Running

How To Participate In Your Hometown Marathon As A Non-Running Runner

As most runners know, it’s incredibly frustrating to be “out of action”, be it self-imposed, or circumstantially determined (i.e. injury). It becomes doubly frustrating when one sees everyone else having all the fun, and leaving one out of it. This was the case for the Ninja Turtle, who had flirted for a moment with the idea of finishing her year with the Marathon Metz Mirabelle, a fall race in the town where the duo live. However, she very sensibly decided to call it a day after the Alesia Trail, as she was beginning to fatigue from her string of summer races, and it’s always smart to finish on a high, before the injuries and burn out set in.

So what’s a runner to do if she wants to participate in a marathon, without actually running in it? Why, volunteer, of course.

It was the first time the Ninja Turtle played the part of a volunteer at a race, and she highly recommends it. It’s a great way to give back to a sport you love, while still playing an active role in the event. Race organisers are always looking for people to lend a hand, as a LOT of work is involved in putting a race together, things that runners may take for granted while they grumble about the cost of registration.

The Ninja Turtle also roped GodzillaPin and Mickey Mouse into lending a hand, of course.

Starting early, before the sun even rises.

Starting early, before the sun even rises.

On race day, around the time when runners were having their pre-race breakfast, getting dressed and ready, the volunteers were already out in the freezing cold and dark, setting up barricades and closing off the streets. They even had the pleasure of turning a police car around (vive la France, eh?).

Setting up the signs at the corrals. Carrying heavy loads make for great cross-training workout.

Setting up the signs at the corrals. Carrying heavy loads make for great cross-training workout.

As dawn broke and the departure area was all good to go, the runners started arriving, first in trickles, and then en masse. Along with them came family members, including many excited children. When one thinks about all the sacrifice involved in preparing to run a marathon – the hours spent in solitary self-flagellation in pursuit of a bizarre goal, runners have a lot to be grateful for, especially loving spouses and family who despite months of living with a cranky stats-obsessed, carb-guzzling, occasionally-irrational I-can’t-walk-to-the-grocery-store-I-have-a-long-run-planned-for-tomorrow nutter, show up anyway to cheer, encourage and support said nutter.

And of course, the volunteers who're always ready on standby to tie your shoelaces, throw your rubbish, hand you a drink, point you to the toilets and tell you how awesome you're doing at Mile 18.

And of course, the volunteers who’re always ready on standby to tie your shoelaces, throw your rubbish, hand you a drink, point you to the toilets, argue with angry drivers to keep the roads safe while you run, and tell you how awesome you’re doing at Mile 18.

GodzillaPin and the Ninja Turtle were in charge of ensuring the separation of the marathon relay runners from the full marathon runners, so they only got to see the departure of the race from the back.

Break a leg, guys!

Break a leg, guys!

But as soon as the marathoners were off, it was time to flag-off the relay runners, and finally the participants of the 7km dash. By that stage, the duo have been running around for 3 hours, but the job’s far from done. They grabbed a black coffee and pastry (given free to the volunteers by the city council) and it was off to the next job: the finishing line.

The first to arrive were the runners of the 7km dash.

All the volunteers were armed with medals, ready to fling over their necks and herd them off as quickly as possible before the marathon runners arrived.

All the volunteers were armed with medals, ready to fling over their necks and herd them off as quickly as possible before the marathon runners arrived.

Some of the volunteers were enjoying the job less than others...

GodzillaPin’s job was standing around, looking beautiful.

But before they did…

There was the "fun" job of unpacking and unfolding the space blankets, because autumn in Metz = winter anywhere else in the world.

There was the “fun” job of unpacking and unfolding the space blankets, because autumn in Metz = winter anywhere else in the world.

One of the most awesome benefits of being a volunteer of course, is the chance to be up close to the action when the elites arrived. The duo had to wear special access passes because of the tight security. The duo got a view even better than some of the media guys.

