French Bloke Runs

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Tag: Bladder

Roma Ostia – Half marathon Italian style

Ah! Rome in March! It’s the perfect season really. Sunny but not scalding hot, food as good as ever, acceptable amounts of tourists in the streets, and the half-marathon with the most participants in Italy.

I had promised the Quiet Roman that I would come and run the Roma-Ostia half marathon if he came to Run in Lyon, which he did, so I had to keep my end of the bargain. I have to admit that I wasn’t very reluctant. In fact, I was so keen that I started a half marathon training plan back in November specifically for this event. That didn’t prevent me from not obtaining the required health certificate in time for the race, silly procrastinating me (procrastinators are the leaders of tomorrow, so beware). Luckily, my Quiet Roman is a very good friend and he managed to get me the appointments with the right people at the last minute.

Italy is a funny country. Quiet Roman called the laboratory to ask them when we could have the results for a urine test if we came on Saturday morning.  They told him: “The results won’t be ready before Monday my good sir”, to which he replied “Oh, that won’t do”, which was enough to remind them that after all, they could have the results in 2 hours, without even a rush fee. So we went to the lab, gave them the sample and went off for an easy run in the most beautiful urban setting you can imagine: jogging past the ruins of the ancient Roman Forum, trotting along the Circus Maximus and finishing at the Colosseum.

French Bloke and Quiet Roman

French Bloke and Quiet Roman at the Colosseum

Italy is a funny country. While we were having breakfast, a guy was shouting a very repetitive tune down in the street. Apparently this guy follows a very old tradition of offering services like knife sharpening or oven repairing. That’s only the official version though, my Quiet Roman tells me that since no one needs these services anymore, this guy is more probably selling drugs and this tune is a hidden way of calling his customers. After breakfast, we picked up my results and went to Ostia to get my health certificate.

Italy is a funny country. The doctor I met at the health centre was a very laid back 50 year old, apparently cracking jokes in a thick Roman accent, making me regret having such a poor understanding of Italian. All I understood was that my resting heart rate of 49 convinced him that I was molto atletico, which was enough to get him to sign the bloody paper.

Heaven is where the police are British, the chefs Italian, the mechanics are German, the lovers are French and it’s all organised by the Swiss.
Hell is where the police are German, the chefs are British, the mechanics are French, the lovers are Swiss and it’s all organised by the Italians.

Italy is a funny country. Some seafood and pasta later (yes, these are official time units there), we went picking up our bibs and we realised that the bloody stereotype was true. We were in heaven for lunch, but we now were in hell. On paper, everything was organised perfectly: there were several desks where you could show a proof of identity, give your health certificate in exchange of your bib and a colour coded bag. You would use the bag to store the stuff you wanted at the finish line and they would transport it for you. In reality, there were no indications and no orderly queue, you had to fight to reach a desk where the volunteer would tell you that you were at the wrong desk and you needed a stamp on a form before you could get your bib and bag, but if you’re foreign you have to go to a different desk. It felt like being in the “The place that sends you mad” in The twelve tasks of Asterix. We finally managed to get our bib, our bag and a fairly good Adidas running shirt. It was already the end of the day so we went carb-loading on Cacio e Pepe (pasta with Pecorino cheese and black pepper, it’s to die for) in a local trattoria, before going to bed.

Cacio e Pepe

Cacio e Pepe

Italy is a funny country. We arrived early morning at the starting line to drop off our bags in the lorries. Everything was looking suspiciously well organised. All the lorries were in line, with 2 volunteers in each lorry to put the bags inside. The number of your lorry was written on your bib and on the label on your bag. Mine was #6 and the Quiet Roman’s was #22, which was odd because we could only see lorries numbered from 1 to 21. WTF. The volunteers in lorry #21 informed us that there was no lorry #22 and we just had to put the bag in any lorry and remember the number. That’s absolutely normal…

The Quiet Roman and I emptied our bladders, went for a short warm up: a ten minute jog, side steps, high heels, skipping, and off to the starting line. There were several waves, but because we had never run a half marathon before, we had to start in the last wave. The Quiet Roman went for another piss just when our wave started moving toward the starting line so we lost each other. Just before the gun shot, we finally saw each other above a sea of people and raised our fists to encourage each other.

On the Roma-Ostia starting line

On the Roma-Ostia starting line

Pow! I think there was an actual gunshot because I can see the smoke. The beginning is easy and goes down for a while. The only annoying thing is that there are so many people that I get stalled all the time by a wall of runners, which is difficult to overtake. I basically spend my time shouting “scusi, scusi !” to other runners and I can’t find a pacemaker for the whole race. After 5 or 6 kilometres, I eat my energy gel. After 10 uneventful kilometres, I feel like I have just been warming up, even though there’s been quite a bit of climbing. There’s even more climbing between km 10 and 12, but I continue shouting “scusi, scusi !” to those who want to hear how bad is my Italian. I still feel good and I feel quite optimistic because I know that the rest of the race is going downhill and ends flat. I have a sip of water at each of the three stations and I feel pretty good until the 17th kilometre. Then it hits me. Why is it so freaking hard all of a sudden? I can’t even keep my pace and I stop saying “scusi, scusi !” to my brothers and sisters in pain. In hindsight,  I should have planned for a second energy gel and it may have avoided me this wall. I carry on nonetheless, despite the painful legs. And why are my toes banging inside my shoes? They were so snugly confortable at the beginning of the race! When I finally see the 21st marker, my courage takes over my legs and they accelerate despite their complaints. I finally cross the line after 1 hour, 37 minutes and 57 seconds of joy and pain.

