Sunday, March 10, 2013
We started in front of the Chateau de Vincennes (note this is not my picture, it is from www.myparisnet.com) :
I haven’t been to this part of Paris before and had no idea it existed. There is also a very large park across from it, the Parc Floral. I think I will go back some weekend to see the Chateau and the Parc.
As I mentioned before the runners were separated into color-coded groups depending on the finish goal time we signed up for. Fasted runners went first, slowest last. Each group (except the elites, the 60-90 minute finishers) was in its own fenced area and they had people checking your bib to make sure you didn’t go into a different group than you signed up for.
I liked that they did that (except for having to wait 55 minutes for my group to start). When I ran the Detroit Turkey Trot in 2011 there were 20-30 thousand people as well, and they had pace groups you signed up for. But the pace groups were just spots along the start where you were supposed to line up and there was no control over it so people who signed up for the slowest group wound up at the front. The whole start was a real mess with faster runners tripping over and stuck behind walkers.
There was a DJ playing music before the race and while we were waiting, to get everyone pumped up. They even had the runners doing warm up callisthenics and dance moves.
Each group got to go from its fenced area up to the start line and then we waited for the official green light & whistle to start. They had each group wait for everyone from the previous group to get however far ahead before starting. It makes sense – keeps the start clear and provides the water/food stations with a little respite instead of a constant stream of people.
Having fresh fruit along the course was new for me. I think I like it, although it is messy. I guess it would be difficult to get enough bananas & oranges peeled for 30,000 people, but the clean-up efforts must have been huge. I believe the fruit is also the reason I didn’t have calf cramps afterwards, which I expected since I was probably dehydrated. I had nothing to drink all morning before the start of the race (no toilettes along the course and I didn’t want to tempt fate) and only 6 oz during the race itself. Based on prior experience of running with that little water consumption I was expecting killer calf cramps but they didn’t happen.
The course took us past the Hippodrome de Paris-Vincennes and past some small statue / monument of an angel I think. I’m not sure what it was for but probably had some historical or official significance because there were the tricolour flag signs I’ve seen on French government type buildings. We ran through city streets and passed a large window display of a store that apparently only sells umbrellas. They were very nice umbrellas but I wonder how a store can stay in business with just one product like that?
More running, going past the train station Gare de Lyon and up to the Bastille monument. The actual prison is long gone but the site is marked with a statue / monument. We ran along the Seine for a ways, up to the Hotel de Ville and the Ile St-Louis, an island in the river. Then we turned to head back along the Rue de Rivoli and passed the Bastille again.
Along the route at a number of places were bands, mostly drum lines but some marching bands and little 3 person rock groups.
Every 5k there was timekeeping where we had to run across the mat to record our times, to discourage cheating. And there were video cameras at the stations. I though it worked like the pictures, where you choose which one you want and have to pay for each one but apparently the purchase fee is for access to all the videos so I have a whole bunch of videos of me at each one. I thought the videos are great to have, I’ve run in several races where I did not make it into a single picture at all and so have no visual record of them.
Towards the end of the course we passed this “mountain” :
I have no idea what this is, or even if it is real. From one side I could have sworn it was man-made but from the other it looked more real. I didn’t see a sign identifying it, but the whole huge area was behind construction fences so I’m thinking it is man-made. Maybe a rock-climbing…rock…is being built.
After the race they were handing out bottles of PowerAde so I took one for my daughter. They had tables with more fruit although the bananas and raisins were long gone and only oranges were left. They also had a hot drinks station where you could get tea or vegetable broth, which was not something I’ve seen before. It was salty but after a HM it was needed to replace everything sweated out.
I was happy to have my Shot Bloks with me to use during the race. I can’t find them here in France and I don’t really like the gels I have been able to find. A co-worker from the US came here in January and brought me several packages of them. I can also get them on Amazon from the UK but they, of course, cost more than if I could just go to the store to buy them.
Overall I think the race itself was very good. It was well organized, well staffed, and there was still food & drink, staff & people cheering at the end for the last finishers. I’ve heard stories about how some races run out of everything so that the last people across the finish line have no food, no drink, no finisher medal and in some cases everyone was gone and the race was already starting to close down and pack up!
A difference from races in the US is that in order to participate here you are required to have a medical certificate signed by your doctor stating you are able to race. You can make copies of the certificate to use for many races; it is good for one year. But no certificate means no race, they won’t give you your race packet. I’m not sure if this is absolutely required but I think you also have to join the FFA (Federation Francaise d’Athletisme) athletic association for the races; I keep getting asked for my number. It’s only a few euros a year so it’s not cost prohibitive to join. I guess it is similar to when my daughter had to join a triathlon association in order to enter her race in 2011 – no membership meant no race sign-up.
