Hannut Lotto Cross Cup
It had been a long time since I’ve raced and I got quite a re-introduction with a XC meet in Belgium. I chose to race the Hannut Lotto Cross Cup on my way home from Kenya. I previously raced here in 2011 after training in Kenya and had a great experience, finishing 5th.
Once again I planned a race on the way home from Kenya to offset the two long flights (Nairobi to Europe 8 hours, Europe to Toronto 7 hours) and test my fitness.
After rain and snow in the days prior to the race the Hannut course was really muddy and I had to borrow some 12mm pins before the race (which were still on the short side). I was confident in my fitness going into the race, although not so much in my ability in sloppy conditions.
When the gun went off I couldn’t keep up with the leaders even though my plan was to go out hard. It felt like I was just spinning in the mud. I didn’t even make it into the top 20 as the course turned right into a bottleneck. At that point I had to slow down because of the traffic. Right off the bat I made it a lot harder to hit my goal of top 3.
At first it was hard to pass guys because there were a lot of bodies fighting for these positions but I knew if I could just pass 10 guys then I would be clear of the masses.
I was making decent headway until about 1500m into the race when I went down on a corner. A few guys went past me and I lost precious ground to the leaders. When I got back up to my feet my gloves were caked in mud and heavy so I chucked them.
By 3 km into the race I was in the top 10, not too far behind a pack. The top 2 were pulling away from everyone else. When I was able to run on areas with less slop I would gain on the pack. Other times I would stay constant, or lose ground through muddy patches.
During the race my breathing and energy felt controlled but I still had trouble closing the gap to the guys in front of me. As the race progressed to the last few km I could tell other guys ahead were struggling and I was gaining. From 8km to 9km I went from 8th to 4th with my sights set on the Kenyan in 3rd. I was making ground on 3rd place but with 200m left to the finish and in some heavy slop I knew I wouldn’t catch him. Perhaps I let up a little thinking I could do no better than fourth and all of a sudden I was in a race for the fourth spot.
The Kenyan-born Belgian whipped past me with only meters to go and then let up ever so slightly before the line and I tried to out-lean him to no avail. Four years on and I finished 5th, once again, in Hannut.
Although the conditions didn’t suit my strengths it was a lot of fun as I’ve never raced in mud like that before. The inside of my legs are bruised just from my feet flailing into my calfs and knees from the unpredictable terrain.
On one hand I think it may have been better for me to choose a race that’s more similar to racing a marathon on the roads. But this race ended up challenging me in other ways, which may also be beneficial to the marathon. One challenge was that I had to be mentally engaged the whole race. Any little lapse and I was slipping or losing ground, there was no cruise control. Every step had to be deliberate.
After the race I stayed with my friends, JP and Steph, and we watched the broadcast of the race. They only used stationary cameras but it was perfect, much better than one camera on the leader(s). You could see the whole race play out and caught most of the top 15 during each race.
On the course there were three little hurdles, which we encountered six times. The hurdles make the race more interesting for spectators and athletes. Now that I was a spectator, watching the recoded broadcast, I could catch all the action. In the beginning my arms were flailing up in the air while seasoned veterans were not even breaking stride over the hurdles. By the end my technique improved a lot.
Here are the first and second finishers going over the hurdles
The Kenyan training camp was one of my best in terms of developing fitness. I started off with less fitness than most years but I came out feeling the best I ever have after a stint in Iten. I think I found the right amount of volume for me when training at a hilly 2400m (8000 feet). In the previous two years I was running too much and although not feeling too beat up because of the soft running surface I think I was digging a hole. This time around I was executing the tough sessions a little better.
With Vincent Rousseau after the race (PB’s of 13:10, 27:23, 2:07:20)
1 26 TASAMA DAME 87 ETH sen NA 32:52
2 25 BIRHANU YEMATAW BALEW BRN sen NA 32:54
3 39 BETT BERNARD 93 KEN sen NA 33:30
4 2 KIMELI ISAAC 94 BEL sen OEH 25 33:33
5 24 COOLSAET REID 79 CAN sen NA 33:34
6 7 DE BOCK THOMAS 91 BEL sen OEH 20 33:39
7 27 TAYLOR JONATHAN 87 GBR sen NA 33:45
8 4 BASEMANS DRIES 92 BEL sen DCLA 17 34:07
9 8 STROOBANTS JESSE 80 BEL sen DCLA 34:15
10 29 LACY DEAN GBR sen NA 34:17
11 6 RUELL KIM 87 BEL sen RESC 13 34:19
12 1 EL HACHIMI ABDELHADI 74 BEL sen RFCL 34:25