La Parisienne 6k: Wet Outside, Dry Inside

On Sunday I did my third La Parisienne 6k race in Paris.  It was a great event, on a course that I really enjoy, and for the first time I felt like I was actually able to run (the parts that I ran) the race.  I shave 4 minutes and 39 seconds off my time, finishing 6k in 52 minutes 7 seconds, a new course best for me, and a sign of progress.

The Race

First of all, let me say, I love this race.  Why?

Well, first of all it is in Paris.  And what’s not to love about Paris?

Seriously, the course starts and finishes at the Eiffel Tower.  It takes you along the Seine (and under the tunnel Princess Diana died in, in case you were interested in mid-run sightseeing), across the Alma Bridge, along the Seine (Eiffel Tower, again!), past the Musee Quai Branlei, back and around the neighbours around the Eiffel Tower and through the Champs de Mar (Eiffel Tower, again!), and finally the finish line, with a full view of the Eiffel Tower.  A seriously fun course. And the Eiffel Tower. Ah Paris! J’adore!

Course map from the La Parisienne website

Next, the stuff!  I am not a huge fan of “stuff” with races.  Usually it is just rubbish they give you.  I mean, for the London Triathlon you got a water bottle, a granola bar, a little deordorant sample, and that’s it for the £80 registration fee.  Usually, you tend to pay a lot of money for a race and walk away with a bag of paper pushing other races.  Not very appealling to me.

But the La Parisienne stuff…  It is *good* – a proper race goodie bag.  You get a lot of it when you check in, so if by chance you don’t do the race you registered for, so you don’t cross the finish line, you only miss out on about a third of the “stuff.”

This year we received a technical t-shirt – they finally they got rid of the cotton race shirts – hurrah!  A finishers medal.  Two energy bars (Naturalia – yummy organic goodness and a proper small portion too!).  Nestle Fitness cereal and sample bar.  And Weleda!  A whole sample box of Weleda!  I love the Weleda body washes and lotions (again organic) and the Weleda goodie box was amazing this year!  And as La Parisienne is a women’s race there were also feminine product samples as well as some interesting reading about body image and awareness (great stuff if you can you read French).

Third, the organisation of the event is top class.  This is the only event I have done which has provided its participants with a discount card (for the full year of the race they sign up for).  Coaching support.  A weekend of activities to dip in and out of.  Of course, you have to live in Paris to take part, but it is a fantastic scheme, and really encourages its participants (many first time runners) to get out and moving and training.  I think it is a great organisational model for such large scale events.

Finally, I like doing much larger events because there is a full spectrum of participants.  Meaning there will be slow runners.  So I won’t be the last one to finish.  Which is always a good thing as always being last can get a bit demotivating.  Because of the size of the field it is also a great event for first time runners.  The participants are quite encouraging, and the size of the event means the course is full of support.  Which is fantastic.

My only complaint is the wave system.  Typical to a French organised event, there is only one true wave, and that is the elite wave.  All else run under a self nominated wave system – aka a scrum to get to the start line.  My first year I wound up in the last wave (not good for a slow runner like me).  My second year I was in the first wave (after the elites) – not brilliant for me but at least I finished early.  This year I was in the third wave after the elites, so a decent start time, but I would have preferred pushing to get to the second wave.  I wound up getting stuck on hills behind walkers (yes – there is a first time for everything – I was actually charging up the hills this year passing people but when I hit the walker blockade up near the Alma Bridge I wound up having to walk myself – deeply frustrating).

My Race

I did La Parisienne this year to have fun, and as my last “thing” for 2011.  I wanted to go out and see how I felt given the work I’ve been doing on run form, and to see how things come together or where they don’t, to give myself a little heads up for things that I need to work on in the fall/winter.

And, it was Paris.  That meant we could combine the race with a restaurant tour.  Also know as: indulgence in both food and wine.  And as you may know, I really enjoy both food AND wine.  I made a decision to enjoy both, not cutting out the wine before the race, but to just watch my quantity.

This year I was far more successful in controlling my quantity.  Even though I was not hungover, I did lined up feeling a bit dehydrated – not like last year when I woke up parched, but still, I knew I needed water.  I could not recall how many aid stations there were, I had bet on two (answer: one, at the 3km mark).  I did not pick up a bottle of water on my way to the start (I should have, I had to wait an hour to start).  And by the time I got to 3k I was totally dry mouthed and feeling rough.  Not. Good.  The thirsty feeling meant I needed to walk.  It started feeling uncomfortable.  I would charge up a “hill” and pass loads of people (got lots of cheers for that too!) and then I would suddenly feel lightheaded.  Um.  Not good.  By the time I got to the finish (and yes, I went as fast as I could the last stretch, so I did not finish weakly!) I *needed* water.  I felt light headed.  I walked to the side and asked a medic where the water was.  “Just over there.”  I managed to collect myself and walked a few hundred meters to the water point.  Not kidding.  A few hundred meters.  Not funny either.  That water was gone in a flash.  And I was still thirsty.

What a rookie error!  And one I will not repeat again soon.

As for the race, I ran the first 2k feeling strong.  I didn’t notice the first “hill” from the start, not at all.  It was raining so I was a bit worried about the slipperyness of the cobbles (so slippery – I live on a cobbled street so I know!) but I chose instead to focus on my form to make sure I was aligned, and it did the trick.  I had confidence on the cobbles and as well, going down the cobbles.  For the first time I concentrated on leaning into the downhill, to make sure I would not slip and hurt myself.  It worked.  I felt light, springy and happy!  A smile on my face the whole first 2k – this is so much FUN!

The next 1k until the aid station was hard.  I needed water.

From 3k to 4k I felt good again.  I stormed up a hill (to applause) and I got to high five kids along the route.  It was great.

Then from 4k to 5.5k I think I hit a dehydration wall.  I felt fine but thirsty.  My heart rate felt odd.  So I increased my walk intervals.  And just decided to do my best.  I had fun but it wasn’t the same “free feeling”.  But I felt good.

I made sure I finished the last stretch running full speed ahead.  I treated it like one of the track sessions I do, just push and keep pushing.  I smiled for photographers and focused on my form.  I felt strong.  But as soon as I stopped, dizzy.  Thirsty.

Anway, live and learn.  Proper hydration is a must, and I reckon not only the wine contributed to this feeling, but also the salt in restaurant cooking.  I should have known better, especially as I had a similar dehydrated feeling when we first arrived in Maine over holidays (the salt content in the restaurant food, again).

I cut 4 minutes 39 seconds from my 2010 time and had fun in the process – thirsty or not!  I’ll take that improvement, and I am sure more is yet to come!

Race for CMT

As September is CMT Awareness Month, it was a perfect opportunity for me to don my “Team CMT” jersey, sent to me by Chris Wodke.  Chris is a lifelong runner and also has CMT.  In 2010 she founded Run4CMT and through jerseys is uniting CMT athletes, their friends and supporters to spread the word about the most common neuromuscular disease which impacts 1 in 2500 people.

Thanks Chris for the chance to be a part of “the team” – and I look forward to spotlighting your work on a future post on my site!

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