The end of the race is pretty well organised: we are immediately given a wind-stopper and a bag of food with some sort of Italian sponge cake, some compote, an apple, water, energy drink, and curiously: half a litre of milk… A few metres further, we receive our medal, then hot tea or ice cream (I took both). There’s also a tent for free massages where I decide to queue while waiting for my Quiet Roman. He was a bit slower than me because he couldn’t train as much (bad knee injury) but he quickly found me in the queue, stretching for a full 10 minutes. I’m happy I stretched so much, because the day after, I felt very little leg pain. On the flip side, I think I’ll lose a couple of toenails in the coming weeks… I can’t even follow my own piece of advice. Pathetic. Anyway, it was well worth it. I loved this race, the pine trees on the side of the road, the sunny weather, and the fact that the race had an actual destination rather than being a loop.

French Bloke and Quiet Roman after 21.1 km

French Bloke and Quiet Roman in Ostia after 21.1 km

Needless to say, after a good shower, we went eating the best pizza in the world while bragging over our performances, not knowing that an hour before us, Solomon Kirwa Yego had crossed the line after 58 minutes and 44 seconds, just 30 seconds shy of the world record, and setting the 4th all time best for a half marathon!

The top 5 unglamorous things about running and how to cope with them

In this blog, I always talk about running like this perfect sport with daily unicorn encounters and rainbows and pots of gold. It’s true that running is a great feeling and has great benefits, but I had a conversation with Mad Cook the other day, and it made me realise that I sometimes hide to myself some pretty ugly things about running. We made a list, and be prepared: it’s getting uglier and uglier!
Disclaimer: some links are not for the faint-hearted, and some of them are even NSFW, so be prepared. But the video is perfectly fine, it’s actually a must-see!

Unglamorous runners

Unglamorous runners – Photo by Shiny Things

1. Sore legs

Problem: Well, this is the most obvious, running long distances can make the next day a bit hard to handle and walking can become a big challenge.

Solution: Warm-up before a race or a hard run and stretch (a lot) after the run. After a hard run, massage your legs with a muscle pain relief cream or gel. Also, train more and be patient! If you run a marathon but you’ve only ran 10 km per week for 4 weeks, you’re setting yourself up for a very hard week after the marathon, if you ever finish it. Think for the long term, begin with less ambitious races (5K & 10K are great distances to start with) and find yourself a good training plan for these distances. They’re all over the Web. Then slowly build up your weekly mileage and find training plans for the longer races.

↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ Watch this video, it’s super funny ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓

↑ ↑ ↑ ↑ Watch this video, it’s super funny ↑ ↑ ↑ ↑

 2. Nipple chafing

Problem: Running long distances can lead to a lot of chafing, and it can get pretty ugly and bloody in places where the skin is fragile like between the thighs or around the nipples. Don’t search Google Images for that: it hurts.

Solution: To avoid chafing between the thighs and blisters on the feet, I recommend a good anti-chafing cream, the best one is probably Akileïne Sports NOK.
To avoid nipple chafing: don’t run with cotton t-shirts! Run with good running tops: the Tribesports running gear is my favourite. If you know you’re running for a long distance, you may as well go directly for nipple guards. No it’s not a joke! If you need convincing, search for it on Google Images (Ouch!), but don’t tell me I didn’t warn you!

Nipple Convalescent Home

Nipple Convalescent Home – Photo by Gerry Dincher

3. Toenails falling off

Problem: Yes, this too is a real thing! It even has a scientific name: it’s called onychoptosis and it happened to me. It can be caused by repeated toe-banging inside the shoe. Don’t worry, the nail eventually grows back. Click here for the gross picture (not my foot).

Solution: You can go for the extreme solution like Marshall Ulrich in Born to run who had all his toenails surgically removed (apparently it’s a common thing with ultra runners). You can also run barefoot. Otherwise, you should buy well-fitted shoes that give your toes plenty of room. Make sure to try them and check that your toes are not banging inside the shoe at each stride. Shoes that have a wide toe box (like the Altra One 2) come highly recommended. Oh, and trim your toenails!

