International Summer Tour: 2017
Memorial Geert Rasschaert 2017 Meet
Meet Results link: http://liveresults.be/2017/memorial-rasschaert/event014h02.html
After a few travel days, I am officially off to begin my running debut in Belgium, Europe! I’ll admit I needed a few days to settle into the new time zone and home base Leuven, before feeling race-ready. Race #1 of the European circuit was in Ninove, Belgium, less than two hours away. Going into this meet I had the usual nerves, but was anxiously anticipating how this was going to be different from a North American meet. Before I knew it, I had packed my racing kit, a cooler of recovery food, then was following my Vic City Elite crew to the train station. A few delays and hustling across platforms led us to meet up with fellow Vancouver athletes. Together, we walked two kilometres through the city from train to the stadium. To put this in perspective there were roughly twenty athletes lined single file walking through the town center all in athletic clothes and backpacks. Most locals stopped and stared at us as we passed through. Up to this point, I had been a sheep following the pack of athletes. Someone at the front must know where we were going, right?
Upon arrival, I did not know what to expect for my first Europe race. Within our group I was scheduled to race first which meant I had the least amount of time to observe any differences of how the meet may be hosted. The main advice I was given was to expect chaos, and know nothing is definite until you are lined up on the start line. In my mind this meant expect chaos. To compensate the forewarned chaos I forced myself to be surprisingly calm all day and throughout the travel leading to the evening race. With only 15 minutes to buffer arrival and my warm-up I settled in to the meet atmosphere quite quickly.
As I wrapped up the warm-up jog I started scouting out a place to do some dynamic drills and joined the 800m ladies along a gravel/pavement strip outside the stadium. As I was scanning the pathway for smooth surfaces one girl was aimed straight for me running out her stride. As general courtesy I stepped to the side to stay out of her way onto what I thought was grass. Surprise! None of it was grass. It was all stinging nettle and I had an instant reaction with shooting hot pains going across my exposed skin. On the plus side I was wearing long running tights but the nettle wrapped through my ankle and was inside the tongue of my shoe causing it to brush against my foot with every step I took. My first thoughts were denial and this isn’t that bad. As my skin turned from red and stinging to white bumps and insanely itchy I knew I had to accept this was my reality.
In hindsight looking back, I was so calm this day, that I did not freak out or feel startled by this. This was the unexpected chaos I had been expecting; besides it was runnable, more irritating than anything. After finding out my race was 10 minutes delayed I told Geoff my situation and he escorted me to the medical tent. I still do not know if they spoke Dutch or Flemish, but the translation I interpreted was the medical’s laughing and saying the best way to handle it was to urinate or spit on the sting, similar to a jellyfish reaction. I think as I processed the thought of them spitting on my ankle my face reflected this, which only made them laugh harder. Eventually they sprayed some cooling mist on it, and said I was good to go. It was time to marshal in at the start line.
I watched the 3000m steeplechase and then the first section of the women’s 800m from the start line. They were all fast and it was my turn to go next. The gun went off and I hopped onto the front of the pack in my race with the pacer and behind teammate Laurence. Without a doubt they are the reason we pulled through a 600m PB pace and ultimately an 800m PB and win! After I crossed the finish line I saw my time on the screen and went to smile at the realization of the time I had finished with! It was here I knew how scrunched my face was because of the amount of effort it took to shift into a smile. I knew I had a first class “pain face” because I’d forgotten to relax. This was further verified by photos posted after the race. (See photos below) Not only had I run a heat winning PB, but I also had set the Saskatchewan 800m record! I’ve never looked so forward to sending in my results.
So what was the factor? What finally pulled me through to a PB time. I wish I had a simple answer! The best way I can explain that race was having focused acceptance. Zero hesitation. After the stinging nettle (Which I initially thought was poison ivy) I was asked my race plan. In my head, all I wanted to say was run. Before I had a chance to answer – Geoff told me there was a rabbit going in 59.0 for Laurence. Laurence is going for it. You should too. Whatever you have left for the last 100m or 200m who knows, just go for it. Because Why not? I accepted this plan in full. This is exactly what I executed. I see no point in pondering what-if scenario’s, but I do know I had a lot of help in this race from a pacer, and my teammate Laurence. She definitely helped me through 700m and I owe her a huge thank-you for taking me through that pace. The lactic headache and post-race nausea were all worth it.
Rereading this, I can appreciate that running is a weird sport. Nowhere else would I be happy to have a lactic headache and throw up especially if it is self-induced. Overall, Ninove was an evening trip that I won’t forget. My brief exposure between train and track was beautiful landscapes, church architecture, and fields of stinging nettle. The meet was friendly, and a fun atmosphere with non-athlete spectators! I am looking forward to racing this meet in the future, but for now it’s time for recovery, next race is only four days away!
Stay Tuned for a Day trip and Kayaks!