Saturday 25 November 2017

Grünewald half-marathon 2017

We all have a non-runner friend who keeps asking why in hell we pay that much money to torture ourselves during all those kilometers, swearing this is the last race but ending up at a starting line all over again? Usually that makes me smile, but not today, with two hours in front of me to think about all the great stuff I could have done with the 35€ entry fee 😓

(Un?)fortunately, I am not as fit as two months ago, so I subscribed to the half only. Thank God for that, the weather is terrible and it's pouring rain. I didn't sleep well and I cannot swallow a bite. I resist the urge to call it off and go back to bed! But today is the perfect occasion to test my equipment and score a new best time.

One hour of train, I manage to eat a sandwich and a banana. My coffee to go starts doing its job and I feel better already. I make a friend on my way, Ben, English, nice guy. We manage to find our way up to the event, through muddy trails. I am all wet, despite the umbrella.

I have never seen such a depressing starting line! No more than 50 runners are queuing under the rain to get their bib. A poor fella with a microphone is trying to motivate us, while playing cheap music we can barely hear. They give the start to the women half and marathon, 30 min before the men. Why aren't we allowed to run together? I don't bite (not before 30km!). Oh, they have a real gun with blanks to shoot the start, that's probably where all the budget went 😄

After changing and leaving my bag, I'm waiting for the start... under the toilets poarch! It's definitely the best day to test my rainy-run equipment: waterproof jacket and pants (that I just got from Decathlon yesterday), gaiters to prevent wet socks and my god old Speedcross which are hitting 500km. They finally call us to the starting line, short countdown and GO! Did they fire the gun, I didn't heard... Maybe they only had one bullet! 😆

We follow the wet trail on the first 5km, jumping above puddles of mud. Half and full marathoners started together, with no distinction (like a different colour on the bib). I'm overtaking some of them but impossible to know if they are in for the full experience! However, based on what I hear, most of them only for the half like me. I wonder how many just changed their mind on the starting line! Indeed, the marathon is actually running twice the 21km loop. Another reason I was not really motivated to do it.

We arrive on a very long bike lane flowing the highway. Asphalt, noisy cars and no supply point at the horizon, not really the first kilometers I was hoping for. I take over more runners, pace around 6:30. My goal today is to score a new PR and finish in less than 2h15. The rain intensifies. It's not unbearable, but forces to keep the head down. My tummy is growling. Hunger, but I feel some discomfort too. I am on vitamins this month and I have some digestion issues. Hopefully it won't bother me to much...

Finally, at the end of the lane and after more than 7km, the first aid station appears. I'm ok but I pity the poor marathoners who won't have more support than this! Bananas, tea, dry fruits and some drinks. The water is too cold, the tea is too warm, I have to mix them. Everyone is overtaking me, barely stopping. Most runners don't take the time to refuel. I will finish before them in the end!
After following the highway, we are now following the road... And they call that a trail race! We run along the banks of Wansee. I catch up on the others and overtake them. The puddles of water and mud change us into jumping goats :) But so far I don't feel wet. Jacket and trousers are protecting me perfectly, for less than 50€, merci Decathlon 👌

I have been holding a good pace for some time and a quick estimation makes me realize that I could finish in 2h, if I manage to keep it. Unfortunately, that's when we reach the steep climb up to the Grünewald tower, highest point of the route. Lungs burning, striving to breathe, I keep a steady pace, while my heart flies to unknown territories. I try to keep it below 180 bpm but it's damn hard. The runners behind lose ground on me. Cardio, I got you babe! Training the skipping rope like a little girl finally pays off 😊

I reach the second aid station at the top. Water, tea, banana, and I'm on my way. I swallow a cliff bar I brought with me, that should hold my craving until the finish line. The route is getting down again, still following the road. I let gravity do its job and catch up on the delay accumulated while climbing up. My peace is still good and the 2h drive seems more reachable than ever. But my belly aches are giving me a hard time. They don't last long but are really painful. I try to massage it, play with my abdominal muscles to unlock the food stuck. I should be really careful what I eat the day before a race 😥

Finally, we are back on trail roads. The rain is less intense but the ground still like a swamp. My belly forces me to stop once or twice and runners overtake me. I catch them up again and find myself running along Ben. Quick talk, hill coming, I distance him. I lock myself to a 5:30 pace, heart still around 180bpm. Another few kilometers to hold tight and its over. I pray that my belly is thinking the same.

Finally, after a last bit of road, I enter the stadium and crosses the finish line, like I just did... 1h59 ago! Yeepeeee. I did it! Half in less than 2h! It's amazing, considering that I ran my first half in 1h50 three years ago and it was on flat concrete on a sunny day. I head to the finish aid station, the third one I found today (out of five advertised on their website, did I miss the other two?). Soup, sausage, bread and cake. I feel better already. Although it was raining all the way, I don't feel wet. My equipment did it's job. My shoes are covered with mud, but my socks are still dry. Thank God I bought the GTX version (waterproof). Time to visit the shower, change to dry clothes and head home.

To sum up, I can't say I really enjoyed the run itself. It was as expensive as my last marathon and I got way less for the price. Only three aid stations (again, did I miss the others?), nice people but too few volunteers. Men end woman running separately. Only a few kilometers of trail, mostly roads and highway. But on the other hand I am really proud of my post-injury PR, and it's nice to add a rainy muddy race to my experience. Bucket list: checked! 😁

Thursday 23 November 2017

Cold mornings, rainy afternoons and early nights

No doubt, automn is here in her colorful night gown of leaves flying around. Days get shorter, colder, it's raining every time you step outside and the rare sun makes everything quite depressing. Hard to find the motivation for a proper training!

As usual, having a goal helps me a lot: the Grünewald marathon is approaching and I want it on my 2017 palmares. Unfortunately, a storm hit the woods and made the route impracticable for the event to occur in October, it's been rescheduled at the end of November. It's getting hard to stay fit and ready. After a hard 21k and a better 25k, I'm getting close to the event and I realise I should not risk a bad cold or injury. I'll stick to the Halfmarathon for this time, trying to score a new post-PF best.

On the other side, I'm planning to use the winter to strengthen my upper body: push ups, chin ups, skipping rope at lunch break and running with weights. I will probably run twice a week only so I need to compensate. I'm also on a vitamins diet this month to survive the winter! It would be nice to find a nice trail running group for motivation too.

I'm starting organising next year's schedule. Not sure what it will be yet, just some ideas: finally joining the ultrarunners vip club with an eco trail 45k in March, Wings for Life in May and Marathon du Médoc in October. Hell yeah \\m//