Saturday, 11 February 2012

Natuurloop 25km, Lier

Cold.  Very cold.  -5C (22F) at the start and a 15km headwind made for, erm, bracing conditions.  A beautiful sunny day, though, showing off the locale really well.  The wintry forests and icy canals glistened in a way that was almost enchanting enough to distract from the intense cold.  But not quite...

Being in northern Belgium, the course was pretty flat.  Even more so as it ran alongside rivers and canals for the most part.  The starts for the various distances were staggered with the logest (25k) going first.  After a well marshalled exit from the town, we were off along a series of paved cycle paths.  The ice and packed snow weren't too troublesome to run on and I quickly realised that the key to safe running was to make a steady pace with no sudden turns.

The first 10k or so was all into the wind and every bit of exposed skin got seriously cold.  I could even feel the chill in my teeth which was very disconcerting.  When we crossed the river (thankfully using bridges as a passing icebreaker removed the other practical option) the sun was on our faces and the tailwind mostly cancelled out by running.  Quickly overheating, it was a case of rebalancing layers to maintain a comfortable temperature.

I made good time to about 16k and then, as so often happens, began to fade.  The last 4k were particularly hard as we turned back into the wind and I got properly chilled before successfully wrestling with the zip on my windproof.

I arrived last but I wasn't at all unhappy with the time.  Given the tricky conditions underfoot, it was amazing that my Half Marathon time (21.1k) was faster than I had ever done before.  My very spotty training over the last few months means I'm not on top of this sort of distance but with some hard work, I can fix that.

Had to be oh-so-careful to start with a vaguely warm shower afterwards despite the temptation to get as much heat as possible.  The clue that care was needed?  I had ice in my hair where the sweat had frozen me to my hat.  Took ages to warm through, especially in the tips of the fingers.  On the bright side:  No frostnip or chilblains unlike one or two others.

There was a really pleasant atmosphere at the club afterwards, even for the last arrival.  That would be me, by the way.  And the evening was made perfect by some good friends (thank you Jo and Sandrine) allowing me to invite myself over for dinner.