Running

Race #1 of the season: Course des 3 côtes, Nouilly

Before they proceed to the main part of this post, the Ninja Turtle and GodzillaPin would like to wish their readers Happy Chinese New Year! May the year of the Goat/Sheep bring you all happiness, prosperity, success, abundance, wealth, joy, good grades at school, great progress at work, etc etc etc. ~fin preamble~ (The Ninja Turtle really missed home this year for CNY – it was freezing cold, foggy and there are so little Chinese people in Metz, the only celebrations were discounts for exotic food in her supermarket, and after a particularly cold morning run, she came home to no water in the mains so she couldn’t shower for hours; the year can only get better from there, right? Right?)

After months of terribly unsexy training (i.e. too many miles, not enough fast), the Ninja Turtle found herself at the starting line of her first race. Granted, 22 February is a bit early for spring race, since spring for the French is still another month away, but she figured it wouldn’t hurt to start tuning up for the big one. It’s her cut-back week so her LSD for today was only 10 miles, which was exactly the distance of the race, hooray!

As the name says, the Course des 3 côtes is a race featuring three hills in a little village called Nouilly. Total elevation: 360m (1188 feet).

Warming up (under the sun and on the treadmill!)

Warming up (under the sun and on the treadmill!)

As is evident in the photo, the runners were blessed with fabulous weather for the race. At 3 degrees Celsius, it was coldish, but the wind speed was a reasonable 15kph, and under the sun, with 3 layers of clothes, it was almost tropical!

Toeing the starting line with a single digit bib number! This is the closest the Ninja Turtle will ever get to pretending she is a pro.

Toeing the starting line with a single digit bib number! This is the closest the Ninja Turtle will ever get to pretending she is an elite runner. (In small village races, the numbers are assigned at point of registration, so it simply meant she was fast to put her name on the list.)

There were 2 categories: 9.5km and 16km. With 400+ runners, the organisers didn't bother with corrals; the runners in the two categories were all mixed up too. The Ninja Turtle was still daydreaming when the MC said "GO!", and was swept off in a sea of eager runners.

There were 2 categories: 9.5km and 16km. With 400+ runners, the organisers didn’t bother with corrals; the runners in the two categories were all mixed up too. The Ninja Turtle was still daydreaming when the MC said “GO!”, and was swept off in a sea of eager runners.

It’s been months since the Ninja Turtle last raced, and she’s forgotten what it felt like to run with a pack. Despite the many solitary months and miles of shuffling to her own pace, the urge to keep up is still strong, and she made the cardinal mistake of going off faster than planned. Yet, she’s also become very in tune with her own rhythm, so after the first 2km, she fell back to a comfortable pace. If there was one single observation she’s made throughout the whole race, it is this: not only is she no longer afraid of hills, she’s actually quite good at tackling them!

Recall, this was a race of 3 hills, and it was at each and every one of these buggers where she overtook at least 10 runners each time. While others were wheezing hard, she cruised by, upwards and onwards, very comfortably. After all, her goal was not to win, nor even to place a position in this race – she’s still recovering from last Sunday’s 38.5km, and she’s got 8 miles lined up for tomorrow. So, it was a cruise-y, breezy run.

And yet, look at her splits!

And yet, look at her splits! (Speed is in kph.)

After months of training at a maximum speed of ~6mph (9.6kph), she’s pretty darn pleased with this outcome! She’s really getting the hang of saving up for the final kick. Nothing like the look of shock on the faces of the men who’d passed her before, being “chicked” in the final couple of kilometres. Her official time was 1h 28m 02s for the 10 miles (16K), which is definitely a new PB for her.

Racing to the finish line. The Turtle came across this gentleman, who was walking 800m from the finish line! She slowed down to chat and to give him some encouragement. When he got his second wind, he picked up his pace, and gave her a good run for her money.

Racing to the finish line. The Turtle came across this gentleman, who was walking 800m from the finish line! She slowed down to chat and to give him some encouragement. When he got his second wind, he picked up his pace, and gave her a good run for her money.

