DISCLAIMER: below the English translation from a RR originally composed in French. Both English and French are foreign languages to me and the result below might be a bit wobbly. MEA CULPA!
Should you have any questions pls don’t hesitate to contact me directly.
In late September I decided not to cancel my registration for the Nice Cannes Marathon five weeks later. I was aware that I would have to try going over the distance without any specific training, just a few longish 12-15 mile runs, twice a few hours after the 10k races I currently focus on. The basic idea is to make it slowly over the 26 miles to gain my ticket to Boston 2011 (there are only three races in France which are internationally certified).
I arrived in Cannes Thursday night, went to Nice to get my race package on Friday morning (race expo well organized as usual by Azur Sport). Right before having lunch on a terrace overlooking the Cours Saleya (the weather is just marvellous). We returned home using the marathon route in order to check out changes since 2008: an addition of a flat loop just after the St. Lawrence River in a residential neighborhood. Nice. An odd zigzag behind Marina Baie des Anges and a more direct and hence much nicer entry to Cannes. The big disappointment however is that the double beast at the Cap d’Antibes remains. Despite of what the race’s website is saying this course is neither flat nor fast.
Too bad, but I can’t change it – anyways my one and only objective is to finish in the 3h45min59sec for my BQ (Boston Qualify) for women between 35 and 39. And without any specific training it would be suicidal to try anything faster, the task at hand is already daunting as it is.
I compensate the lack of training by an exemplary lifestyle starting two weeks before the race I try to get at least seven hours of sleep per night. Huge!
Friday evening : very nice dinner with the Ms (Loic and Chrystellem) and the Slo (Flower and JoeOne), Tiga is missing, he had to stay in Paris – someone has to work.
Saturday is dedicated to rest and mapping out every kilometre of the race With so little practice nothing must anything left to chance, improvisation is not possible.
Sunday 7am FE “kikouresque” at the usual place. An impressive team of kikoux, only Bambi looks like a hobo. Around 7:15 the little group is dispersing, some leave their bags at the buses, others are joining the rather short queues for the toilets. Quick warm up, a few stretches and I enter my corral where I layer off the old clothes I am wearing.
The noise of the helicopter announces the start of the countdown has started and I recheck everything: gels, energy tabs, laces, Suunto, shuffle, cap, my small bottle of energy drink going to be emptied over the first five ks. I stopped drinking an hour before departure to avoid overhydration and technical stops during the race. The weather is perfect: 9 ° C, overcast, northerly wind of not more than 1 bft.
Apparently the start has been given, things move in front of me (I did not hear anything) and we follow slowly. It takes little while before we cross the start line and it moves very slowly. We shuffle slowly forward at 5min30 first, at 5min20 later; the road is really free after some 500m.
I focus on my stride, trying to find the right slow motion rhythm; a new day has come in my ipod. I start drinking from my bottle. For me the worst of a marathon is to supply my body with. All along I have to force myself to swallow a gel or energy tab every 5km. And there we are already at the 5km mark, right in front of the airport in Nice 24min54, my bottle is empty and thrown into the big bin. We continue our path right next to the calm blue sea. The 12 km mark past in 1h00min50sec, as expected. The Pacemakers of 3:30 and his pack passed me long ago, can not shuffle around at 12kmh if you want to do 3:30 on this course.
After running along the sea for quiet a while through St Laurent du Var and Cagnes sur Mer we enter the small residential street at the entry of Villeneuve Loubet, a short, flat round trip to the A8 and back, I am pleasantly surprised to see so many people in their gardens or on their balconies to cheer at us – it is only 9am, on a Sunday morning and the weather is rather cold and ugly for the locals used to much nice sunshine. It’s nice to see such enthusiasm for us, low level athletes that Lorraine Millot insulted as big asses
The 15k mark, which I pass in 1h16min33, lies inside a strange zig zag behind the Marina Baie des Anges. Nothing annoying, it was very flat so far. My heartbeat at 165 shows that I am still in pure endurance. Last straight line right next to the sea ahead before the the trouble starts. We can already see the old town of Antibes. Beatiful sight. I pass the HM in 1:48. I am bored by so much slowness. Until the HM mark I restrained myself and I am overtaken all the time, very annoying but as usual it will pay later in the race. First short but steep ascent up to the old town of Antibes. Even without sun, the scenery is simply breathtaking, it must be the five hundredth time I see this sight and still. Far in the east we see the Promenade des Anglais in Nice where we started our journey this morning. Above it the snowy white Southern Alps shining. was held on departure, in the West the Cap d’Antibes, the next stage of our trip. All this against the beautiful facade of old old of Antibes.
Quick descent and here we go, slow ascent above the beautiful red rock creeks to the Cap d’Antibes. And that’s where I finally start passing other runners as I keep going at constant speed, relief, so much more fun. An ambulance passes, I hope it’s nothing serious.