The first four across the line were Kenyans, and the first French to arrive placed fifth overall.

The first four across the line were Kenyans, and the first French to arrive placed fifth overall.

One of the Kenyans collapsing upon arrival. Not to fear, he received first aid straightaway.

One of the Kenyans collapsing upon arrival. Not to fear, he received first aid straightaway.

The Ninja Turtle's fangirl face. Enjoy it, you'll never see another photo like it. She almost passed out from excitement when she got to wrap one of the Kenyans in a space blanket.

The Ninja Turtle’s fangirl face upon standing face to face with the winner of the Marathon Metz Mirabelle 2015, Mark Tanui. Enjoy it, you’ll never see another photo like it. She almost passed out from excitement when she got to wrap one of the Kenyans in a space blanket.

Of course, between the first arrivals and the next wave, there was a period of calm. The real work started from about 3 hours after the marathon flagged off, which was midday. The runners streamed in at an impossible rate, and the Ninja Turtle found herself running back and forth grabbing more space blankets to throw around these brave souls.

Quick quick, the runners are coming!

Quick quick, the runners are coming!

The finish line of a marathon is full of emotions. As the Ninja Turtle dutifully wrapped runners for a few hours (she finally ran out of steam around 2.20pm), she received several weepy embraces from overwhelmed men and women who’ve completed their first marathons, and no less than salty slobbering kisses from two cheeky, opportunistic middle-aged men.

The last runner to cross the finish line at 5h 51m 54s, a Mdm. Helene Schaff, was as commendable as the winner M. Mark Tanui, who finished in 2h 13m 35s.

Bravo, Madame!

Bravo, Madame!

After almost 8 hours of hard work, the duo went home and passed out.

Although it was the Ninja Turtle's first experience in volunteering at a marathon, it certainly will not be her last.

Although it was the Ninja Turtle’s first experience in volunteering at a marathon, it certainly will not be her last.

Standard
Running

Semi Marathon de Longwy Recap plus SOS Call for Advice from Other Runners

After a summer of travelling around the various mountainous regions of France for trail racing, the Ninja Turtle found herself last Sunday in the town of Longwy, which borders Luxembourg, toeing the starting line of a road race. The event offered up the 10K and a half-marathon distances, and since the Ninja Turtle’s original intention was not to race, as she has another trail coming up in two weeks that she’d like to stay injury-free for, she went with the latter option. She was simply there to get some mileage in for the week, while showing some moral support to a friend.

The Ninja Turtle was going through a weird phase where in spite of, or because of, all the gorgeous landscapes she’s been racing through, running around her little town just didn’t seem to cut it anymore. Quite simply, she was starting to find her running routine boring and was losing motivation at an alarming rate.

Coincidentally, her neighbour Mickey Mouse expressed the intention around the same time to start working on his fitness. A few months ago, GodzillaPin and the Ninja Turtle invited Mickey Mouse along to one of the Turtle’s races. Inspired by the experience and the race day vibes, he was determined to start fighting back against the first signs of middle-age spread and bought himself a pair of runners.

So the Ninja Turtle did what any good neighbour would do – she offered to take Mickey Mouse running. Mickey Mouse would get the guidance that he needed, while the Ninja Turtle got to re-kindle her passion for running by sharing her knowledge with someone. How’s that for a win-win?

Mickey Mouse played a lot of sports, especially soccer, in his younger days. He’s blessed with a pretty good baseline fitness, doesn’t smoke nor drink to excess, so it was merely a question of getting him back into a regular routine. Just to ensure Mickey Mouse would truly commit, the Ninja Turtle gave him six weeks to train up for his first-ever 10K road race.

The first time they ran together, the Turtle brought him to their local park and after a 5K warm-up followed by 5 sets of hill sprints, Mickey Mouse was pooped. He started expressing mild concerns for the 10K distance, but the Turtle was unfazed. Mickey Mouse has a motor mouth, and if he wasn’t talking during 95% of their run, he’d probably have a lot more wind to do some actual running.

