Thursday, April 19, 2012

Marathon de Paris 2012 race report

Paris Marathon has enjoyed hot sunny weather in the past. After long dark cold winter, I had high hopes for something similar on April 15, 2012. No such luck. Ironically, the Northern winds from Scandinavia blew all the way to France, and the weather was about the same both in Helsinki and Paris. +5-10C wasn't too bad though with sufficient clothing - and hopefully without rain. Well, 40 thousand runners had registered for the race, so there would plenty of protection against the wind.
Running Expo at Porte de Versailles, Hall 4.

After my arrival in Paris on Friday afternoon, I ran/walked to the Running Expo at Porte de Versailles. The expo was huge with departments for nutrition, marathon running, trail/ultra running, triathlon, kids, and so on. There was also a 'rice-party' which wasn't free, so only a few seemed to attend.

Are you made of Paris 2012? Good luck in finding your name in there!

My passport, medical certificate and registering document was checked, and to my relief accepted. I received my bib and two plastic bags full of stuff like a simple plastic rain/wind poncho, a wrist band, a GU Espresso Love gel, and a buff - all potentially useful stuff.

The expo was huge and crowded.

I ended up spending four hours at the expo, and I still didn't have time to see everything. We had a Dailymile meeting scheduled, and to my delight a few of my virtual training friends showed up. It was fun and I was also able to get useful advice from those who knew Paris and this Marathon well. Thanks guys!

Dailymile meeting at the Expo.

This year's race featured two B-Tags by ChronoTrack glued to the reverse side of the bib. This seemed like a superb innovation to me, because there would be no need to tie those Champion chips to our shoes anymore. As we could keep the bibs after the race (or throw them away), the finish procedure would be greatly simplified. The timing system worked perfectly and I hope other races will adopt this system in the future (there are already 600+ events listed on their website).

The new better timing system on the bib: B-tag by ChronoTrack.

Saturday's P'tit dej 5K fun run - which turned out to be a 18.6 km Paris running tour for me - was covered in my previous post.

Race morning view from my 8th floor hotel room.

On Sunday, the race morning weather looked relatively good from my 8th floor hotel window. It was chilly, but rain was unlikely. I drank a cup of tea and some gazpacho for liquid breakfast - no solid food. I decided to wear long tights over short tights, a long-sleeved running shirt over a technical T-shirt, thin gloves, the Marathon buff twisted into a beanie, and a warm fleece jacket. On my feet I had thick running socks and my new Hoka One One Stinson EVO (ultra trail) running shoes. The pockets of my tights were filled with three Clif Orange Shot Bloks and the GU Espresso Love gel. In my jacket pocket I had a bottle of water - the same that we would get every 5K during the race.

It was 7:30AM and I was ready to take the metro to Charles de Gaulle Etoile station, where the access to our starting areas would be. I noticed that public transportation wasn't free like in many other big city marathons. I just jumped over the gates when I heard the next train approaching. It was really crowded, and not all runners at later stations could fit in.

When we finally arrived, everyone walked to their corrals. I was there about 8:05, so I had to wait 40 minutes for the start. I felt so lucky to have been put into the red 3-hour category, as I'd be able to start right behind the elites without delay. There weren't nowhere near enough toilets, and I didn't even try to queue. I just chewed one of the Shot Bloks while calmly observing my fellow competitors in shorts and T-shirts shivering. I felt good in my warm jacket. Soon the wheelchairs were on their way, and then it was our turn.

There was a countdown, and bang! I started my Suunto Ambit GPS watch, and even remembered to lock the buttons, and then the masses in front of me started to move forward. However some of the groups behind us had to stay still for a long time, as there was a wave-start protocol. Chariots of Fire by Vangelis played and I had to run fast to avoid getting trampled by others. There was a lot of pushing and shoving going on everywhere.

There were tons of spectators cheering along Champs Elysees. I slowly drank the water bottle. After 3K I took off my jacket and threw it up in the air. I saw it landing in the hands of a clapping supporter. She must have wondered where it came from.

