (3 of us)—at about 12 km I had to stop. Cramps. Beer induced. After 30 seconds of stretching I jumped back in.”
Back to training!
There are a lot of people out there who’ve run pretty fast, if you know who to talk to… I like hearing stories like that.