Not long after, the Ninja Turtle told Mickey Mouse that they’d aim for the 10K, but not worry about the speed. Sure enough, by the 8th kilometre, Mickey Mouse was talking a lot less, while the Ninja Turtle took over the talking, alternating between distracting him with nonsense and cheerleading him with encouraging phrases. They made it to 10km in just under 1h 3min, and the Ninja Turtle was satisfied.

For the final session before race day, the Ninja Turtle once again got Mickey Mouse to aim for 10K, but said they’d be aiming for a negative split out-and-back. The Canal de Jouy was the perfect training ground for this – on one side of the river meant for cyclists, it’s trail-like with sand, soft dirt, roots, holes in the ground and stones, while the other side designed for joggers, the ground is smooth, even and flat. Unused to the challenges of a varied terrain, Mickey Mouse was the quietest he’d ever been (at any rate, the quietest that the Ninja Turtle has ever known him to be) as he focused 100% on running without tripping and falling. Several times throughout the run, the Ninja Turtle checked in to see how he was feeling, and when they got to 6 miles, the Turtle yelled “sprint time!” and they did a lung-busting 400m fast-finish.

Mickey Mouse was as ready as he was ever going to be.

Race day approached, and the trio valiantly woke at 7.00am. After only 4 hours of sleep (because her neighbours upstairs were doing unspeakable things at 3am in the morning and the noise prohibited sleep until they stopped) the Ninja Turtle wasn’t feeling very flash. Two cups of coffee later, GodzillaPin was driving the 70km to the starting line. Early start aside, it was overcast, windy, and en route, it started pouring. The Ninja Turtle could only hope that Mickey Mouse wasn’t completely discouraged. Thankfully, the rain had stopped when they reached the starting line.

About 300 runners at the 10K and Semi-marathon de Longwy on 13 Sep 2015.

About 300 runners at the 10K and Semi-marathon de Longwy on 13 Sep 2015.

Despite it being the 37th edition, the Semi-Marathon de Longwy was terribly organised, and the Ninja Turtle will never run it again, nor does she recommend the race to anyone. The organiser’s website offered no information on starting time and place, which she found on another website. Driving into town, there were no signage of the event, let alone mile markers and signage to the starting line and bib collection. Showing up at Place Darche, she had to approach another runner to ask where bib collection was, only to be told it was at the Uni building about 2km away. GodzillaPin drove the gang for bib collection, where the volunteers didn’t even bother looking at, or collecting their medical certificates, before driving back to Place Darche for warm-ups and the start.

Mickey Mouse's first race experience. Had they trained enough for the event?

Mickey Mouse’s first race experience. Had they trained enough for the event?

While speaking with another runner at the starting line, the Ninja Turtle learnt that the race was to finish at the Uni building where they’d collected their bibs. So after the starting gun fired, the Ninja Turtle was less focused on running, and more busy trying to locate GodzillaPin to make sure he knew this piece of information.

The Ninja Turtle making sure GodzillaPin knew he had to meet them at the Uni building for the finish, because he has a tendency to daydream or get hopelessly lost, missing a lot of the Ninja Turtle's finish line moments.

Found him! The Ninja Turtle making sure GodzillaPin knew he had to meet them at the Uni building for the finish, because he has a tendency to daydream or get hopelessly lost, missing a lot of the Ninja Turtle’s finish line moments. Also, a quick kiss for luck!

The Ninja Turtle spent the first few kilometres trying to warm up. Despite those ridiculously pink gloves (hey, it was the only colour available in kids size at the store), her hands were freezing, as the wind had picked up and the rain started again. She marvelled at the runners in tank tops and shorts while she was sporting her winter undergarment and a windbreaker. About 4.7km in, as they approached the halfway mark and where the 10K route diverges from that of the half-marathon, she was finally warm enough to take the gloves and windbreaker off. Mickey Mouse was still in sight, about 150 yards ahead of her, looking pretty strong.