Like last year nobody cheers at us at the Cap d’Antibes, I guess we smell too badly or for the people who live here or maybe we just do not fit their world. In my ears the other one is singing Je marche seul, and yes, as usual I’m all alone on my way, no pacesetter, no help. My journey, my race.
Km 27, left turn, right turn and hop the double beast. I grab some water, pour down a caffeine gel ( to make sure to be “up to speed” poste the 30k mark) and walks a few tens of meters: Bambi is sulking the double beast, am as annoyed as last year, how do they dare calling the course flat ?! We turn right, run down a quick descent and turn left to tackle the ascent to the highest point of the race at the 28k mark.
I continue to pass runners on my way up the hill. Finally the 28k mark: here begins the last third of the race and I prepare for the final acceleration, no more need to hold back my forces, am slaloming around those who are licking their wounds, stretching their cramps etc. I feel fresh and light, my legs gallop all alone.
My heart rate is still at 165 and I’m happy because I can already see the Pointe Croisette at the end of the bay. And there at the horizon I think I see Heartbreak Hill. As expected I overtake a few more people along the road to Juan le Pin, 30k mark is passed in 2:36, the last 9 km were covered in 5:20 pace slightly faster than expected. I still have 70 minutes left to cover the last 12km. I force myself not to let myself be overwhelmed by this « in the pocket » feeling but I inwardly rejoice. Not smart, but human.
Far ahead of me I see the Lerins islands. Flat course until the 35km mark, I take advantage of it despite the head wind And as usual I will lose my balance in the only pothole located between Nice and Cannes, it reminds me that I really do not know a lot about running and the road ahead of me before I will be able to run any decent times .
We enter Juan le Pin and like last year the crowd is dense. They cheer at us like we were rock stars and it makes our head spin. I high five two girls and continue on my way to the last beast located at the 35k mark, unfortunately, followed by a quick succession of short climbs and descents.
This place is painfully tiring. There is a lot of breakage, it slows, limps and whinges all around me. I just pass, in turtlemode. Fortunately some kind supporters have come to meet us here in the middle of this nomansland above the track railway and since the flow of runners is sparse they find time to call us by our first names (which are marked on our bib). I thank them for all the enthusiasm and kindness.
Luckily things accelerate beyond the 35k mark, We finally arrive in Cannes, last right turn, a steep descent and back again right next to the seaside.
The islands of Lerins are now right in front of me, one last look back towards the East: the Cap d’Antibes already seems so far away. Km 38.5, I know the route by heart, it’s part of my regular runs. My legs are waddling on nicely, the mixture of the four energy gels and three tabs and water every 2.5km seems to work. My stomach however is trying to escape through my ears. I will not be able to eat anything solid for next 24 hours (the vanilla ice cream does not count).
Last turn, we join the Boulevard de la Croisette and it’s just amazing. From a distance you can already see the bunker – the finnish line is right in front of the Palais du Festival, just run around the bay and basta ! I lengthen my stride and thoroughly enjoy the atmosphere. The course is confined to the south lane, it feels narrow, surrounded by palm trees on both sides that form a sort of a green tunnel. In addition, a small crowd on both sides of the trail. Wow !!! The 40 mark was passed in 3:29. The noise is huge and I hear my name it all the time. Coooooooooooool. I slow down to enjoy every second.
And suddenly I see a familiar silhouette: JoeOne, super ultra trail runner! What a lovely surprise. He has come to run the last few yards with me, calling Fleur on the phone to make sure she gets a pic of us – formidably efficient machine the Slo family!
Apparently Laurent05, MisterJoe and Solitaire have already finished. We continue our journey, I accelerate a bit just for the form of it (I know that I will be in Hopkington on April 18, 2011) and I finish the last meters on my own. 3:40. What a joke.
Apparently I look like a zombie as a young first-aid helper tries to immediately rescue me. Explaining that everything is fine. I waddle onthe chip is quickly removed, we proceed quickly. A rather fluid arrival arrival zone. The organization until now was absolutely spotless. The finnisher t-shirt, black with some white and pink, wicking material, is lovely, the medal cute, you just have to love pinnnnnnnnnnnnnk.
I meet Laurent05 who is in heaven. He broke his record improving by 16 minutes his time run 2008. Great. That said, those who have followed him on Facebook have seen that he has not stopped during the past moths. Well-deserved success.
I leave the runners’ pen and gossip a little with the Slos – all of us will meet again in two months with Laurent05 to run the PromClassic in Nice, a 10k. We have our habits, good habits.
It’s getting cold, I have nothing but my little green jersey – my stuff is with those who wait. I hurry as I’m leaving for Paris the same evening.
Done with Marathon number 19. Boston, that’s for sure in 2011! BQed at turtlespeed.
Now I can return to focus on my shorter distances. Next step: PromClassic Nice (10k).