...that was my thought last week, when preparing my baggage for visiting the City of Light for the first time in my life! And for all the things that one visitor of Paris could do (you certainly have in mind a few now), what could I possibly choose? Yes, Running!!!! A marathon would be more than enough, right? There should also be some time for sightseeing.. Not for me!! I have to do an UltraMarathon! The marathon is just not enough for me.. I remembered that a famous Romanian ultramarathoner once said in an interview something like the marathon is difficult for him in sense that it's a too short race and sometimes hard to handle, so he prefers longer distances. At that time I was just at my beginning in the marathon world and it felt weird and incomprehensible to me. Now I tend to agree with him.
Ok let's get to the event: EcoTrail de Paris 2015!!
Of course I chose to run the longest one of 80 km on Saturday 21st, even if my longest race was just 56 km last summer in Salzburg (I've mentioned it here). Got on the flight from Prague to Paris on Friday, made the online check-in late so I found only the line 13 of the Czech Airlines aircraft with all seats free. Hmm.. people are afraid of sitting on line 13? Haha I don't care, let's take seat 13A at the window! It was even funnier at the return flight with Air France, but I'll get to that later ;)
Arrived to Paris, took train RER and then tram to get to the Sport Expo.. first problem: my name was not on the 80 km list! People there were speaking a lot of French and very few English.. anyway they found my race kit after 10 minutes so I could leave relieved. Next problem: some pieces of the required equipment were missing! I couldn't find them in the days before the race but was hoping to buy at the Sport Expo. I found the reflective armband but all the stores were out of survival blankets! And I searched through all of them at the Expo! (What is a survival blanket? See on Amazon) One guy sent me the address of their store somewhere in Paris where there might be some survival blankets left. Luckily, my friends Lisa and Juan were coming later from Vienna and Lisa had a spare survival blanket for me! So I met them later and my equipment was finally complete. Thanks again Lisa!!
Saturday morning found me using public transport again - this time it was free (because of the high city pollution and not of the event)!. Took it with other ultrarunners to St-Quentin-en-Yvelines, somewhere in the Centre of France where the starting point was. I was wearing the T-Shirt with "Romania" from my former running club as I usually do at the big races. I was also curious to see the reaction of the people and also to show that there are also Romanians who come to run and compete in Paris (I was the only one at the 80km race). I hope it helped somehow for a better image of my country, since I saw in the trains and metros some compatriots of mine singing at the accordion and begging for money..
It's almost 12pm. Race time!
After a speech in French which I barely understood and a minute of silence we took for I have no idea which reason (if someone knows please tell me!)
... I've exchanged the last messages with my coach Alex from Berlin:
Mihh: yooooo 80km!!!! Goooo!!!
Alex: GO MIHH GOOOOOO!
... we counted backwards from 10 to 1.. (yes, me too! I've remembered the numbers in French!!)...
... and Start!!! More than 1700 runners took off for this challenge with the hope to make it to the Eiffel Tower in Paris safe and sound and also in less than 13 hours - the total time limit!
A lot of thoughts were going through my mind.. I am good, my batteries are fully charged, there is no need to push hard now even if I feel fit and ready to conquer the world!! There are a lot of runners in front of me and behind me, just go with the flow and the 80km will just fly in no time! :) my family and friends are at their homes watching me on the live tracking website, I cannot let them down! My coach Alex is surely analyzing everything and thinking about the chances I have to finish this long race. Run run, a nice lake, wild vegetation, some people having a nice Saturday in the land area cheering for us, weather cloudy about 10 degrees C, no rain.. it's a good time for an ultra! I am well equipped, with self prepared honey-lemonade, water, food supplies, change T-shirt, headlamp, survival blanket (!), reflective armband, compression calf sleeves, kinesiologic band for my thighs, buffs and even a Swiss knife and a lighter (you never know how the forest turns into a jungle!). Heavy baggage to run 80km with but still necessary.
After 10 km or so, first problems: biological needs on the way! Hey there is just forest here, let's pick a tree! "Pick me, pick me!" seem a lot of them to say. Ok you look the same to me.. first need done, let's go! No, a bigger need comes up.. runners keep passing on the track, time goes by, but the bare necessities of life can't wait, right? Yes, the organizers said that we should only do our businesses at the checkpoints in the proper toilets. Really?! How can you believe that I can run more than 10 kilometers in this state to wait then 10 minutes at the toilet queue?! I saw that mostly all the runners were agreeing with me.. and what I left into the nature is ecological, trust me! I was drinking only water in the last days, no alcohol. My diet was composed of pasta, salads and other healthy meals. (My coach will also be reading this at some point so that's all I can confess :)) ) So I left the tree, came back on the track much lighter and happier, so what should I think about now? Let's sing something! How was that song again? ... "look for the bare necessities, the simple bare necessities of life!"
There are a lot of songs one can think of during this kind of run, I could do an UltraRunPlaylist with them! :)
Running and singing and running and singing.. and I am at the first checkpoint at 23km!! Yo cool, a quarter of the race is done! Let's eat and drink well at the refreshment point! Got SMS from coach Alex again, I was on track, 1 hour before the time limit for this checkpoint (CP). Next time limit was at 9pm and CP Chaville 55km. The race went on in pretty much the same way (but no more bare necessities!). My strategy: I've decided to walk on the climbs and also for a while after the surface was flat again, to avoid unnecessary muscular cramps and fatigue. I ran with a constant pace on the downhills and on the rest of the flat surfaces.
