22 July, 2008

Heusden: the baby Grand Prix

Looking at the start lists for the 1500 at Heusden, aka KBC-Nacht, it looked like it would be a pretty decent opportunity to run fast. There were only a few guys in the race who were capable of running sub-3:40 and on top of that the pace was supposed to go out quickly, 57 through the first 400m and 2:24 through 1 km. It was also the first time this year that John Jefferson and I would race one another.

Let me explain this meeting a little bit. KBC-Nacht, translated: KBC Night of Athletics, is the biggest meet many of us Americans get to run in over here. It is classified as a Grand Prix 2 meet, which is beneath the Grand Prix, Super Grand Prix, and Golden League meets in terms of the quality of athletes participating in the meet. However, what Heusden has going for it is the the track is super fast and the atmosphere is more relaxed so people tend to still run quite quickly. For example: the meet record in the 1500m is held by none other than Hicham El-Geurrouj at 3:29, this year Paul Koech was going for the steeple chase world record, Daniel Komen was running the 1500m, Gary Reed was in the 800m, and the 5k was being paced for a sub-13-minute race. Basically this meet is a pretty big deal.

Now, before warming up I was convinced I hadn't adjusted to the time zone change yet. Stupid jet lag. This was a real mental burden to get over because it provided an easy out if I started to feel like crap during the race. Given that there are races here every three days or so it is easy to think about throwing in the towel and giving it another go at the next meeting.

It wasn't until I was standing behind the starting line waiting for the starters call that I got pumped up for the race and began feeling as though I could possibly have a good race.

Bang! I got off the line pretty well and found myself in 5th place behind the two rabbits, John, and Kurt Benninger. The pace was honest through the first lap and I think I was around 1:56 at 800. The pace then began to lag a little as we were 2:55 at 1200. I was now in third place and feeling comfortable, getting ready to kick. With about 180 meters remaining I put in my bid for the win as I went by Taylor Milne, the Canadian Olympic trials champion and 3:36-guy. I hammered home as hard as I could trying to stay away from the three guys chasing me to the line. 3:37.63 for the win and a new PR. Not a bad day.

And what makes this a better day? The meet provided us with dinner... but no free beer. Boo. Even better? The bus we rode back from the meet happened to have this marvelous device called a mini-fridge on it that happened to be stocked with nearly 30 Jupiler beers. I jokingly proposed the idea of offering the driver 20 euro for these fine beverages and fellow OTCer Louie Luchini immediately jumped on this and handed me the bills. The smiles on peoples faces as they walked onto the bus after a hard day of racing only to be offered a cold beer were enough to bring me to tears. I proceeded to enjoy these beers at will, thinking the bus had a bathroom. Unlucky for me I had a half a beer too many for my bladder and almost cried again because of the self-imposed agony of having to hold a piss for 20 or so minutes. Major bummer.

We returned safely to our dorms with everyone excited to go out and party. A great night ensued and I finally got to bed around 5 or 6 a.m.

I now have to decide when by next race is going to be, Wednesday in Braasschat or Friday in Dublin.

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