One Athlete's Mind
When I looked at my training plan at the start of this week, I have to say I was a little caught off guard by the 22km running race I had coming up on Thursday. Having never done a running race any longer than 10km, I was a little skeptical about what to expect out of myself over 22km of racing. And this wasn't just any race 22km route, this was the Lappe Concession Run, A.K.A., "The Pancake Run." This is a 22km loop on the very hilly dirt (and snow covered) roads of Lappe, on which Lappe owner and former National Team skier Reijo Puiras once ran his PB in a time of 1 hour 20 minutes. As I am told, he ran this time the same year he qualified for the World Championships. So, the rule is that if you can beat Reijo's best time of 1:20, you are entitled to FREE FINNISH PANCAKES whenever you want at the Lappe Ski Center (for anyone who hasn't been there, their pancakes are to die for). So with this added incentive to break the 1:20 mark, my nerves were a little high going in, not knowing if I was even capable of accomplishing such a time.
But at 10:30am yesterday morning, the race began, and I got my first shot to prove to myself how fit I am these days. As soon as Timo said go, my teammate Chris Hamilton broke away from the group (there were only 5 of us racing yesterday), and he went on to win by about 1.5 minutes, and I think he actually set the new course record. Behind him, the rest of us ran together until about the 5km mark, where I felt that the pace was a little too slow to break 1:20, so I went to the front and picked up the pace a bit. To my dismay, no one followed. I ended up putting a small gap between myself and the other 3 guys and running on my own for about 5 or 6km. At about the 11km mark, so geographically half way (I say that because the first half is mostly downhill, and the last half is pretty much all climbing), Mike and Andy caught me again and we ran the next 4km or so together. When Andy passed me after they had just caught me I was so relieved. I couldn't believe how much easier it was to follow than to lead. Even following behind Andy, who is much smaller than I am so didn't give me much of a draft, I was able to run faster than I had been but using less energy. So I got a nice little recovery time (relatively speaking).
With 7km left, Andy picked up the pace a bit, and despite the agonizing pain in my legs, I managed to match his pace. From what I could hear behind me, I'm pretty sure the two of us put a few seconds between ourselves and Mike at this point, but by 5km to go he had caught back up and the three of us were racing for the finish. We were getting splits at each km marker from here on in, and knew that if we pushed our bodies to their absolute limits and ran as hard as we could, we still had a chance of making it in under 1:20. With 1.5km to go the pace was getting very high, and Mike and I managed to run away from Andy. I stayed with Mike until about 70m to go, at which point we started sprinting for the line, and he got me by 1 second. I finished with a time of 1 hour 19 minutes, and 46 seconds.
I couldn't believe it at the time, to be honest I really didn't know if I had it in me to run that fast for 22km. I'm fairly confident in saying that I don't think I have ever pushed my body that hard before. This race was a sure sign that the mental training that I've been doing this Fall is really paying off, because you know that feeling you get when your muscles just give out and you want to slow down? I got that with 14km to go. But I didn't. I was saying yesterday to a couple friends, that in a very different way, I felt as proud of what I had done yesterday than I did last year after I had qualified for World Junior Championships, so yesterday marks the second time I have ever really felt proud of something that I had done :). Obviously it's not the same because last year's feat. meant I got to represent Canada, while this one to most people just sounds like I had a really good race. But to me, this is a race that I can always remember, so in a tough race this winter when I'm feeling like I'm gonna die, I can just think about how I felt yesterday and the pain that I was able to push through.
And, on a far less important but still happy note, I GET FREE PANCAKES!!! Haha, I'm very excited :).
Until next time,
Jordan Cascagnette, Student-Athlete, Ski Coach