With any competition, whether it’s running, running a business or cooking, I believe it is absolutely vital to have great motivation and determination to do something great. I call this “Fire in the eyes” and I first thought about it after my first win at the UTSM, when a team member told me that when he saw me in the route around km50, he said that I had fire in my eyes and he knew from it that I was on my way to so something special. I remember the moment well, it was at the top of a quite big climb, but I was getting into very good flow. In these moments, I’m usually 100% focused on the trail and the race, often not seeing much around me. A bit after this I heard that I was in 3rd place, which was a surprise and at the next point, I heard that I’m also catching up with the lead. I could smell blood, which just pushed me on even more.
I love racing and these moments are some of the defining factors for me and key reason why I do trail races. Some people say that they do that because they “enjoy the trail / mountains”. At least in key races, I don’t do that. I usually don’t really remember much about the places we’ve gone through. I don’t stop to take selfies. I’ve done all that in training. It’s like a karateka saying that they do karate competitions because they like to get punched / punch people in the face (I guess some people might like that too). It’s about the preparation and then doing your best against the course / opponents. After the race, you shake hands and are the best friends, but during the race I want to hunt down each one of them.
You don’t get this fire going every time. Emotional engagement with the particular competition is very important for me. I think about the event much in advance, preparing that fire for the right moment. It’s not possible to do this too often and not all races are like that. Some ones are special where I might do the mental build up for months in advance. Some I go to ad-hoc just to go have some fun and in these I usually have a pretty average performance. One of these was Vandekames a week ago, where I lost 5th (last podium) place just 2kms before the finish when I was overtaken. I just looked at the guy go and thought that I have nothing in me to fight for that spot and just kept on doing my own thing. In a “Fire in the eyes” moment I probably could have switched on the turbo.
I had a “Fire moment” yesterday in a VK race. It wasn’t a big and popular race, but it was organized by our club and the route was special, going up a very steep and technical way up the Montsant mountain and that was special for me. I had done some scouting in advance and had an idea of the time I thought I could do. Already in the warm-up, I felt very good, everything just responded much better than before when I had done my scouting. I had a bit of a break between my warm-up and the start of the race and kind of felt that my legs had gone to sleep a bit. A lot of people always have this kind of little doubts before races, despite everything supposedly being perfect. You never know until the race starts.
When my turn to start came, things kicked off pretty well and I was moving up the mountain, breathing hard, but had pretty good control of my feet and an effort I thought I can keep up consistently. I then thought I was catching up to the runner who had started 2 mins before me, first from the sounds of the volunteers helping him through some tough spots, then I could see him up ahead and minute-by-minute, I knew I was catching him. Because of all the fire in my eyes, I didn’t really see anything around me. There were probably around 10-15 volunteers on the route and they were all cheering as I went by, but I literally did’t see any of them. I didn’t even recognize their voices, I was just staring ahead, picking my route and tracking the distance to the runner ahead. Only after I had touched the rock at the top of the mountain, I came out of it and could focus on what’s going around me. It was probably a perfect race from me, finishing in 17min 12 s, more than 1,5mins faster than I thought I could do it. I was kind of glowing for the rest of the evening too.
Is that fire in the eyes?