Date: 18.10.2020 Time: 1:16:23 Distance: 21.1km
In the middle of September I raced the Müggelturm half marathon and received a free entry into their sister race, the Müggelsee half marathon for winning my age group. Andy, who beat me in the final sprint in Müggelturm, also won an entry into Müggelsee – so the stage was set for a rematch.
To give a little context; Andy is a good friend and member of the same training group. So we’d known this rematch was coming and been joking about it for quite some time. I had been saying my only goal was to beat Andy for several weeks before this race, but also knew he was in good shape (slightly better than me in fact). So I knew that I would have to race a smart race, as well as a fast race, to win.
The Müggelsee course is beautiful; it’s one lap of the lake, though forest on the south side and a small town to the north side of the lake. The autumnal setting made for a really picturesque race – one that I’ll certainly be doing again.
Right from the start there was a leading pack that stuck together for the majority of the race. The first 15km of the race were pretty uneventful aside from the interruption of the tunnel under the river. This involved ~30 quite steep stairs down, a short run under the river and the back up the other side, really breaking up our stride.
In general though this was 15km of perfect running. The weather was overcast and cold – almost perfect racing weather. The pace was super consistent and we got to watch the distance tick by in quiet enjoyment.
Andy and I both raced cleverly while in the group. There was a decent wind from the south, meaning that tucking in behind the other guys in the leading pack was a significant advantage.
Andy is known for his super strong finish – the last 400m of Müggelturm were sub 3min/km pace! So I knew I couldn’t let it come down to the final sprint; but I also knew that if I pushed the pace from the start I would burn out and not be able to stay with him beyond 15km.
So, I faced a fine balancing act – waiting until just the right moment before I pushed the pace, dropping Andy and building up a big enough gap so that he couldn’t outsprint me.
Amazingly this happened pretty much perfectly. At around the 16km point I decided to make my move. You can clearly see the moment I pushed the pace in my HR graph.
Gradually I could hear the other guys went from ‘on my shoulder’ to ‘behind me’ and eventually they fell further behind and I felt a gap build. When Andy shouted “Go Josh!” I understood that the gap had grown and the rest of the group has decided they didn’t have the legs to challenge for the win.
There was not as much of a gap as I wanted though. With about 3.5km to go the lead bike slowed down for a moment and I asked how far it was to the guys behind.
“How far back are the other guys? 100m? 200m?”
“Um… about 50m, maybe 30m.”
Oh. I had built up a lot less of a gap than I was hoping for.
So I knew it was going to come right down to the final moments. Had I worked Andy hard enough to dampen his sprint so I’d be able to hold him off? Or had I overcooked it and he’d come past me in the final straight, just as he did last month?
It came right down to the wire.
I was pretty confident that Andy would have dropped the other two guys, and I really thought he would come past me any moment for the whole final 2km. But – though luck or skill I’m not sure – the gap was just big enough.
The final 30m took us up a ramp after a 90o turn. Going into this Andy was still just a second or two behind me so I gave it absolutely everything I had on the ramp. I spent the minutes after finishing lying on the floor taking a well earnt rest.
The official results have us as 3 seconds apart, but it felt a lot closer.
Focusing on just my own running, the big takeaway here was that I managed to race a smart race for the first time in a while. I pushed at just the right time and by just the right amount to get the best time and position I could have. It’s been quite a while since I got a race as ‘right’ as this.
Side note; I’m pretty sure that we actually ran about 200m too far. In the first half of the race the lead bike stopped to talk to another marshal, leaving us to find our own way. We lost the course markings for a while, but found our way back with a bit of local knowledge (the others seemed to know the direction to head in). Comparing our gps route to course map it’s clear we missed a right turn and had to run a little extra to make it back on course. Additionally, the route was measured to the pavement, rather than the road. At points we couldn’t really run on the pavement, and it certainly wasn’t practical to try running at racing speed down some of the residential pavements, so we ended up on the road, further confusing the course distance / actual distance run. At the end all of us had recorded around 21.3km.