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The Paris Half Marathon

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.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    What an experience with positives and oddities all around! Peeing on the curb.. ha!
    Congrat on a slow Half - it still beats being on the couch any day.
    1807 days ago
    Great race report! Glad the creepy guy things worked out for you, but stress like that (especially with your daughter at your side) can be draining to you physically. All the standing in the cold didn't help either, more body stress. Sounds like all that stuff hindered your results. I did laugh at the brochure warnings, and the icon you posted after it.
    Keep up the good work!
    1809 days ago
    That is quite a race report, thanks for sharing!
    1809 days ago
  • FROSTY99
    Good for you for not letting someone take advantage of you and a Big emoticon for running and finishing the race and then realizing you were coming down with something. Now on to the next challenge!
    1809 days ago
    WOW, very prepared and you ran it....finish time is interesting, but pales in comparison to crossing the finish line itself!

    Not sure if you have looked up Jeff Galloway's book on running yet....great explanation and plans for run/walk.

    Funny though, not once does he mention taping your tits!
    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1809 days ago
  • DOODIE59
    Thanks for sharing. Good on you for not taking guff from the scammer at the bank machine -- knew you wouldn't. And, fast or slow, you did the run, and that's what matters at the end of the day. Just keep moving:) emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1810 days ago
    Wow! What a race! I'm so happy for you for reaching another goal.
    Hope you have completely shaken off that fever and are feeling back to normal now.
    I enjoyed reading all the interesting details about your race.

    emoticon emoticon
    1810 days ago
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