It was my aim to take water and orange quarters at every aid station, but I couldn't get anything at the first station at 5K because I was distracted by checking my split (23:43) and then blocked by other runners. I just let it go and kept on chewing my Shot Bloks.

After 9K the gloves came off. I was getting warmed up. Bois de Vincennes was a welcome sight, and I took a pee break behind a tree. My 10K split was quite ok (48:26), not too fast.

I knew well before the start that I couldn't improve my marathon PB 2:55 today, 2012 being a year dedicated for ultra trail races. I just planned to run whatever pace felt comfortable, enjoy the sights of Paris, and finish feeling fresh and energized by the experience. There was the hilly 50K ultra trail race around Lidingö island in Stockholm coming up in 12 days for me next, and I never let that slip from my mind for a moment.

15K went by in 1:14:23. This was a duller section of the course and I was slowing down. The group running with the 3:15 flag had already passed me. Also the 3:30 pacemakers zoomed by me before the half-marathon split (1:46:11). I let them go without a fight, and focused on eating & drinking.

Now there were many great sights to be admired in a row: Notre Dame cathedral, Orsay museum, and Eiffel tower among others. My 25K split was 2:06:59. There were also three tunnels with humid air, and I finally dared to take my buff/beanie off. 30K mark went by in 2:34:35, and running still felt fun & easy to me. Most runners around me seemed to suffer a bit already. Smiles were pretty few and far between :)

After 32K we entered Bois de Bologne, my favorite part of the course. I loved it as it reminded me of trail running, although it was all on a road. 35K flew by in 3:02:32, and I remember feeling worried that I'd have to stop running soon! There were crowds of supporters again as we got close to the finish, and I was still surrounded by masses of fellow competitors.

I crossed the finish line on Avenue Foch in 3:43:06, and stopped my watch. However I forgot to unlock the buttons, so it kept on recording until I finally managed to shut it off by the metro station near Arc de Triomphe. For those interested, my Suunto Movescount data is here.

We participants received lots of goodies.

We received a yellow finisher T-shirt and a T-shirt-shaped medal, but the most popular gift was the blue plastic poncho. Most finishers wisely put it on immediately. It was still very windy and chilly, and the journey to hotel seemed to take ages. I somehow slipped through the gates at the metro stations again, and all the trains were full of people, some in city business clothes and some in blue plastic ponchos.    

Hoka One One Stinson EVO shoes enjoying some fresh air after the race.

Thanks to my reasonable pacing my legs felt good. I felt also very satisfied with my new Hoka shoe model: Stinson EVO had now proved to be simply incredible! The fit was perfect and there was not even the slightest hint of a blister or anything. Running in them was so easy and smooth it was almost like cheating - marathons should feel hard!

To sum up: the course was flat and fast, but the weather was too chilly this year. The wind was strong, but it didn't bother me at all, as I was surrounded by crowds of people at all times. To me the final 10K was the best and the tunnels the worst part of the course. Apparently it wasn't too bad a day, as 32,980 marathon runners finished!

Now let's put our 3D glasses on and enjoy the unique atmosphere of Marathon de Paris! :)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

P'tit Dej 5K fun run in Paris

P'tit Dej was an additional 5 km fun run on Saturday morning for Marathon de Paris 2012 participants and their family or friends. P'tit dej means breakfast, and it's free for all!

The weather was very nice, but chilly considering this was mid-April already. Jackets and long tights with a cap or buff were a common gear choice.

A Finnish couple I met before start at Ecole Militaire.
The start was 9AM at Ecole Militaire in the bohemian 'left bank' of Paris. This pleased me as it allowed us to see a different part of Paris. The marathon on Sunday would be run entirely in the 'right bank' business districts.

The organizers had provide flags for participating countries. This was generally a great idea as it helped people to find each other. I met only a couple of Finnish runners though.

