October 31, 2010

A life in the Day

Back in our London days, when, on the rare occasions we were not training on a Sunday morning, we used to go for brunch loaded with the Sunday papers, one of my first reads was the Sunday Times' A life in the day, where somebody famous describes how his/her typical day looks like.

If I were famous, or had done anything remotely interesting so that people felt they wanted to read about me, last week would have given me perfect material to describe my own "life in the day". On second thoughts, I am not too sure about "perfect", but "some" material, for sure.

Wednesday started early, if not well. 4.10am, to be accurate, as we had to go to a meeting in the South of France, 5 hours from Annecy, and my new company does not believe in bearing the cost of a hotel night so that you can have a mind in working order when you get to your all-day meeting. From then on, the day went like this:

4.40am - leave home, to get picked up by my colleague and drive to the railway station.

4.50am - arrive at station, check on the departure screen  for our platform, can't find our train listed.

5.00am - at last find a member of staff, who tells us that our train has not run for the last week because of the strike (surely the entire world knows by now about the French strikes - the best way found by some workers to be make sure the economy goes down the pipe even faster and their situation deteriorates equally fast). As there is absolutely no other way to arrive where we're supposed to go before mid afternoon, we wisely figure that, given that our return train also leaves mid-afternoon, we may as well cancel all together.

5.15am - I am back home, and get back into bed in the crazy hope I may get anadditional  hour and a half of sleep, but as all crazy hopes, this one does not materialize, and I end up deciding to go to work, so that I can leave earlier in the evening, and get to spend more time with Malo.

6pm - "Spending more time with Malo" has proven to be a crazy hope, too, as  I am stuck into a meeting with people who clearly got more than 4 hours sleep last night, and look and sound depressingly energetic. I, on the other hand, fight to keep my eyes open, in spite of the litre - make it a galon -  of coffee I must have downed.

7pm - home at last, with Malo as tired as I am, after a full day of playing at day care. Hard life to be a baby. We manage to fit his bath and dinner before puting the little one to bed, I bidding my time before I can do the same.

8pm - Martin and I have had dinner, but bedtime has suddenly become something further away, as we have just realised that the cleaning lady is coming tomorrow for the first time in 2 weeks, and that we must promptly tidy the flat to avoid her resigining as soon as she arrives in the morning.

10.30pm - we're ready to go to bed but that the time Malo, who usually sleep 12 hours straight, choses to wake up and start crying. I end up craddling him in my arms for half an hour, which I love... but would have loved even more if I had not been up for 18  hours 1/2.

On Thursday, it quicky looks like the day may not be much better than the last, only different. Thursday is the only day I ride my bike to work. As I am driving towardswork, I start getting a lof of cute little black shiny stars in front of my eyes. Not very convenient to drive. And scary. I made it (just) to work, where I get into a meeting, to promptly have to lie down on the floor with my feet up, shivering and feeling dizzy, and crying uncontrollably. Is there anything you least want to do that crying in the office, especially lying on a dirty carpet with your boss' scarf beneath your head?

Friday is going to be better, at least for the two male members of the family, since Martin has taken the day off to spend it playing with his son (and has even written so on Facebook so that the entire world kneows what a great day father and son are going to have). At 11am though, it becomes clear that Friday is NOT going to be better than Wenesday or Thursday. Martin calls me at work, asking me to come back home urgently, since he is having a migraine attack and cannot even see Malo anymore, let alone play with him. I promptly get out of the very important meeting I have just walked in, rush home, load Malo in the car since Martin has convienently left his migraine drugs at work and needs me to go an pick them up, come back, cook lunch for Malo, feed Malo, call day care to see if they could take care of Malo for the rest of the day, realised I don't have time to have lunch myself, drive to day care, then to work. Whatever is left of the day was uneventful.

In case this was not enough, we played "A life in the day" this week too. 

Malo cried all night on Monday, meaning I was, on Tuesday morning, 1. pretty worried since he has slept through the night since he was five weeks old and him not sleeping meant sometyhing was definitely off, 2. so tired I felt I was in dire need of a weekend. Unfortunately, even in France with its crazy labour lwas, weekends don't start on Tuesday mornings.  On Tuesday afternoon, I was called by daycare to advise me Malo had fever.

On Wednesday morning, fever had gone up, meaning Martin had to give up a climbing day he had dreamt about for weeks, to look after his son.

