On Sunday, I ran the Paris Marathon with a time of 4:34:11, two seconds off my PR. I am not angry at my time, but I am disappointed that once again, my asthma has killed my chances of having a good race. The time is really not important to me and a minute or so PR would have left me more frustrated, as I know I am much faster than this. But when you basically run the last half of the race at easy pace and almost PR after an asthma attack, there are some good things to take away from this exercise, right?
Two years ago, I registered for the Paris Marathon, only to have my husband switch jobs and canceling our vacation because he was unable to take the time off. So, this race has been on my sights for a while. The race is always held on the first weekend of April, unless that week is Easter week, in which case it moves to the second weekend. Unfortunately, I managed to register the year where Easter fell on race day so I ran a week later with much warmer weather (the weather last week was gorgeous). In fact, I am glad it was rainy and cloudy on Saturday; otherwise, race day weather would've been worse.
I decided to make this my goal race for the Spring, especially after the Space Coast Marathon and Chicago, both the faster marathons I had run in close to 2 years and a huge improvement from before and after my surgery. So, I quit most of my marathons after Disney, canceled my 50 miler race, and concentrated on this race. I ran Disney much faster than I expected, even after running a HM the day before, so I knew I had a good chance to improve and maybe PR. If you had asked me in January whether I would be running the paces I am running now and had a chance at a huge PR, I would have called you crazy.
Training went perfectly. I improved in leaps and bounds. Even while training for the DNF 2013 Chicago Marathon, my paces were not this fast. My current PR pace is my GA pace now and I was able to run tempo paces without asthma issues. The weather in Miami from January to early March cooperated with that. We finally had some Winter weather in the mid 60s and 70s, and low humidity. My asthma was nonexistent and my breathing capacity jumped from 450 to 500 (peak flow meter numbers, not sure what this means as a percentage). Based upon my workouts and the HM I ran with 5 easy and 8 at MP that felt like a walk in the park, we had an idea of where I would be if I run a marathon. Remember, the heart rate does not lie. And then, taper started.
The first thing that happened during taper was that my chest got congested. The weather here turned to shit and my asthma woke up after that. I twisted my foot on the Monday before the race and it was hurting on and off especially after the flight in (however, it was not even an issue during the race). However, and I think the most crucial thing that happened was on the Tuesday of the race. Someone at the office thought that painting the samples for the renovation on that day would be a great idea, even if I was at the office at the time. I had asked to be told whenever the renovation was ongoing so that I could make arrangements to either work from home, work from Broward, or take the day off. But someone thought painting samples would not be a big deal. I don't blame them; I never thought painting samples in the walls would hurt my lungs like it did. My congestion went ballistic. I never got a clear chest after Tuesday. But, meh, I have been here before and ran Chicago, Space Coast and Disney congested, it wouldn't be worse, right? RIGHT? So, I went to Paris knowing this might not be the goal race I wanted but still optimistic. After all, I had my Krispy Kreme and Mtn Dew, what else would I need?
Since my husband didn't have too much time available, we flew on Thursday night, arriving into Paris on Friday at noonish, and left Monday afternoon. We have been to Paris once before, so we made the best of it with the time we had. We missed a couple of things we wanted to do but I suspect this will not be our last trip there (not if I can help it, LOL). I asked hubby to find a hotel near the race, or at least a train ride away. We found one in the 7th Arrondissement, near the Eiffel Tower, my favorite monument. In fact, we had the chance to get a hotel room with a view of La Tour, and we took that chance. This is the view from my room:
The fact that the hotel was really affordable was a plus. It was also a very nice boutique hotel with only 5 rooms per floor and 6 floors.
Once we were in Paris, we headed to the Expo, to pick up my packet and look around the expo. I had heard the expo was bigger than Boston and, although I have not gone to the Boston expo, this was really the biggest marathon expo I have been at, including NY, Miami, and Berlin (the biggest ones I have seen). I picked my number and found myself on the athlete's wall, probably the second time my name was up there but the first time I was there to see it:
After the Expo, we walked around the city, got an early dinner at a nearby restaurant (the are where we stayed had at least 15 restaurants in a half mile radius) and went to bed early. We were exhausted, especially since the seats we chose for the flight were by the galley (the plane map didn't show that). We never slept a wink since there was always something going on in that area all night.