All in all, it was a happy start to the season. The Ninja Turtle keeps saying to herself that this is but a small race, and step number one leading up to her big race later in spring. But she’d be lying if she didn’t admit she really enjoyed the run, and she’s enjoying the results even more!

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Running

Specificity – Or Something Close to It

Training by specificity is a very fancy and technical way of saying “you get better at something by practising, and the more you do it, the better you get”. It’s the reason why marathon runners need to include some training runs at marathon pace. It’s also the reason why sometimes, you get really well, duh sounding advice like “if you want to run faster, you need to learn to run faster”. Mimicking your race day conditions (to the best of your ability – there is nothing one can do about the weather) and rehearsing as often as possible will make it that much easier, which is why some coaches believe this to be one of the most important principles in performing on race day.

Except.

It’s hard to mimic the conditions of an unfamiliar trail race, in an unfamiliar part of the country/world. So, the next best thing to do is to find the hardest landscape within vicinity, and train on it, keeping your fingers tightly crossed that it’d be enough preparation for the big day. In the best case scenario, it’d be an ass-kicking terrain and you’re well-prepared for the race. In the worst case scenario, you’re simply less ill-prepared. It’s highly unlikely that anyone can be over-prepared for anything.

So this weekend, the Ninja Turtle took to the hills – literally – on her LSD.

Her first goal was Mont Saint Quentin, and this was the view from above. There was a group of runners sadistically punishing themselves with this hill on a sunny Sunday morning, so the Turtle slowed down to have a chat with a few of them. Who said long distance running was lonely?

Her first goal was Mont Saint Quentin, and this was the view from above. There was a group of runners sadistically punishing themselves with this hill on a sunny Sunday morning, so the Turtle slowed down to have a chat with a few of them. Who said long distance running was lonely?

Scy-Chazelle, where the Maison de Robert Schumann (one of the co-founders of post WWII modern Europe) is situated. It's also one of the villages along the Route des Vins (wine route). Moselle produces some lovely white wines.

Scy-Chazelles, where the Maison de Robert Schumann (one of the co-founders of post WWII modern Europe) is situated. It’s also one of the villages along the Route des Vins (wine route). Moselle produces some lovely white wines.

In the forest coming down Mont St Germain. What do you do when faced with obstacles like a giant fallen tree? You hurdle over it of course! (Nah, kidding. The Ninja Turtle's 5 foot 1, so she easily passed under, although other runners may have to do the limbo).

In the forest coming down Mont St Germain. What do you do when faced with obstacles like a giant fallen tree? You hurdle over it of course! (Nah, kidding. The Ninja Turtle’s 5 foot 1, so she easily passed under, although other runners may have to do the limbo).

Running insanely long distances like that have one huge advantage. Once a runner is able to overcome the scary, horrible idea of “I have to do x km today”, the obligation turns into an opportunity. “I have x km to explore!” See, fundamentally, we’re all explorers, and deep inside, there resides the kernel of curiosity as to what lies beyond the hill, or even just around the corner. The Ninja Turtle didn’t have to worry about sticking to familiar routes and having to turn back; GodzillaPin had offered to pick her up from anywhere in case she’d gone too far. This gave the Ninja Turtle license to go out literally as far as her prescribed training distance, without worrying about making it back, if she didn’t want to. Hence, the hills, the forests, the little villages, etc.

Crazily enough, the green parts of the map on Lessy and Chatel Saint Germain were all forest hills, and the one in Lessy is part of the GR5 route (stretching from the Netherlands to Switzerland). It was hauntingly beautiful to be alone in the woods.

Crazily enough, the green parts of the map on Lessy and Chatel Saint Germain were all forest hills, and the one in Lessy is part of the GR5 route (stretching from the Netherlands to Switzerland). It was hauntingly beautiful to be alone in the woods.

P.S (She made it home on her own two feet, by the way! As she staggered through the door after climbing 3 flights of steps to their apartment, she was greeted with the most amazing smell of food – GodzillaPin had very thoughtfully cooked her  potatoes and homemade bolognaise sauce. If that isn’t true love, not sure what it is. To show her appreciation, she demolished all 2kg of it within half an hour.)

How do you train for a trail race?

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