Sunday, October 24, 2010

The French Play to Win: Lessons from Today's 10k

Success! I've finally finished my first race in France with a PR of 1:15:04 (according to Mr. Garmin) with a distance of 6.5 miles exactly. Apparently it was a 10.5km race, not 10. Oops!

That said, it was a really weird experience. I had no problems getting registered (apparently the scan of my medical form emailed to me by my doctor stateside is 100% a-ok) and getting my tee-shirt etc. But, starting with the kids race and looking around, I noticed that absolutely everyone looked like a racer. Not a runner. A racer. As in wearing their specific club "uniforms" and such and just overall looking like very serious runners. I know I'm not a race veteran or anything, but at all of my US races these people obviously exist, but there's also a healthy mix of walkers, casual runners/joggers, and generally less "olympic" looking participants. So, starting early I began to get a little nervous... I mean, I didn't look like a complete outfit neophyte—I had my hydration belt, my garmin, and my underarmour—but looking around I was already getting a little uneasy. Thankfully, Sylvain and his wife were very positive (and even took this lovely photo of me pre-race... The set up was intended for the kids, but whatever):

And eventually the time came to get started. Their son, Pierre, placed 1st or 2nd in his age group's race before the adult race, so he left, but Sylvain and his wife (who's name I am SO embarrassed to think I never really learned....?) whole-heartedly adopted the role of official Nicky photographers and moved around the course and watched me pass by. That was new and fun because I always race with Jon or my friends so are either too busy recovering themselves after the race to watch me finish or are running themselves, so this was the first time I've ever had "race photos" taken.

It didn't take long to realize that I was right about the whole "racing" thing. Apparently the only French people that participate in races in France are those who race to win (or not far off). I quickly found myself nearing last place... where I would stay for the rest of the race. This was really difficult for me, actually, because I wasn't at all prepared for that to happen... Especially since I was doing so well (in my own opinion), since this was such a hilly and difficult course. I'd looked at the elevation map on the site before running the race, but wow, in person it was really hard... I'm not going to lie, I definitely stopped and walked a few steps/drank some water on these hills!

See? Check out that those two intense hills! Despite being last, the people along side (though not numerous) were really supportive, so that's nice.

Climbing up another hill

The second half of the race was better because it was mostly downhill, but from there on out, I was 100% alone... I couldn't see people ahead or the last last people behind me. Here are a few post race shots. One thing to be said about the olympians is that they did cheer me on as I came in at the end (you know, as they were all leaving).

Showing off my celebratory flower and bottle of wine

All in all, it was really weird (and difficult mentally) knowing I was 4th to last in the race. They even started opening up the roads as we were still running by, so occasionally on the big hills, we got passed by cars. I actually had to move once to let one go by on a narrow street. (Very discouraging, actually). As such, I fought with myself the whole way and even though I'm really pleased with how I did (you know, setting a PR and all on a difficult course), it's a bit bittersweet. It's also making me reconsider sending in my registration for the half on Nov. 13th... I can't stop thinking that if I finished 4th kicking my butt on a 10k and they were already closing the course, what's going to happen during a half marathon where my A-goal is 2:30:00? I already looked and the half seems pretty flat, but there were also (based on the 2009 results only 10 runners (out of the 961 listed) who finished the race with a 2:30:00 time or above... Yeah. It's not looking good folks. What do you guys suggest?

PS- To make matters worse, I saw that Sylvain and his wife had an electric scale, so I decided to get a more exact reading to confirm my 73kg weigh-in (and my 160 -30lbs goal conversion as a result)... and I weighed in at 75.5. Just to add insult to injury. Ulgh. Not a good day, despite PRing. At least Auburn beat LSU last night! #1 in the SEC!


Christina said...

You did awesome!!! I'm glad you had some friends at the race to help you relax. Being surrounded by super-fit pros had to be weird. :) You look great and happy in the pictures. My favorite pic is the one of you running away from the camera and up the hill. You are getting runner legs! That's awesome that there were supportive spectators and that the super-fast people cheered you on after they finished! I was alone a lot during my second 10k (there were fewer than 100 of us running), and it was weird. For some reason being alone in a race in France seems like it would be a lot weirder. I can't believe the opened the course so soon! I would have been a little peeved about having to move for the cars. I think you should totally still sign up for the half. Tenth-to-last is better than fourth-to-last, right? don't get too down about the weight thing. You just ran a great race, and you're making (overall) healthy decisions in France. Don't feel guilty if you need to briefly change your focus or if you just need to maintain for now. :)

Dave said...

Wow, you're going to kill a flat course!!

You might want to benefit from my experience: running an extra .5 km in a 10 km race doesn't necessarily mean the course is too long - it just means that you didn't run it robot-perfect the entire 1:15!