Saturday was very cloudy, windy, and rainy. It had the perfect marathon weather if the race was on that day, except the wind. I knew the clouds and rain would help on Sunday, because the forecasts varied all week from a high of 70F to a high of 68F. The low depended on Saturday's weather. We continued visiting sights and enjoyed the city. Visited my favorite place (The Eiffel Tower) and had lunch in one of the restaurants there (not the big expensive Jules Verne but one located on the second level). That was a neat experience. Since my corral start at 9:30am and I had to be there at 9am, I went to bed at 11-12am (my usual) and tried to sleep. I went to bed with a migraine and because of that, I woke up very dehydrated.
I tried to hydrate as much as I could without issue, but there is so much you can do with only 3 hours until race day and not wanting to stop for the restrooms along the way. We arrived at the Arc de Triomphe a bit before 9am, visited the restrooms, and headed to the corrals. The race has 54,000 athletes, yet it is very well organized. But our corral was full and it took me almost 20 minutes to make it into it. My corral started after 9:40am. The bandanna was for the tunnel; I am glad I brought it since I needed it.
From the get go, I felt bad. I knew it all week but I didn't want to accept the fact that this was not going to be a good day. So, after my first mile felt off, I switched to my long trusted HR view and kept it there, trying to keep my HR in check. The first 9 miles were towards the sun. There was no shade and no respite from it. It was sunny as hell, but there was no wind (thankfully). I was never clustered between runners (except for a few areas with only 1-2 lanes of traffic for athletes) and I didn't have to pass a lot of runners throughout the race. I love the fact that the race provides 33cl water bottles at every 5K point, which are easily carried throughout the race and provide sufficient fluids, unless you are very dehydrated like me (more info on this later).
The first water station was a nightmare (at the 5K point). The street goes from 4 lanes to two and there was a cluster of people trying to get a bottle of water. It took me around 30 seconds to get one and start my trek out of the cluster. That was the story for all water stations. The first half of the race went without incident, except I was getting slower and slower and I knew something was going to happen eventually. I just wanted to postpone it to the later part of the race.
Miles 1-5: 9:51, 9:32, 9:29, 9:38, 9:46 (water station)
Miles 6-10: 9:34, 9:42 (uphill), 9:36, 9:55 (uphill), 10:16 (water station)
Miles 11-13: 9:44, 9:55, 9:56 (2:08 for the HM point)
At this point, the rolling hills are gone, or so I hoped, but I still had the tunnel which could hurt my asthma. I was so worried about the tunnel all throughout the race, I missed the signs of an asthma attack at Mile 14. My HR went up at least 10bpms and there it was. Cough, cough.... After I stopped for a bit to breathe, I continued on but slowed down the pace. The tunnel was somewhere between Miles 16 and 17 but thankfully, the pollution and smog in there was not as bad as I expected. Besides, the damage was done; the asthma attack was there. Right then and there, I decided to just phone it in. I knew I was going to finish around my PR and at that point, after an asthma attack, there is no point in pushing. It became a game of survival, one foot in front of the other, don't you dare have another attack, type of thing. Even running at easy pace felt hard after the attack (and my HR was still high), so I made the right call.
Miles 14-16: 10:07, 10:03, 10:20
Around Mile 16, I got a side stitch, just like I did during Space Coast. It lasted until the end of the race. Whether my prednisone had something to do with it, I am not sure, but I have only taken Prednisone twice for a race and both races have had bad side stitches, so coincidence or not? I didn't walk as did during Space Coast but I had to slow down during those miles where the side stitch was worse (or when the breathing got worse).
Miles 17-20: 11:09 (water station), 10:29, 10:51, 11:01
Miles 21-23: 10:35, 11:29, 11:38 (water station)
Miles 24-26.2: 11:35, 11:11, 11:49 (water station), 10:05
The course changed a bit so we didn't run under the Eiffel Tower like some pics of the event show, but running towards the Arch at the end of the race was awesome! All the sights throughout the race were neat as well.
That if I had not stopped at the last water station, I would've PRd? Yes. Do I care? No. I don't want a few seconds PR, especially in a race I did this poorly. I know I am way faster than what I ran on Sunday. I am not even sore! So, really, I want my PR to come on race much like my current PR, on a perfect day with no asthma, when I feel invincible.
After the race we continued walking around Paris (I walked all day and my legs were fine), and enjoyed some recovery drinks to feel better:
And that on my face is sunburn!
Thanks for reading!