40 km done, almost a marathon, new problem!! The 1L of water is almost out and the next CP with water supplies is at km 45. I was not thirsty until km 44, when I felt dehydrated and was seeing each corner we had to take as the place where a lot of water was expecting me.. like a mirage in the desert. We had to climb some steps because CP 45 was up on the hill at the Meudon Observatory! After drinking almost 1L of water and eating some cranberries from my food supplies, I could continue the race. Still at that point I was asking myself: why am I doing this!?! This is crazyyy!!! Lisa just texted me that she finished her 50k in 5h13', amazing time wow!! I still have 35 km to go. Anyway, when restarting the race and seeing the beautiful panorama and Paris I stopped for some pictures. What was the hurry anyway?
Good mood restored :)
Coach Alex also sent me an encouraging message, next checkpoints were closer and with good drinks and food supplies, so let's just keep running. No particular aches, no cramps, just some fatigue but at this constant pace I can handle it. Still from that point on I wasn't thinking anymore about songs, meanings of life, reasons for me running 80km and other philosophical questions whatsoever. I was focused only on the race, time limits, food and water supplies and to keep the same strategy, not to try anything stupid!
I found also people on the road who where reading the competitors' names on their race numbers to cheer for them: Allez Jean-Pierre! Allez Louise!! Then I passed by.. Allez.. ehm.. Allez la Roumanie!! Even better, one man said it in my language: Allez.. hmm.. Traiasca Romania!!
Thank you, my French supporters! Allez les Bleus! ;)
I was at CP Chaville km 55 at 7pm, 2 hours before the time limit. Everything ok, but the evening came so I had to turn on my headlamp because the night was coming. The real Ultramarathon was finally starting! No worries, I did a lot of trainings running in the dark forest with my headlamp so I could be used to such situation. It was actually cool!
CP 67km about 9pm, everything fine! Tomato soup, 2 portions for me please!! SMS sent to coach and friends who were expecting me in Paris, another picture to remember this moment and GO to the finish point! Look at it there illuminated and beautiful, seems so close now!! Go Go Go!!!
I was hoping to make it under 10 hours, so I increased the pace when I was running the last kilometers along the Seine in Paris. Race referees were asking me to turn on my headlamp even if the streets were well illuminated. The finish was so close.. but wait! How close? On the website I remembered that the actual track was measuring 78km, but my Garmin watch already showed me 1 km more at each checkpoint. I didn't know Paris so I couldn't estimate how many kilometers were left. 3, 4.. 6? Should I accelerate? What if there is a loop at the end and I run more even if I am at the Eiffel Tower? So I kept my constant pace, walked a bit to recover and then started accelerating. We were super close and turned back to go on a bridge and then on an isle of the Seine!! Hey that's mean, but whatever! I can do it, I am really close.. now a few steps, a lot of people.. yess I am at the Tour Eiffel!
Oh my God! So many people and a lot of volunteers trying to not let them pass on the track so we can go to the entrance of the stairs. Cheers and applause on each side, that's nice! I cannot see my friends though. Anyway I run fast, get a ticket for the tower, then get stopped for a fast package control! Luckily, the knife and lighter went unnoticed so I didn't lose time :) Ok let's run on the steps until the first floor, I can do it. 2 steps at a time, fast fast! I am surpassing a lot of tired runners who go slow on the steps! But I can! Ok let's slow down, 1 step at a time, still going fast. It's soo sooo close!! There is the finish line and a woman in front of me, she is much slower than me. Should I surpass her or not? Noo, let's be a gentleman and let her come in front of me.. who cares after 10 hours anyway?
Medal, finisher T-Shirt, photos, happiness, messages to coach and friends!!! Woohooooo I did it!!!! 80km can't believe it!! I am tired but I could keep on running! No cramps, no injuries, good strategy!
Some random pictures taken by professional photographers:
I am really happy and proud of myself right now. There are of course a lot of things to be improved, but more on that later.
Thanks to my coach Alex for all the advice and support before and during the race, thanks to my family who watched me on live tracking from home. Thanks to Alicia and Joe who hosted me and helped me go around Paris and come back home and to my friends Lisa and Juan who were also supporting me and waiting for me at the finish. Congrats to all the runners, congrats to the winner who finished more than 4 hours before me! Congrats to all the 150+ women who were so brave and well trained to run this race! Thanks to the organizers and volunteers, it was awesome!! Chapeau!
Of course, I won't let you now with the complete story untold. At the return to Prague with Air France, I found a seat on line 14 in the aircraft. No more seat on line 13 for me, because there was no line 13 at all! After line 12 there came directly line 14. We had a friendly flight attendant so I asked her why line 13 was missing. She told me that this is a superstition and line 13 is actually missing from every Air France aircraft! Funny French people :))
Last but not least, thanks to my Garmin Forerunner 305 watch which kept with me for more than 10 hours! Unfortunately, the first 50km are not drawn on the map because of the limited internal storage: