And I’m back. Feet on the ground. A ground at about 50m above sea level. And, from a very mathematic approach, the past 9 days have been a success. Plenty of amazing things. And then this one negative thing that, right now, seems to outweigh all the great things that happened. Emotions tend to take the overhand when dreams are involved and it takes time and distance to put things in perspective.
Not unlike last year, I decide rather last minute to run the Ardennes Mega Trail. However, this year, I’d be all by myself. Tony wasn’t really feeling up to repeat the challenge. That kind of made things more serious: talk less, run harder. So on Friday, after work, I drove straight to Les Hautes Rivières, pitched my tent and headed for the bib pickup. Gear check… my heart skips a beat. I totally forgot about the obligatory gear. I check the list and notice I only miss the adhesive elastic band. Luckily I can buy some on the spot. Then it turns out there’s another person who has the same race bib. With some delay, I head back to my tent and have dinner and turn to bed super early, hoping the events of the evening are no omen for the next day.
Another weekend, another trip. And since things don’t always have to revolve around me, Kim was the antagonist of this one: she took take part in “Les Trois Ballons”, a 213k cycling trip with about 4300m of climbing to do along the road. So I took Friday off and soon, after a last-minute bike store visit to get her bike fixed, picking up an extra bike and collecting another one for a friend with car troubles, trying to get the tail lights of her bicycle rack fixed, getting some last minute gear in the store and being in traffic jams for what seemed most of the road, we found ourselves in the French Vosges again!
I’ve never been a big fan of my own birthday parties. Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for the presents, birthdays or parties in general. Just not that fond of being a host and feeling like I have to talk to everyone present. So when Kim announced we’d be spending the entire weekend of my birthday “somewhere else”, I was kind of relieved & excited at the same time. All I knew was that I had to bring my running gear. And that we had to be somewhere at 9 o’clock and that it would take us about 1.5 hours to get there.
Well, that was different! After 4 days of running through forests and being by myself most of the time, the 20km of Brussels was definitely ‘something else’. Thanks to the nice people of Delhaize, I was able to join the party and support the think pink foundation while doing so. Plenty of reasons to put in my best effort! I meet up with Greg and Steven and secretly sneak into the first start group with them.
After doing pretty good at Havenloop Gent and Wings For Life and winning “Laat’em Lopen” the week after that, it was starting to get hard to keep the feet on the ground. It took the French Vosges about an hour to bring me down. 3 days later, If I may be so free to take the metaphor one step further, my feet were embedded in the rocks. Humbled. Amazed by everything around me.
Race day! I’m slightly stressed out. I hate races in the afternoon. What to eat? What to do to waste time? I prep my gear, take stuff for all kinds of weather conditions, have a shower and just leave. As tradition has it, I arrive just in time to pick up my bib and go leave the rest of my gear at the deposit. 45 minutes until the start. Ypres is buzzing with activity. Some Belgian celebrities show up, but my attention goes out to the amazing Marc Herremans & Wielemie. Strong & stubborn, examples for many, be it against their will.
After last year, I really wanted to do this again: The Antwerp double. The single objective was in the distance, not in the time, so I took things easy. I guess one could call this a training run, but then I never consider running to be training. It’s just running. Be what it may be, I woke up at 6.30, geared up and packed spare gear, headed for Antwerp and parked close to the starting line (the advantage of arriving well before the herd for the 10 Miles race arrives).
It’s been a weird year so far. Starting it with an Achilles injury, I saw my ambitious goals for 2015 ruined. No record times this year, I thought. So I decided to focus on one thing, and one thing only: UTMB. I would ignore all races and just prepare myself as good as possible without getting distracted by races in between. Eye on the prize! And then I got sick and it just wouldn’t go away for over a month. I tried not to worry: there was still time. After all, UTMB wasn’t until august. And then somehow, in the midst of all that, I broke my PR. on the 10k during the Ghent Ekiden race. Needless to say, I had mixed feelings when I got a free race bib for the Haven Gent Loopt Semi Marathon. Still sick, but then again, that didn’t seem to bother me on that 10k. I had no clue what to expect.