The full marathon is in less than 1 month now and should be just as good. For the full we start along the Champs Elysees. Regardless of how I run or finish it will still be an experience!
Saturday, March 09, 2013
When I first started running in 2011 I did the smart thing and went to the local running store to have THEM tell me what shoe I needed to be wearing. I have very wide feet for a woman, and mostly flat with a good bit of pronation so I get to wear control/support shoes.
Unfortunately, visually speaking, these are the "boring" shoes in the world of running, regardless of brand. I wanted a exciting vibrant Ferrari and wound up with a boring plain Volvo. Thus I have always had shoe envy, checking out runners' shoes at all the races and hoping I wouldn't see the flashes of pity on their faces at my decided lack of vibrancy.
What I wanted :
What I got :
It's OK to feel pity for my boring shoes. At least, since I wear a men's size for the width, I was not also forced into the indignity of having to wear a plain Jane shoe with PINK on it. I would have given up right then & there if I had to wear a girly shoe.
Regardless of brand - I've worn both the Brooks Adrenaline and the Mizuno Inspire - my shoes only last about 250 miles before I start having foot and/or knee pain. At the end of my run Thursday night, a nice short 2.3 miles, my right knee really started to hurt the last half mile. Not an occasional twinge hurt but sharp pain that stayed for a few seconds before fading & then returning and I swore I could feel my knee swelling while finishing the run (fortunately it did not actually swell). So when I entered my miles in afterward I checked my data page and - surprise, surprise - the night's run put me at 252.5 miles.
I hit the Shoe Wall. I have another HM on the 17th and the full on April 7th. I needed to get new shoes ASAP.
Friday I started looking on-line for options...could I order my shoes on-line & have them shipped here to France? Basically...no. Unless I wanted to order shoes from eBay and have them shipped from Hong Kong with a no return, no refund policy.
So I looked to see if I could find them here. Nope again, sort of. The nearest store for my Brooks, according to their website, is 90 minutes away from me. I was not yet desperate enough to want to drive that far for an insanely expensive pair of shoes...because even though the shoes are the same as in the US there is an incredible mark-up here.
So I checked out the Decathlon store during lunch. It's kind of like a Sport's Authority or Dick's Sporting Goods. They have a big shoe selection but nothing really to help you find the right shoe for you. And I don't trust the salespeople to be as knowledgeable about the differences in shoes so much in that kind of store as in a true running store (I had that bias in the US too so it is not a cultural thing).
I did find the name of a running store here in Compiegne and noted the address. No website so I couldn't check out their brands, but the Decathlon carried a lot of Asics and a brand called Kalenji. I checked out those websites to find the names of the specific styles for my feet. I was not at all thrilled at the thought of switching brands 1 week before my next HM and a month before the full. But I needed new shoes ASAP. I figured out a few key phrases in French and set out on my new shoe buying adventure after lunch today.
As an aside the Asics website has a crap shoe selection guide. But their shoes look !
Anyway, after my normal directional adventures (the inventor of GPS should be sainted right alongside the inventor of cruise control!) I found the store, found a parking space (no easy feat itself) and went in.
They carried BOTH of my shoes, the Brooks and the Mizuno!
AND - bonus - I was able to communicate enough to get the right size and buy them. Although we did have a few moments of confusion because he kept wanting to put me in the women's version and I kept asking for the men's. I think he thought I was getting the words mixed up.
And - super bonus - my days of shoe envy are numbered. Check out my new rides :
Not quite a Ferrari yet, more like a Ford Mustang, but I've got color now!
Friday, March 08, 2013
I am glad it is over! Some runs are good, some just are and some are bad. This HM wasn't awful but it was clearly not my best. In fact I achieved the slowest HM time yet out of the 7 I have done. And I don't really know why.
The story starts on Saturday. Race packets were to be handed out on Friday and Saturday only; none would be given out the day of the race, which makes sense as registration was capped at 40,000 participants. Friday night my daughter asked if she could go with me, she wanted to take pictures from the top of the Eiffel Tower after dark, for the lights.
We left the house about 12:30 to catch the train into Paris. It is a 1 hour trip. There was a sick coughing person somewhere in the car with us. Once we arrived in Paris I had to figure out which subway lines to take to get to the Parc Floral, where the race packets were. It wasn't that complicated because I have a map and I'm not afraid to use it. But I also needed to buy some tickets so we got in line at one of the machines.
While I was waiting my turn some guy came up and stood not quite behind me but more almost directly next to me. Not too creepy close but almost side by side. I kept an eye on him and a secure hand on my shoulder bag. My turn at the machine comes and practically as soon as I pushed the UK flag for instructions in English he moved in, asking where we wanted to go and then pushing several buttons in a row to get to the payment screen. Then tells me the machine isn't working right and what take my credit card.
