Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Nemesis

Recently on Michael’s blog he mentioned a race that he was beaten by his nemesis and got me thinking of my nemesis from last year and how I need to get one this year.

He didn't start out as my nemesis, just some guy down the track who was faster than me. I didn't really race against him so he didn't bother me so much; all I knew was that he was ahead of me in every track session. No problem there with me, there's many people faster than me on the track. He was the closest too me of the people faster than me!

The first time I trained with him was the first time I turned up at the track in Montpellier. I told the coach there that I had previously done a 3 hour marathon and had another one in 6 months. He wanted to see how fit I was so he put me in a training session with my nemesis to be... 4 x 3000m!! My first ever track session and I was left for dead. I remember losing count of the number of laps we'd done and struggling half a lap behind hoping that we'd be stopping at the end of this lap... no, he's doing another one! Hell!

At the end of this session I found out that he was in fact deaf. Nice, I thought, they've only gone and paired up the deaf lad with the big Irish lad who is struggling to speak the language. For the rest of that year I don't think we raced against each other but every now and again I'd start training with him but end up finishing the training by myself, a fair few minutes after he was done.

Last year though he started popping up in races. The first race, a half marathon, he beat me by a minute. Then the race where he became my nemesis, a 6.8km race, a race that I thought I should do well in. I finished and there he was standing by the refreshments table, cup of water and a bun in either hand, fresh as a daisy, smiling away. I was in a 90 degree angle position, sucking in air for dear life... he had beaten me in a shorter distance by a minute and a half.

That was it as far as I was concerned. Whatever training session he was doing on the Tuesday I was going to do. Again I'd always start out with him. We'd be told that we'd have a 60second break, I'd do a few hand gestures to indicate that we'd run them together and that'd be fine for the first one or two. Then every week without fail when ever I took my eye off him during the recovery he'd be off and going on his own again. I'd look at my watch, only 45 seconds had elapsed and he was gone.

At the start of last summer there was a 10km and yet again there he was at the starting line. I'd trained hard, I was in the form of my life, I could keep up with him. The race started and all was going to plan, I was behind him, but not too far behind. Then I started to suffer badly, the race turned into a nightmare. I couldn't keep the pace going at all and started to fall back down the field. In the end he finished 3rd overall and I've no idea where I finished or how many minutes behind him, all I know is there was a lot of minutes this time.

At the end of the race I needed a lift back and it turned out that he was the only driving that was going back my way. Have you ever tried asking a deaf person for a lift?? It's not easy but I managed it alright... even more difficult was trying to tell him where I wanted to go. A few hand gestures, pointing, speaking French slowly and loudly (that's what you do when someone doesn't understand you in a different language... you speak loud and slowly!! That'll make them understand you), and eventually we figured out together where I was going.

So my nemesis was a really nice guy, happy to go out of his way and give me a lift back home, but I still couldn't beat him and now it was feeling like he was racing just to beat me. The fact that he had no idea that I was comparing my races to him and track training to him had no bearing on this. He was out to beat me!!

A few races past that he wasn't competing in and I was training hard, my aim was now the marathon, thoughts of a nemesis were leaving me. Then came the last race of my time in France. A 6.6km road race, the same distance(ish) as he beat me on at the start of the year by over a minute. It was set in my mind; I was going to beat him.

The race was three 2.2km laps and fierce fast. I started well and after the first lap I knew I was ahead of him. The second lap was slightly slower but I was still ahead, by how much I've no idea. After 5km I was struggling but pushing myself on, two people passed me so I knew I must've slowed down somewhat. Then it happened, he passed me out. The other two guys that went by me I let go but this was personal! I gave it absolutely everything I had to stay with him. 1km to go, still with him, 600m to go and I was still there, I was managing somehow to keep going. Then with 100m to go I tried to pass him, he upped the pace, neck and neck heading to the line....

.... I made my burst too soon.... he beat me by one second...

Granted I was disappointed to have been beaten by him, but considering he'd beaten me by over a minute in every other race and one minute twenty over the same distance 6 months earlier, I had to be happy with it. So now in London, I've no nemesis... looking at how much it pushed me on last year having one I'm going on the look out for a new one!
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