On Friday, we took Malo to the doctor, which means I did not get to work before 10.45am. Later that evening, I realised, back at home, that I had forgotten his prescription in the office and was unable to get it before Tuesday, since this is a long weekend here. 

Yesterday I decided it was vital for my sanity that I squeezed in a little run in the rain, started running by the river, got freaked out by a guy on his MTB looking too interested in me for comfort, had to run back on the road, stopped at the chemist's to try and negotiate she gives me Malo's drugs without prescription, failed, ran back home feeling ultra cold after the chemist-stop over.

Today, since Malo was still clearly unwell, we decided we could not take the risk of waiting until Tuesday evening to get his medicines, so had to drive accross town to the on-call doctor, where we obviously waited for ever, and well past Malo's lunch time. On the bright side, it turned out his ear infection had actually not worsened. On the not-so-brigth side, I took the opportunity of me being there to tell the doctor I was not feeling too well and had a sore throat, and she quickly diagnosed a massive throat infection, and put a veto on the long trail run I had planned for the day. 

Feeling I had had enough good news for the day, I did not even ask about running tomorrow.

October 11, 2010

Miss and Hit...

... or how to write two race reports in one post (and make the most of the very little free time I have since starting work

Fast rewind to the end of August. I had signed up for a trail race in the mountains not far from home, and had found plenty reasons justifying getting up at 6am on on Sunday,including, in no particular order:

1. Pretty much everybody who runs in Annecy (and even a big chunck of those who don't) has done it, so I felt I would not get any credibility as a runner here unless I can tick the box (OK, I am totally making tup reason  #1).

2. Set up in the Aravis range, halfway between the Annecy lake and Mont Blanc, the scenery is stunning (this I am not making up).

3. I had turned 37 on the eve of the race, and running and spending half a day in the mountain sounded like a great way to celebrate. And while I was at it, I would also "celebrate", although I am not sure that's the best way to describe it, the end of my time as a stay-at-home mum, and the beginning, three days later, of my new working life.

4. I was still frustrated to have had to withdraw from another great trail race because of last minute surgery inconveniently planned for the day before the race (and it seemed bad form to race anyway while the surgeon had said "no running for three weeks).

5. I don't race a lot, and never felt the need for it. I don't need them to push myeslf.  Actually, I push myself harder if I don't race, as it became all too clear last time round,. Call it a screwed up mind, and clearly a lack of  trail racing experience too.  So it was probably also because I am screwed up that I had managed to convince myself that I had to be able to manage stress and race situations better, and race at my full potential, instead of being the only girl in the world who trains faster than she races.
So here was I, literally freezing my butt off while waiting for the race to start, on that last Sunday morning of August. I had slept very little, eaten even less, in a nutshell, my stress management still had some way to go before being called efficient. Checking out the list of runners the previous night: had not helped all the best female runners from the region were there. Unfortunately, I know I am - in theory - almost as fast as some of them, at least on a terrain I am more familiar with than mountain races.  And I say "unfortunately", because it means that, for the last 12 hours, I had been thinking that, again in theory, and even accounting for my lack of experience of mountain races,  I should be finishing just behind them.

Best way not to feel under pressure? Probably not.

As the church bell rang and notified us of the start, I, at least, managed to avoid a first mistake. Instead of being buried (quite literally, given my "sample" size) in the middle of pack, I positionned myself at the front, to avoid getting stuck behind a long queue of walking runners on the first steep single trail section comes up, less than 1km after the start.

Half way, I was 6th woman, which I was pretty happy with, considering who were the first five On second thoughts, cross that last sentence out: I was 6th woman, but defintitely not happy. Too stressed out to be happy. The same - totally unproductive - thoughts than last April  were cluttering my mind: what am I doing here when I could be running with Martin instead, why putting myself through all that stress while I am a runner because it is fun, why why why...

Then things got even worst: as I started down a very steep and technical downhill session at the half way point, I started feeling a sharp pain on the side of my knee. I had to stop and walk for a few minutes, and got overtaken by a first woman. Then I started running again. Then had to stop again, and got overtaken by a second woman. Repeat that twice more.

