Race report: Nikloslaf Esch-Alzette (6km, -1°C)

I’m contemplating several long-distance races in 2018, so a local 6km race today wasn’t really on my radar. But it’s cheap and it’s nearby, so why not?

When I arrive at the event location in Esch-Alzette less than an hour before the race, the parking lot is still half-empty. It’s also frozen over. I guess one thing explains the other, and that quite a few people stayed at home because of the slippery ground. But after paying my 10€ race fee (including a 2€ late signup penalty), a short warm-up on a part of the 3km loop which we’ll cover twice, I see that while the ground is frozen and there’s some slippery spots; it’s not too bad.

Photo: Steve Simon, www.stevesimon.lu

The advantage of a small race is that you can line up in row 2 in good conscience even as a slower runner; and pretty much find your race position within the first meters without being in anyone’s way or being slowed down by anyone.

Photo: Steve Simon, www.stevesimon.lu

The gun goes off, and we’re leaving the stadium on the pavement that is surrounding the track and the stands. Then we go downhill on a road (where everyone is a bit careful), do a hard left and run straight again on a surface that’s quite slippery. Then we climb a bit, turn right and are on our next straight. The watch beeps, and I’ve covered the first KM in 4:27. The next Kilometer is more of the same: we continue on the straight, go up a little, go straight again, climb a few more meters. 4:58 for the second Kilometer.

Cell phone pic. Taken during my warm-up
Cell phone pic. Taken during my warm-up

Shortly afterwards we hit the highest point of the course. The majority of the course is either paved or hard-packed dirt. No trails anywhere. The first minor downhill is a bit slippery, then we hit the next one which is on a road and before too long we’re back at the entrance to the stadium. From here, it’s only a short circle around the track; but once more we’re going behind the stands on pavement. I cross the line and am half-way done at around 2.8km of distance.

Photo: Steve Simon, www.stevesimon.lu

Behind the stands on the opposite side, my watch beeps again, KM 3 done in 4:40. From here, everything will be a repeat; except that my heart rate has inched up to around 172bpm by now and I feel like I’m pretty much at my limit. KM 5, which includes most of the climbing of the second loop, is my slowest so far, in 5:06. On each turn, I can see the 2 runners behind me. One passes me at around the 5km marker, but I’m able to keep the other at bay. Since I know the course is a bit short, I open it up a bit more on the final descent to the stadium and manage to catch up to the runner who passed me.

We enter the stadium, and with 100m to go I start my final sprint. He resists, but my history as a former sprinter probably makes this final push easier for me than it is for him. He relents, and I cross the finish line after 27 minutes and 2 seconds on my watch. During the final sprint, I hit a heart rate of 180bpm.

The official results give me a finish time of 27:01, so my own timing was only a second off. I crossed the finish line as the 14th male (out of only 38). There were 5 women faster than me, so overall I’m 19th out of 52.

On Instagram, I wrote the following summary:

Did a low-key 6km race in #eschalzette this morning. My watch recorded 5.70km with 82m of elevation gain, and I covered that in 27:02 (4:45 min/km). Temperatures were below freezing and the ground (part dirt, part pavement) was frozen and quite slippery in spots. Fairly happy with my race execution, but lacking some speed on what was a fairly easy course.

Race rating: A short and low-key race that’s reasonably priced. While the organization was flawless (stress-free sign-up, departure on time, well-marked course, decent aid station with hot tea at the finish line), the course itself wasn’t really my cup of tea. Basically, this is probably as close as Luxembourg has to a “park run” course, but I’m more of a trail kind of guy.

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