December 20, 2010

A Race Report and a Christmas Tree

This is the only race photo you will see from the last race I signed up for. Which, if you think about it, it makes sense given that this is where my trail running shoes spent the entire time of the race.

I had planned everything really well. We were supposed to go and celebrate an early Xmas with my parents and brother’s family down at my parents' in the South of France. Given that I was the one suggesting it, I chose a weekend where I could kill two birds with one stone, and run as well as wait for Santa's Christmas bonenza. I am usually a specialist of deciding to do a race, talk about it a lot, train for it even more, then realise when registration is closed that I forgot to sign up. This time, I had even managed to avoid that pitfall, which can undoubtedly be earmarked as my best 2010 running achievement.

I was not best prepared. The race is 35kms long of hard single trails, when I had only done hourly runs at lunchtime and nothing longer. It is characterised by a succession of steep and short climbs and downhills, and my training sessions consisted of a 40-climb followed by 20 minutes running back down, since this is what is available near work (not that I am complaining to “have to” run in the mountains on week days, mind you).

Still, I was looking forward to it, since the scenery was said to be amazing (when, unlike last year, it does not rain sheets and you feel the entire race, this being clay, is like trying to run on a giant slide): the sea down to the South, the mountains East and West, and this huge sky that is typical of Southern France. In spite of the inappropriate training, I was still feeling confident I could place decently, since I was feeling in good shape.

In good shape, until two weeks before the race that is. Then Malo, who had not felt too well for a while, started being quite ill. And work got even busier than usual. And I started feeling quite ropey myself.

Two days before the race, I started having a very bad sore throat and could not talk anymore. A blessing for most people around me, I am sure, but one which did not mean too much good as far as the race was concerned. On Saturday, with the race being the following day, I was feeling like walking required a huge effort, and it did not take too much brain power to realise that running a hard race may not necessarily feel easier than walking.

Most of Saturday was then spent with this dilemma: run, or not run on Sunday? I was sure I could finish the race. What I was less sure of was in which state. Plus, was the point to race, or to race and enjoy it? The answer seemed to be crystal clear for the rest of the family, but as far as I was concerned, there was still this nagging little voice at the back of my mind, suggesting that pulling out would be the decision of a wimp. Well, I have gone further on the “a race should be fun, or at least, should also be fun”-road, but I am not totally there yet!

In the end, I decided to be a wimp. Why? Because this race will still be there next year. Or the one after next. Because I thought, based on previous experience, that I would deal better with not racing than with having a bad race, or even only what I would perceive to be a bad race. Because this was supposed to also be a Xmas weekend, and it did not seem to make any sense to miss quality time (note to myself: why am I using this expression since I hate it?) with the family, and especially with Malo, to participate in a race I clearly should not be doing.

This is how my trail running shoes, on that Saturday night, ended up under the Xmas tree, waiting for Santa to turn up, instead of in a sports bag waiting for an early morning start.

At least Santa ended up being considerate: for the first time in years, my shoes did not get filled with sports related stuff: he must have realised I would not have handle the frustration so well. Such consideration: clearly a sign Santa does exist, isn’t it?

 (PS - in case this post sounded a bit bitter, it would only be because I am a bad writer, not because I am bitter. It actually ended up being easier than expected not to race. Sure, I felt a bit of envy, at the time of the start, seeing that the sky was of a cloudless blue, at the thought of the runners about to start. Sure I could not help myself checking out the results in the evening, and trying to figure how I would have beemotivan able to place. But there will be other races, and, as I have said many times, I don't need races to enjoy my running and to be motivated to run hard. In the meantime, 10 days later, I am still feeling quite ill, so racing would probably have been quite stupid... oh wait, does it mean I am going to finish 2010 a reasonnable girl? Now, that would be an expected turn of event...)

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