Looking at her TomTom watch, the Ninja Turtle did a double-take. At the rate she was going, she was due to reach 5K in just over 25 minutes, which would mean a PR for the distance. In any other circumstances, this would have been cause to celebrate, but setting a 5K PR in a half-marathon race is not only insane, it’s downright stupid. The Ninja Turtle slowed down and reached 5K in 26 minutes, which actually, was still a PR.

Don’t panic, she thought to herself as she approached the first water station. Slow down, drink some water, catch your breath, regroup.

“What are you doing? Keep running, don’t stop! You can throw the cups along the side of the road!” one of the volunteers at the water station yelled at her. Chastised, the Ninja Turtle continued.

With the 10K runners gone, the adrenaline and pressure to run fast! dropped a couple of notches, and the half-marathon runners exited Longwy, starting down a country road. The Ninja Turtle was a little afraid to look at the GPS HRM watch. She was no longer sure what the strategy of the race was. She had fully intended to take it 100% easy, given the niggles she was experiencing in her right heel (new problem) and her left knee (old problem). She also failed to execute her pre-race BM (big problem), and was paranoid that running too hard was going to result in a mess (literally). The change in pace and scenery helped her relax a little and she tried to sing along to her playlist.

Towards the 9th kilometre, the runners entered a forest and by the 10th kilometre, the Ninja Turtle couldn’t resist taking another peek at her watch. 53 minutes 17 seconds! That’s another PR, and suddenly, the Ninja Turtle decided to stop piss-farting around and take the race a little more seriously. At this rate she was going, she could very possible break the 2-hour mark (her last 21.1km was completed in 2h 01m 12s and she finished the race in the medical tent after her blood pressure plummeted upon crossing the finish line).

The next fuel station was at the 11th kilometre, after a steep descent of about 13%, where the Ninja Turtle finally got to put her trail experience to good use as she gleefully overtook 4 runners. Old habits died hard, however, as she stopped a minute for 2 cups of water and 2 handfuls of raisins, in no real hurry to continue. The volunteer raised an eyebrow and tapped at his watch. The Ninja Turtle left in a huff.

The next part of the race wound through the town of Gorcy, where a handful of spectators had come out to cheer the runners on, but a majority of the townsfolk just went about their usual Sunday business. The exit of Gorcy was where the organisers warned was the beginning of a steep climb for the runners, going uphill for the next 3.5km. The Ninja Turtle kept her head down and focused on her breathing, mentally prepping for the climb and thinking of no one and nothing except the possibility of a sub-2 half-marathon.

After 800m of a gentle uphill slope, the Ninja Turtle noticed she’d overtaken 3 other runners, and looked up ahead. She was still waiting for the steep hill to make its appearance. Sure, they were gaining elevation, but it was no more steep than the roads of GodzillaPin’s home village. By the time she’d reached the next fuel station at 15km for 2 more cups of water, she was halfway through said “massive climb”, and that was when she realised just how much her trail running had skewed her expectations. She’s used to crawling up cliffsides at 3kph, and for once, it was a pleasure to be moving along at 10kph on the toughest climb of a race.

The last kilometre of the climb saw her overtaking 6 runners, three of them women and all of them sporting running club T-shirts. She won’t deny it, she felt a little bit pleased with herself.

As the runners re-entered the town of Longwy, the Ninja Turtle got one final kick up the backside at the water station. She’d stopped for another 2 cups of water and 2 handfuls of raisins, but this time, she needed a little rest to catch her breath. Her vision was starting to blur a little and she was feeling a little nauseated, so when the volunteer shouted “come on, you have 4km left, don’t loiter around here”, she was tempted to throw a fistful of dried fruit in his face.