I thanked him and said I would wait to use a different machine then that worked and started to walk away but he kept saying no wait and inserted his Navigo card (kind of like a prepaid debit card for the public transportation. I told him no, thanks, but no but he bought the tickets anyway then came after us insisting I had to pay him 31 euros for the tickets.
We had some back & forth and he kept following us but finally got the message that I did not ask him to by our tickets and I wasn't going to pay him for them. Plus I know that all I needed were 4 regular metro tickets (about $1.75 each) to get us there and back and not the expensive Zone 1-5 passes he bought. At the least he was trying to make money off of the "stupid tourist" and at worst I fully expected someone to try and grab my bag while I was distracted by him or something.
Eventually we made it to the Parc Floral and had a long walk from the metro station and into the middle of the park (in the cold) and I picked up my race packet and shirt. Then the long walk back to the metro and ride into Paris. On the subway I started going through the flyers for different upcoming races and finally got to the information brochure for the HM.
I was pleasantly surprised that the printed it in both French & English. I didn't expect that. Yes, the Paris HM is billed as "international" and there were a fair number of non-French registered but since the vast majority of runners were French I expected all the information to be in French.
Anyway, pleasantly surprised & all that, I started to read and discovered that a) there were no toilet facilities along the course and b) some translation gems like "Don't forget your anti-friction cream and 2 bandages for your tits if needed".
Imagine if that was put into a race flyer in the US!
We got off the subway in the Marais and went to the American food store and I stopped at Starbucks because the Tassimo version of a chai tea latte is a much less than poor imitation of the real thing. Then we went to the Eiffel Tower and stood in line for a very long time (in the cold). And then I stood around at the top for a long time (in the cold) while my daughter took pictures. And more standing around (in the cold) back on the ground so she could take more pictures after they lit it up for the night.
We made it back to the train station and on our train with - literally - 1 minute to spare. If we had missed the train we would have had to stand around the train station (in the cold) for another 2 hours.
So Saturday I was exposed to sick people and did a lot of standing in place in the cold.
Sunday, because of the train schedules, my choices were to arrive in Paris at 8 or at 9; the race started at 10. It would take me another 40 minutes or so to make my way to the Chateau de Vincennes, which is where the race started, so I chose to take the earlier train so I wouldn't cut it too close.
Oh, the benefits of hindsight.
I was at the Chateau's metro station by 8:45 so I got to stand around (in the cold) for an hour and 15 minutes before the start of the race. And because I planned to run slow I signed up for the 2:10 + group and was in the Rose corral (an actual fenced in area). We were the last group to go...almost 1 hour after the start of the race. By the time I crossed the start line I had been standing outside in the cold (or jumping around to stay warmer) for over 2 hours.
The start was good, I felt good and was running at a nice pace. I decided to run for 2 miles before switching to the run/walk combination I'm planning for the marathon. At mile 5 we hit a long hill, but the slope was gradual so it wasn't that bad and I was still slightly ahead of schedule.
In addition to water stations the race also had food stations handing our fresh fruit (bananas and oranges) and raisins every 5k. That was definitely something different for me. I grabbed a banana at the first and oranges at the next 2, in addition to using my shot bloks. I didn't run with my CamelBak and the race handed out water bottles at each station instead of cups of water so I ran holding the bottle for most of the race. I really hate carrying anything while running, but I also hate wasting the water bottle. Next race I'm using the CamelBak.
At about 10k they had a Powerade station in addition to the water one. The Powerade was in cups. By the time I got there the entire road was actually sticky. Like low rent movie theater floor sticky. You could actually hear it, not just feel it. Yuck.
I skipped the Powerade and stuck to the fruit. We had to be careful though because all the orange and banana peels made the road slippery.
And somewhere between miles 5 & 10 I just kept getting slower & slower and more & more tired. I don't know why. The fruit was a new thing for me, but I didn't have any stomach issues from it (yes, I know it is against the "rules" to do anything new during the race; I break rules). I had not trained as much as I should have but I had trained enough to be doing better.
I was beat by the end and finished in my absolute worst time. To put it into perspective Sunday was clear and sunny and in the mid to high 40s. Last year in January I ran a HM when the weather was 10 degrees BEFORE the wind chill, the first 9 miles were during a mini-blizzard and miles 5.5 - 8 were run almost directly into a very cold & hard wind with lots of snow (the race WAS called The Snowman for a reason!) and that was the very first time I ever ran outside in the cold or winter (yeah, more new things on race day)...and I finshed 20 minutes FASTER than I did in Paris.
I am at a loss.
Afterwards, on the train back home (and after stopping at Starbucks again), I realized I had a fever. I wonder if that was a contributing factor? Although I didn't feel sick or anything while running, maybe it was just getting started & enough to begin sapping my energy along with having stood for several hours before even starting the race.