As I was about to start up the last very steep climb, I saw Martin and Malo, who had just made it up the mountain to see me, and was oh-so tempted to DNF, and just go back home with them. But as I could not decide what would make me feel worst, DNFing or walking to the finish, I carried on, thinking that, at least, I would get the t-shirt.

An hour and the worst 4kms downhill of my life later, I "sprinted" the last few hundred meters, crying of pain and frustration.

 That's me at the end of The Dreaful Downhill,
crying (but luckily, I am too far for you to see it)

As we talked about the race later that day, Martin pointed out that I didn't need to do this: I love running, I am a good runner, I am lucky enough to have wonderful running routes on my doorstep,  and that should be it. Why racing if that is going to be such a traumatic experience?

And I fully agreed with him.

So why is it that, two weeks later, I have signed up for yet another trail race, taking place the following weekend? Again, plenty of good or not so good reasons. I have in the meantime started in a new job, met some of the runners there, and a few have signed up for that race, too, so I feel this is a good way to "bond". Again, it is not far from home, so I can race and still spend half od the day at home with Martin and Malo (who are staying home today, just in case the whole day is a total failure again). But the main reason is that, once again, I want to prove myself that I can race on trails.

This time I have been smarter though, or so I hope. I have chosen a race which is flater (flater, not flat: there is no such thing as flat around here), to be able (or so I hope - again!) to build on the experience gained during road races, enjoy the flatter portions which should allow me to run fast, as I like it,. That seems slighly more promising than running one steep hill after another, since I seem to love them while training but get terrified by them while racing.

On that Sunday morning, as we start with a first kilometre of asphalt and I get into the rythm, I immediately feel good. My legs are moving well, I am going fast. I am the first woman, and can hear the breathing of the second one just behind me. Then I can't anymore, and understand she has fallen back a little, and I think I am going to try and keep it that way.

As we keep on running into woods and accross fields, I am feeling HAPPY! No stress, just pleasure to be there, enjoying the splendid scenery and the feeling of my legs moving well and fast. This is so much fun! Not that it is not hard, but everything seems to be happening the way it should be. I am focused but relax, I am pushing hard but it hurts my legs, not my brain.

Having fun! To set the story straight, this guy had been using me as pacer for a while, overtook
me when he saw the photographer, then stepped behind his favourite pacer again as soon
as we had passed the photographer. Men...

Two thirds into the race, and I am still feeling happy, but also wondering how things are going to pan out, as I start feeling pretty hungry too. The race has not started before 10am, a full 3 hours after I ate breakfast, and I can tell I am getting low on sugar, and to make things even more interesting, the one big, steep hill of the route is now in front of me.

I slow down but keep on pushing, carried by the idea that I may be able to win my first race ever... if I manage to keep whatever distance there is between me and the second girl. Is she 500m or 2kms behind by now, I have no idea...

Two kilometres before the finish line, we hit asphalt again, and a hill. And I am more starving than ever. By now, I am done with the race, no matter how much I have enjoyed it so far. I briefly turned my head, seem to notice "the other girl" only a few hundreds meters behind, and gather whatever energy I have left to sprint towards the finish.

"And here is the first woman now getting to the finish", I hear the organiser shouting in the microphone. As I cross the line, he races towards me to get my "first impressions", and I am beaming: I won, for the first time, but more importantly, I had fun!!! I could do it, race and have fun!!! It may be that, to achieve this, I only have to find the right combination of off-road but still fast course... only problem is, I think I have just done the only race of that kind in the region...

The only thing missing is actually two things, or rather two people: my two men, the tall one and the tiny one, who I have told to stay home because it did not seem fair to drag them to yet another race especially if I was going to end up in tears like last time. But now I have won, and the two people I want the most to share this with are not here.  I would have been so proud to walk on the stage to get my prize with Malo in my arms (and who knows, getting "his" first prize maybe would have stuck somewhere in a deep part of his brain, and came up to the surface 15 years later, giving him the urge to become a runner).

 I would not mind if that was the first of many...

Later that day, as I am getting back to Annecy, it occurs to me that I am going to have a problem getting back home. I have ridden my bike to the town-centre in the morning, to meet a guy who had kindly offer to give me a lift to the race. The problem is, I am now supposed to ride back on said bike, only I now have ato carry, together with my rucksack, a massive basket full of wine bottles, cheese and honey and an as-massive bouquet of flowers... I guess finishing first sometimes has its drawbacks...