Instead, she nodded weakly and continued. Looking at her GPS watch, it read 1h30m. She’d completed 17km in the time it usually takes her to run 15km. Her mind too weak to do complicated sums by this stage, but she noted that even if she dropped to 8kph (5mph), she’d still meet her 2-hour goal. A part of her wanted to slow down until she wasn’t seeing double, another part wanted to see just what she was capable of. Miserably undecided, she decided to stop overthinking and just run, and that she wouldn’t look at her watch again until the race was done.

Back in town, the spectators were still hanging around in clusters. The children in particular, were incredibly enthusiastic, and in this final stretch, the Ninja Turtle received no less than a dozen high-fives from the kids. In fact, she had no qualms slowing down to properly high-five the young ones, because each time she got one, it was like a health-pack in a video game that turbo charges her speed for the next 100m. The good: she overtook another 5 runners in the last 2 miles. The bad: only one out of those five was a woman, and she looked way older than the Turtle, which meant no change to the category ranking. The ugly: the woman was very upset about being overtaken, and even with her earphones on, the Ninja Turtle could hear her bursting into sobs and she started yelling at her husband, who was running alongside her.

The last kilometre brought a surprise and a mental boost the Ninja Turtle badly needed. She was so dizzy and nauseated that she almost missed GodzillaPin!

True love is hiding in the bushes and jumping out to scare your partner when they're about to vomit from running so darn hard.

True love is hiding in the bushes and jumping out to scare your partner when they’re about to vomit from running so darn hard, then running alongside them saying “allez allez, you are almost at the end!”

“You’re doing awesome, babe!”
“I think I’m going to be sick.”
“You just have to reach the Uni, you’re almost there.”
“My mouth feels claggy. I got raisins stuck in my teeth. I want to sit down.”

The runners had to loop around the track before crossing the finish line, and the Ninja Turtle gave the last few hundred yards everything she got.

Smiling for the camera but inside, she was screaming "are we there yet?! how can 100m be so goddamn far?"

Smiling for the camera but inside, she was screaming “are we there yet?! how can 100m be so goddamn far?”

No medical tent this time round, but the Ninja Turtle did treat herself to a 5-second sit down on the grass once she crossed the finish line. Sweet reprieve after being chased away from every water station, but she was once again hurried away to make room for other runners coming in. GodzillaPin was there waiting with a big grin and the most romantic phrase ever uttered “bravo baby, you were running really fast!”

The Ninja Turtle was in a hurry to look for Mickey Mouse. Unsurprisingly, she found him outside the Uni building, gasbagging at a group of poor innocents who’d done nothing to deserve it. The Ninja Turtle interrupted his soliloquy, and he looked genuinely surprised to see the duo.

“Oh my goodness, you’re looking in great shape for someone who’s just completed a half-marathon! You don’t even look tired at all!”
“Go to hell. How did you do? How are you feeling? What was your finishing time?”
“I was completely dead at the end. GodzillaPin saw me as I crossed the finishing line, I think I had my tongue out.”

And so he did.

And so he did.

Mickey Mouse had finished the 10K in a remarkable time of 52 minutes and 54 seconds. For a first-time racer with only 6 weeks of training, it was a pretty impressive performance. The Ninja Turtle was immensely proud of Mickey Mouse completing the race, but more so by the fact that he’d expressed the desire to race again.

As for the Ninja Turtle, she’s added yet another PR to her 2015 racing calendar – 1h 52m 40s for a half-marathon distance. She knows she ought to be happy, but she’s been feeling strangely indifferent (and physically sore). When one goes into a race treating it like a training run, and then beating an ad-hoc time goal determined mid-race by over 7 minutes, the brain has problems interpreting the situation. With a trail race coming up on 27 Sep, she’s spent the week foam-rolling, massaging and stretching. Perhaps with deeper reflection, the finish time will take on some meaning, and she’ll know what to make of it.

How do you recover from a half-marathon?

What advice would you give the Ninja Turtle with regards to her racing attitude, strategy and performance?