There were flags for many participating countries, including Finland.
There were quite a lot of runners, but it wasn't too crowded by any means. Only a small portion of those 40 thousand marathon runners showed up. The streets were closed for traffic so there was plenty of space for everybody to jog along as they liked. The pace was very nice and easy, just as it should be.

The tallest sight along the way was the magnificent Eiffel Tower of course.
The route passed some famous sights like the Eiffel Tower and Trocadero.

People were joking and laughing all around me, as this wasn't a serious event at all.
After about half-way I got the Finnish flag from a French guy who explained that he had a Finnish girlfriend. I carried the flag all the way to the finish near Arc de Triomph.

After about half-way I got the Finnish flag and carried it until the finish with great enthusiasm. 
I was happy to run this 5K with my friends Dreama and Nathan once again. We had met during Transgrancanaria 2012 trail running race in March, when all three of us were able to finish the longest 123 km distance. That ultramonster was certainly quite a different experience compared to this short jog.

 It was once again fun to run with fellow Transgrancanaria 2012 123 km finishers Nathan and Dreama.
After finishing we found out that the breakfast consisted largely of fruits from Guadeloupe, a Caribbean tropical island that belongs to France and Eurozone. Especially the melons were delicious. I bet I ate more of those than anybody else. We were also served water and hot tea.

These costumes were among of the funniest I saw.
A lot of runners had funny costumes on. There were also some entertainment and activities for children along Avenue Foch. Disney seems to be ubiquitous in Paris.

Everyone was happy but hungry - time to have some breakfast!
Everybody seemed to be happy with this small morning event, and headed back to their hotel for a well-deserved rest and lunch. Not me however; I had something else in mind.

These cute Japanese runners warmed up the atmosphere on a cold day.
After breakfast I headed to Orangerie, an art museum in Tuileries Garden. It was recently featured in 'Midnight in Paris', an Oscar-winning film by Woody Allen. It was well worth the visit for those Monet waterlilies alone, and not nearly as crowded as the Louvre next door.

One of those famous waterlily paintings by Monet in Orangerie Museum.
After running back to my hotel along Seine, I estimated the total distance to be about 15K. However my Suunto Ambit revealed that I had done 18.6 km altogether! Perhaps that wasn't most ideal preparation for the marathon next morning, but my pace had been easy (some say it always is :) and I felt pretty fresh.

Also I really dig my new Hoka One One shoes called 'Stinson EVO' a lot - running feels so effortless with them you don't really need to stop until you are done.

Ok, that's all my friends. Stay tuned, Marathon de Paris race report coming up next real soon now!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Chrissie Wellington's 8-day challenge

Chrissie Wellington is not doing any Ironman triathlons this year, so will she relax at home and watch TV? No way!

Apart from promoting her autobiography 'A Life Without Limits' (which I just downloaded and started to read by the way), she has come up with the following unique 8-day challenge:
  1. Sun 15 April: run Paris Marathon.
  2. Mon 16 April: bike Paris-Ceril.
  3. Tues 17 April: bike Ceril-Zeebrugge.
  4. Wed 18 April: bike Hull-York-Leeds.
  5. Thu 19 April: bike Leeds-Sheffield-Newark.
  6. Fri 20 April: bike Newark-Cambridge.
  7. Sat 21 April: bike Cambridge-London.
  8. Sun 22 April: run London Marathon.
Chrissie is offering anyone interested the opportunity to bid in a silent auction for the chance to join her on one of the six cycling days in a team of ten cyclists. The auction will close on Friday 6 April, ie. tomorrow, so hurry. All the proceedings will go to the Jane Tomlinson Appeal.

As it happens, I'm also going to run Marathon de Paris, so I'll keep my eyes peeled to catch a glimpse of Chrissie. Fat chance keeping up with her running pace though - she's fast!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Beware the South Pole diet

This Norwegian dude has been wandering at the South Pole for weeks with limited nutrition.

Before you laugh too soon, consider this could happen to any of us ultra trail runners out there :)