La persistance à Paris

| No Comments
Me Ready For Paris.jpg

Me Ready. Race Kit Laid Out The Night Before.

Recently I went with Run Dem Crew to Paris as part of a Bridge The Gap weekend. Crews came from all over the world to hang out, run a race, and have a party. The race for the weekend was the Semi de Paris (Paris Half Marathon). I learned a lot of lessons, and discovered some important things about myself as a runner. I went into the weekend firmly believing myself capable of running a half marathon in 1:35. I envisioned the race as an opportunity to celebrate the benefits of all of the training I have been doing. Instead, I got some experience in dealing with race day adversity. I also learned that sometimes you can get a good result in a race without it feeling very good.

Rather than giving a detailed breakdown of the course of the race, I would like to focus on the critical points. The first of these came about four kilometres into the race. The adrenaline of the start was wearing off, and I realised that I didn't feel well. Nothing serious, just felt off. My stomach hurt slightly, and I felt like I could become nauseous. At that point I knew this was not going to be my envisioned day of triumph, but I focused on maintaining pace, hanging with Charlie (who had suggested that we run together), and also enjoying the company of Jeroen who ran with us for most of the race. At this point I could have thrown in the towel, eased off, and just let the others go. But I decided that I would keep running and see what happened.

We hit the first ascent at around eight kilometres. This was nothing compared to the hills I have been running in training, but today it took a lot out of me, and increased my nausea level. Somehow I  kept running and gradually my stomach settled down a little. Shortly thereafter we hit the 10K mark (I later found out this was a new PB for me!), and it was time for my first gel. When we got to the next water station I grabbed a bottle from one of the volunteers and then confronted the difficulty of opening a gel while holding a water bottle with no cap. Fail. I did my best to rip the gel open with my teeth, but just got it open enough to squeeze a little bit out. Finally I managed to get it more open, and get the thing sucked down, but lost a bunch of time and energy as my breathing got completely screwed up in the process. Charlie could see I was struggling at this point and very calmly told me I was fine, not to panic, keep the feet moving. Just what I needed at that point.

After the gel fiasco I tried to just settle in, enjoy the central Paris part of the run (Notre Dame, Gare de Lyon, Hotel du Ville, etc.). I kept my legs moving, stayed close to, but not on, my target pace, and started wondering when this race was going to be over. Shortly after 15K was gel two. For this one I landed on the brilliant trick of opening the gel before taking a water. Much better. By this point I was struggling with the pace, and it was clear that Charlie was fresher and stronger than me.  I told him that if he was feeling it he should take off. He urged me to keep him in sight, and accelerated away. I stuck with him for another kilometer or so, but he gradually got lost in the crowd.

Somewhere in the next kilometer or so I really started evaluating my prospects. One thought was that perhaps I should just accept that this wasn't my day, stop torturing myself, throttle back, and just enjoy the rest of the run. I then started thinking that maybe I am just too soft for this racing thing. Then I thought about coming in over 1:40 again, and didn't like that idea. Then I decided I hated that idea. So I asked myself what I could do about it. Ran some numbers in my head, and concluded that if I could increase my pace from 8:00/mile to 7:45/mile and keep it there for the rest of the race I would come in under 1:40. And this, this was the moment of the truth. I still felt lousy, I was struggling, it had been a tough run to this point, I could have just called it a day.

Instead I found my inner toughness. I decided that I was flat out not coming in over 1:40 (that was expressed a bit more forcibly at the time).  And this is where those gels started to pay off. I buckled down, told my legs to get moving, and discovered that I still had some push! All of a sudden my pace was where it needed to be! I settled into my stride, mentally stepped back, and let the machine drive me home. I kept a close eye on my watch to make sure that I was holding the pace, and occupied my mind by recalculating what I expected my time to be. Every time I heard a voice suggesting I ease off I told it to shut up (or words, perhaps rude,  to that effect), rechecked the numbers, and stiffened my resolve. Even when I hit some more hilly bits, I just kept my legs moving at the same pace.

A bit after 18km, after one last bit of hill, I flew past Cheer Dem Crew. Got a really nice cheer to lift me up, which I definitely needed at that point, and buckled down for the last stretch. I had been warned beforehand that there would be a lot of banners and flags around 20km, and that these marked a charity cheering section NOT the finish. Good to know. When I saw that coming up I double-checked my watch and held the pace. When I finally came in sight of the finish line I realised that I still had enough left to finish strong with a sprint. I flew across the finish line, hit the stop switch on my watch and had the satisfaction of seeing that my last few hundred meters were at a pace of 6:37/mile. A strong finish. And my time? According to the watch 1:39:25. Later officially adjusted down to 1:39:22. My second personal best of the day. Not bad for a race during which I never really felt at my best. More importantly, I discovered that I really could dig down and fight for a result! I guess I'm not so soft after all.

After the race I learned another lesson: how to be a better member of the crew. I had started the weekend thinking about finishing the race and then having most of the day to go wander around Paris eating chocolate and pastries. One more thing I had envisioned which did not happen on the day. But this time it was for a good reason. Instead of heading off to do my own thing I joined Charlie, Ed, Paul and others in going back out on the course to support the rest of the race. We cheered for total strangers, cheered for our Crew and the other international crews, and when we saw one of our Crew struggling we ran with them until they were almost at the finish, encouraging them and cheering them on their way. It felt really good to be one of the people who represented by being there for the rest of the Crew.

Paris Medal 2013.jpg

Sporting the Medal from the Semi de Paris
Enhanced by Zemanta

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Daniel Maskit published on March 11, 2013 9:45 PM.

Completely Mental was the previous entry in this blog.

Running With (Strong) Women is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.