Standard
Food, Travel

A Visit to the Confiserie des Haut Vosges (CDHV)

When discussing French gastronomy, it’s not hard to guess what immediately comes to mind. The trifecta of “wine, cheese and breads” are the usual suspects, closely followed by breakfast pastries, funky foods – mostly along the lines of terrines and patés, frog’s legs, escargots, steak tartare, and what someone once described as “actually, not far from dog food”.

Be that as it may… one man’s meat is another man’s poison, n’est-ce pas?

What may come as a surprise however, is how partial the French are to their sweets, or bonbons, as they call them over here. We’re not talking about gâteaux like a fondant au chocolat or a Paris-Brest, nor desserts like a clafoutis or a crème brûlée, nor pastries like an éclair or a kouign-amman, nor biscuits like a macaron or a tuile, but actual sweets.

Or candy if you’re from the USA. Or lollies if you’re Australian. Yes, sweets.

How fond exactly, of sweets, are the French, you might wonder? Well, consider this – statistics from the Syndicat National de la Confiserie (yeah, they actually have a national candy organisation) state that in 2013, the French spent a total of 1,070 million€, to consume 222 200 tonnes of sweets. Over a billion euros. On average, a French person would consume 3.3kg (or 7.27lbs) of chocolates, dragées, nougats, pâtes de fruits, marzipan and chewing gum per year. For those interested in a full breakdown of stats, click here.

Little wonder then, that the Confiserie Des Haut Vosges is the fifth most visited enterprise in all of France.

GodzillaPin, eager to indulge his sweet tooth.

GodzillaPin, eager to indulge his sweet tooth.

Having sampled and bought the CDHV goodies many times before, at various Christmas markets and local fares, the duo simply couldn’t resist a visit to the factory in Plainfaing when they were in the area for the Ninja Turtle’s trail race in the Vosges. Hey, carb-loading, right? And since sugars are carbs, who’s to argue with science?

Entry was free and open to all, and the visit included a quick tour with a demonstration of the candy-making process. The team were highly professional and explained the process well, BUT… it was all conducted in French. That said, the factory does welcome international visitors, and there were brochures and pamphlets in English, German (and maybe Italian if one remembers rightly?) At any rate, it’s a great place to bring the kids who need an extra incentive to brush up on the French!

20150822_144825

Once the factory tour was complete, visitors proceed to the museum.

Traditional copper pots on display. These were called "cul de poule", which translates to "ass of chicken" (I kid you not).

Traditional copper pots on display. These were called “cul de poule”, which translates to “ass of chicken”. Truly.

The visit ended in the candy store, where GodzillaPin and the Ninja Turtle spent so much money, the shop gave them a free environmentally-friendly reusable bag to carry all their goodies in, plus three free bags of candy, because of course, the 15 they bought were not enough. After all, with a 3.3kg of candy consumption target each to meet, they’ll need all the sugar they can get to fulfil their patriotic obligation!

Standard
Arts and Culture

Art Around Town (Metz, France)

After taking four days off to recover from the Trail des Passerelles, the Ninja Turtle ventured outside for her first run as the weather was just too darn nice to stay indoors. Her quads are still incredibly sore from the downhills so it was slow going; she kept to a route close to home (just in case she needed to cut the run short from too much pain) which meant sticking to within the city.

Now that Europe is thrown into the height of summer, there are endless activities and free entertainment lined up. Metz Plage started two days ago; that’s the “urban beach” where a whole pile of sand is dumped somewhere to re-create a beach atmosphere for those who live only about 8 hours from the closest real beach.

There’s currently a series of open air art exhibitions displayed in various venues too – gardens seem to be a favourite exhibition spot. So as the Ninja Turtle shuffled towards the end of her easy 5-miler, she chanced upon this pretty cool series:

?

20150724_122320

20150724_122258

20150724_122306

20150724_122329

20150724_122340

Standard
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!

Standard
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?

Standard