In any case, lessons learned - bring my CamelBak, use the Shot Bloks more frequently, sit down instead of standing while waiting, don't arrive so early, and follow my training plan from the beginning of the race. And get new shoes ASAP as I suspect after yesterday's run I am due NOW. My knees started to hurt and I am at 250 miles which seems to be my shoe limit, regardless of brand. 250 miles has been where my feet and/or knees started to hurt with the last 3 pairs and there I am again.
A few tidbits about the race:
- 40,000 registered participants
- 30,700 crossed the start line
- 30,371 crossed the finish line (a new record for the race)
- The bib numbers had our names on them - never saw that before - so of course I couldn't resist and my bib says FANGFACEKITTY
- At the start line there was a woman 3 feet away from me squatted down and peeing on the curb in front of thousands of people. On the curb/sidewalk section, where people would walk, completely in the open. And at least 1 person took a picture.
- There were video cameras set up at each of the 5k check points and several along the approach to the finish so I have a video of me crossing the finish line which I will receive in a few weeks! I'm so excited about this after several races where I never made it into a single picture.
Saturday, March 02, 2013
Yes, I am one. Not in the typical sense, I could care less what someone drives, their zip code, education level or what they do for a living. I've known people living in poverty who are the greatest and most generous people in the world and a woman living in a multimillion $ house driving an insanely expensive car who I would gladly use as zombie bait because she is just that evil and selfish. I've known several engineers with Masters degrees who are either a) completely lacking in common sense or b) just plain stupid or c) also zombie bait candidates or d) all of the above...compared with self-taught non-high school graduates who did a much better job designing parts for our products than the highly degreed snobs we hired.
In any case I am also a snob so I probably shouldn't throw stones. My snobbery comes out during tax season.
My dark dirty secret is that I actually like preparing my taxes. One day I'd like to get my certificate or whatever as a tax preparer and moonlight. Not because I have to but because I enjoy the challenge.
Yes, I should seek professional help for this obviously dangerous aberration
I have prepared by own taxes every year (except one) since I was 16. And that was before tax software. Yes, I did them by hand...itemized deductions on the long form no less. And survived the capital gains/losses calculation when we sold our first house before they changed the rules to make it simpler. Even when the tax software first came out & I switched I still did a set by hand for the first few years to make sure the software was accurate.
I am not a very trusting soul lol.
The one year someone did my taxes for me was the first year I was married and my new SIL was a CPA. The PEH (psycho ex-husband) insisted that she do our taxes for this reason, because she "knew all the tricks and could get us the best results".
Yes, I double checked her too.
Nothing against my ex-SIL, she did do a good job. But I saw no reason to continue having anyone else involved in my (our) private financial affairs, especially family, especially because I could get the same results.
Yes, I am a snob.
So this year is especially frustrating for me. This year, because I now have to file in both the US & France and the requirements due to the job relocation and situation, I have to work with a company that will prepare & file my taxes for me.
Normally I have my taxes completed & submitted by January 31. This year the company did not even contact me until February 15. I have OCD tendencies. I was not happy at the delay.
Their software doesn't display the results, it just collects information. So I have no idea what my tax obligation is yet. Did I mention my OCD tendencies? I HATE not knowing, I HATE being late even though technically it is still early.
I HATE not being in control.
To make matters worse I talked to my son the other night & he revealed that he's already filed his taxes for the first time & is waiting for his refund.
Ah-ha, he takes after his Mom!
PEH told him to go to H&R Block and have them take care of his taxes because it is "too complicated" to do himself.
My son is 17, is a dependent and works part time at Dairy Queen. He is smart; narrowly focused and sometimes intellectually lazy when not interested in the subject, but very smart.
Too complicated my ass. Maybe for the PEH who is an intellectual gnat - truth + ex-bashing all in one package! - an EZ form is too complicated but my son is capable of it; otherwise I would have to disown him LOL!
That is a 5 minute by hand tax preparation for goodness' sake! It would take longer to actually enter the information into the system than to calculate what he owes or not.
So my son, not knowing any better, listened to the PEH, went to H&R Block and paid them $80 for the privilege of preparing and filing his EZ form. Something he could have done for free as well as teaching him a valuable life skill.
Side note digression - It is unbelievable that these types of skills are not taught in high school (or at least not mandatory for every student).
I had some choice words to say when I hung up the phone, believe me. 3 days later & I am stilled majorly pissed off. Next year at least my son knows to call me instead of going to a service and listening to the PEH.
So no offense intended to anyone who lives in multimillion dollar homes, drives insanely expensive cars, is an engineer, is highly degreed or has someone else prepare his/her taxes. Or is an ex-? of any variety.
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