La Parisienne 6k: Be careful when eating raw seafood…

On Sunday I participated in the La Parisienne, the women’s only 6k through Paris.  It was a stunning day – sunshine, blue skies, not too hot.  The event itself was executed with French flair and style – great tunes to warm-up to before the start, waves lining up under the Eiffel Tower generating awe and buzz, an impressive Festival surrounding the event (stages, entertainment and an expo on the Friday and Saturday before the event, and the Sunday of as well), all finishers crossing the line got a rose (such a nice touch!) and the corralling of finishers through to the medal was extremely efficient.  An awesome day to race, right?At the start, La Parisienne, 13 September 2009Well, kind of.  It would have been great.  Except for the small fact that I went to a Japanese restaurant I know (and have loved in the past) and wound up on Saturday with horrible 24-hour food poisoning.  I spent a lot of Saturday in bed, trying to stay hydrated and resting up, hoping I would be able to participate in Sunday’s race.I already knew that Sunday was going to be tough for me.  My legs still felt a bit tired from the previous Sunday’s Hyde Park 5k.  I am new – learning to run again after maybe a 20 year absence – and I guess I need to learn how to recover too.  Maybe back to back race weekends was a bit ambitious.  And I have been having right foot tendon issues too.  I know what is the root cause and know how to address it, but I can’t get to the National Hospital for another ankle brace until September 21st.  So I knew that I would not be feeling great before my “sushi from hell” moment.So on Saturday night when I went to sleep, I told myself that I would decide on Sunday morning my race plan.  Not participating was an option.  Participating but walking the whole thing was an option.  And if I felt good, my goal would be to run for about 75% of the time.  It was all up for grabs.I felt ok on Sunday morning.  I would say about 80%.  Hydration not brilliant.  Nutrition a bit off (low on energy).  But ok.  I decided I would go to the race and aim to run for about 60% of the time, or 4k.  I wasn’t sure how I would approach this – either with 7 minutes run + 2 minutes walk, or drop this to 5 minutes run + 1 minute walk, but I felt ok to attempt this.  I knew I was probably looking at a bit over 1 hour for the 6k, which stank, as I was hoping to get to about 55 minutes.  I was a part of a team, and teams were ranked, and I felt like I would be letting my side down.  But I remember that one of the team organisers, Syndiely, told me that just participating would be fine.I also had no idea how to find the other Gazelles team members on race day.  So I just decided to don my rally gilet and head to the race, and to run it solo.  Go there, get the job done, and come back to London as quick as I could, to rest and kick the rest of the bad sushi aside.Ou est la balise?Then I made a really bad decision.  With travelling, you always leave something behind unless you make a list.  I did not make a list.  So I left two things behind.  First my race belt, easily remedied with some safety pins.  Next were my Sport Beans.  I usually have a pack in my bag, but damn, I must have eaten them…  My stomach was still a bit dodgy and I know from regular travel in odd countries that I can function ok with a dodgy stomach and skittles.  And I know from training that sport beans work for me.  So I went to the hotel mini-bar praying for a rainbow oriented miracle, for a bit of extra energy on the run.  No luck.  However there were Haribo (think gummy things) – so I grabbed them and stuffed some in my gilet pocket.  Now, I KNOW NEVER TO DO ANYTHING NEW ON RACE DAY.  But I was feeling not 100% and didn’t think there was much difference between Sport Beans or Skittles and Haribo.  THERE IS A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE.Lesson 1:  Never ever change or do something new on race day.(yes I already knew this but I have to write it again so I remind myself forever of this point)The Haribo were not a good plan.  Mostly because they coat your mouth with a sickly sweet sticky syrup, and when you start being active and doing a bit of mouth breathing perhaps, that becomes unbearable.  And with water it creates a sickly sweet syrup that slides into your stomach.  And on a stomach not doing great, that was not an ideal combo.  No I did not get sick.  Yes I did have to rinse my mouth out a few times on the course with my precious water (remember, I was probably not well enough hydrated for a run).So speaking of hydration.  Even though the night before was not ideal, my hydration was not catastrophic.  I had a big bottle next to my bed and forced most of it down during the course of the night, and though I was a bit under-hydrated, it was not critical.  What I did do was grab a bottle of Evian for my running shirt (I LOVE my Sugoi top with nice big running pocket in the back).  I know that bottle was the envy of many women suffering hydration problems.  My regret was using it to rinse my mouth.  But thankfully I only did that once a kilometre until the 3k mark when the nasty gummy slime was gone.  And then next thing I did, which was not on my plan, was to walk through the aid station at 3k and to drink a cup, and then rinse thoroughly with a second cup.  That was a huge help.Lesson 2:  Have a hydration plan.  Stick with it.  And if you need to, spit.  Forget acting like a lady, spitting is better than puking.I had wondered what it was going to be like running in Paris.  Thankfully I had my introduction to all French events when I did the Rallye des Gazelles, and my French is ok enough to communicate.  The idle chat during the Hyde Park 5k (see my race report from 7 September and the inspiring talk I had with Debby during the last 1k) kept me motivated.  I knew that Paris would be different.  I wondered if I would even have chats.  Well the reality was that although the depth of my conversation was different, the women doing La Parisienne were also a different calibre.  They were able to run.  No silly shoes.  Not many unfit people.  And a supportive bunch.  So although the chats did not involving inspirational stories, they did involve many well-timed “Courage” and “Bravo” exchanges with other runners.  And smiles.  I tried to smile as I went around the whole course, and this (coupled with my knee brace, and ankle splint) generated lots of return smiles and shouts of “Courage” and “Allez”.  A well timed “Allez” from a lovely woman whose smile greeted me definitely helped me across Pont Bir Hakkeim with added spring to my step to take me to the aid station at 3k.  And I think the smile, knee, and ankle brace also landed me an interview on French TV “C’est un defis?”  “Oui, c’est un defis, mais c’etait une super experience!”Lesson 3:  Racing in a foreign country is possible.  All it takes is a smile and a few well timed words and you can feel athlete love.And by 11:30, I had finished.  Sunshine, blue skies, Paris, smiles, finishers medal!  All by 11:30 on a Sunday morning!Putting aside any discomfort, the race was a great event.  I was pleased to have done it.  La Parisienne was another chance for me to “feel” what it is going to take to get to 10k.  For me this is going to be a long journey, with lots of mini-steps along the way.  I hope I can find a way to make them all as lovely as sunny Parisian skies were yesterday!  And I hope to keep smiling along my journey.Note:  Many thanks for everyone for supporting me via Twitter, Facebook and email.  Once again.  You guys rock!PPS:  And also thanks to Women for Women International, for all their great work.  I wore the WfW logo on Sun
day at the Women’s Only race, and if you are interested in supporting their efforts, please click here.

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