Barefoot runner

A barefoot runner, happy because he’s got all his toenails – Photo by Chris Hunkeler

4. Troubled digestion

Problem: Puking happens. Yes it does. Because your body simply cannot produce the effort required for running and digesting at the same time, you see many runner’s stomachs giving back generously what they’ve been fed for breakfast or at the food/drink stations during the race. No pictures here. No, don’t ask, I said no. OK, there you go.

Solution: Have a light breakfast before the race: don’t drink milk because it is very hard to digest, you can replace it by oat milk or any kind of vegan milk you like best (except soy milk, soy milk is disgusting). Yes, you should carb-load before the race, but give it at least several hours for digesting properly: some runners get up in the middle of the night before the race to eat a big plate of spaghetti and then go back to bed. During the race, you can also have some energy gels. They’re less hard to swallow and to digest than anything you usually find at the food stations such as bananas or energy bars. It doesn’t mean they’re super easy to ingest either: if your stomach still can’t manage them, just try and swallow little by little, over the course of several minutes.

Spaghetti

Carb loading on spaghetti is good – photo by Luca Nebuloni

5. Uncontrolled bodily fluids

Problem: Runners pissing and shitting themselves are not a rare sight in long distances races and especially during marathons and ultra-marathons. For some disgusting pictures, just follow the link, you’re welcome!
Less extreme than that, it is very frequent for average runners like you and me to have to stop during races (even short races like 10K) to piss while everyone around is looking, which can be even more embarrassing for women.

Solution: Part of your pre-race routine should always include a stop at the loo to empty stomach and bladder, even if you feel you don’t need to. Also, it’s important to hydrate yourself, but try not to drink too much before a race either, and sip slowly during the race. If despite this, you still need to pee during the race, I recommend all the women reading this blog to buy a Shewee, that should avoid you the embarrassment of having to show your pretty buttocks to the general public.

Loo in the meadow

I hope you’re properly disgusted by now and you’re welcome for that. If you’re not, just go visit 4chan or something, you sicko!

Bushy Park 10K

Sunday 7am, the alarm rings. YIKES!!! What on earth went through my mind when I signed up for this race at the other end of London at 10am on a January Sunday?

Nah, just kidding. Actually I don’t mind getting up early. Without the alarm I would probably have gotten up before 8 anyway. Yes I’m a lark, and I’m happy about it: it leaves me plenty of time to do lots of things. Successful people get up early. Take that, owls!

Back to my story. Sunday 7am, alarm rings, eyes open, body leaves the bed quietly to avoid waking up the other occupant (who’s an owl) and dresses up quietly, mouth gives a light breakfast to stomach, hands prepare a thermos bottle full of hot tea because skin tells it’s freaking cold outside, brain manages the commute alright with a little help from smartphone, reader is tired of terse sentences so author switches back to legible style.

I arrived very early at Hampton Court because I was afraid I wouldn’t find the race start. In the end it was really easy to find but I didn’t regret arriving early because it gave me enough time to go 4 times to the bog to empty my bladder from all that hot tea. It also gave me time to warm-up a little, even though I don’t have a set routine yet. Apart from a little jogging and that silly dance we invented with a Polish bloke, one of these nights we ended up as drunk as lords (the French expression is “as drunk as a Pole”, it may be derogatory but it’s appropriate here) raising our knees very high up one after another on the beat of the music.

The race begins. We’ve been warned that the track is muddy and slippery at places but the first kilometre is good. Too good even and I have to restrain my enthusiasm as I had decided to underperform slightly for the first 5K lap in order to save myself for the second lap. The marker for kilometre 3 shows up and shortly after, the muddy part begins. I struggle to keep my pace but I have to if I want to reach my target. My feet get bogged down at each step and it becomes really hard. I manage to stay at the same pace but my heart pays dearly for it: it rushes up to 206 bpm, that is 16 bpm more than my previously recorded max HR! The deer on the side of the path chew some grass, they clearly don’t give a fuck.

The second lap begins and we return to a more passable terrain. I follow the plan and speed up a little bit. Even though I was running alone most of the first lap, I’m now following a dude in a black tracksuit with red edging. I realise I should accelerate even a bit more. So I overtake black-tracksuit and my new pacemaker is a girl with an orange top. Clearly she’s a better runner than I am and the distance between us grows little by little. Then comes the dreaded marker for kilometre 8. If you follow and if you remember your maths from kindergarten you know it’s the same as kilometre 3 of lap 1. It’s where the muddy part starts.

My shoes stick to the mud, my heart goes crazy again, the deer still don’t give a single fuck (do they ever?) and black-tracksuit overtakes me. That’s a bit of a downer innit? Soon the finish line is in sight, I hear another guy catching up with me, the volunteer in the last curve shouts something like “Sprint now, don’t let him catch you up!”. So I do. I don’t know where I find the energy but I do.

I cross the finish line, check my watch, 44:47, I did it! I ran a 10K under 45 minutes and almost 2 minutes better than my previous PB! I love you volunteer! I could kiss you! But you’re a dude and anyway the one I really want to kiss now is probably rubbing her eyes in our bed at this very moment.

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