E-neuf is e-neuf?

Trip Start Mar 19, 2010
Trip End Dec 31, 2010

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Flag of France  , Provence,
Monday, November 22, 2010

Sadly not, as I still have one more marathon to go...
dedicated my usual level of military planning to the Nice marathon. My
flight from London to Nice arrived 35 minutes before the registration
for the marathon closed. There was no choice to take a cab and I got my
first lesson in the expense of this part of Southern France when a 15
minute cab ride cost me 35 Euros. Ouch!
non-existent linguistic skills were at their best at the registration
village and I left with my race number but no idea where the race
started or the time I needed to be there. It was after this that my
luck undeservedly turned. By sheer miracle, my hostel - Villa Saint
Exupery - was just a two minute walk from registration. I had booked it
exclusively on price (26 pounds for two nights) but it had come up
trumps. More good news followed as the chef special was just 6-50 and a
bottle of red wine 5-50. Sold and sold. Before feeding and watering
myself, I decided to check out my 12 bed dorm. It was nice and clean
and only one of my fellow dormers was home. I couldn't see him but
could hear strange noises coming from the bathroom and was quite
surprised when a 60 something year old man emerged from the large,
mouldy smelling bathroom looking pleased with himself. I selected my
bunk (managing to secure a much sought after bottom bunk) and tried to
not make any further eye contact with him...
was excellent - a mignon of pork in red wine sauce (slightly superior
to the usual hostel fare) - and washed down with an equally pleasant -
if strong (13%) bottle of red wine. I realise this was a slightly risky
strategy but nine months of world travel had been enough to teach me
that sleeping in a room with several people coming in at various times
in varying states of sobriety was almost impossible without a little
assistance. It proved to be a smart move as I had typically parked
myself on the bunk below snore king (he probably reported the same) who
made some incredible noises. Despite his best efforts, I slept soundly
enough, and got up at 6.30 am, in plenty of time to enjoy the
complimentary breakfast. I was really warming to the hostel, especially
as my brek of coffee with toast and honey was enjoyed against a
backdrop of classical music. Magnifique...
had decided that the race would not start before 8 and that it must be
near where registration had been and my assumptions both turned out to
be accurate as I wandered out into a grey, but dry, mildish morning and
found some other runners heading towards the sea front and race start.
There was no need for portaloos for the gents as we had the vast and
beautiful turquoise Mediterranean Sea to relieve ourselves in (I'm not
proud of this). As usual, I felt sorry for the ladies who did not
really have the same option (although a couple of them did not let this
stop them). France being France, the race did not start at the
scheduled time, instead inexplicably starting 15 minutes after 8am. I
didn't mind though as there was some uplifting Euro-trance to get me in
the mood and some fascinating Euro dancing as everyone got into the
The course hugged the stunning
coastline (I think "Nice" could be a little bit more confident and call
itself "Very Nice") for the first 14 of so kilometres and I was finding
the going fine in the perfect running conditions of an overcast sky.
Conditions aside I suspect this had more to do with my liberal
application of bandages, freeze spray (most of a can had been emptied
onto my aching legs) and consumption of maybe 8 pain killing tablets.
The trouble with reliance on external pain suppressants is that when
they wear off, you know about it and this happened with a vengeance
after around 19 kilometres. Luckily I had pocketed a pack of
paracetamol and ibuprofen but I knew that the next 23 km's would be
challenging. It was now that the usual row in my mind commenced. Half
of my brain was sending the message that everything was fine and that we
should press on, whilst the other (which had formed an alliance with my
limbs) was suggesting that stopping for a bit of a stroll would be a
great idea. In the end, a pseudo-Treaty of Versailles was reached and
the competing halves agreed that I should try and get through the
halfway point in a good time and then just try and cling on for the
remaining 21 kilometres which would left at that point. It was an
uneasy peace and, like the 1919 Treaty, created problems which would
surface later in the day.
My other problem at
this point was that I was over heating quite badly. Bizarrely, after
wearing just a t-shirt in the freezing climes of Rutland Water the
previous Sunday, I had decided that the South of France warranted two
tops (one long sleeved). So it was after 21 km (reached in a
respectable 1 hour 42 minutes) that a perfectly good Nike-Fit top was
jettisoned. This also gave the good ladies of the Cote d'Azur a chance
to marvel at the pasty, untoned midriff of an Englishman (grounds for
leaving the EU in itself?). Oh, how they recoiled and turned their
olive faces away...
As expected, the second
half was becoming a stop-start affair, not helped by the fact that a few
hills had suddenly cropped up. I was not prepared for this and decided
to adopt the cowardly approach of walking up them and trying to make up
some of the lost time by running (what felt like, but probably wasn't)
quickly down them. My legs seemed to have inherited some of the
attributes of the host nation and were pretty much on strike by the time
I reached the outskirts of Cannes, still with 5 kilometres to go. As a
general comment though I did find the race being measured in kilometres
as opposed to miles a lot better for the soul, as even when one is
struggling the distance markers never take too long to appear and at
least one always feels that progress is being made...
final kilometre, where the streets of Cannes were thickly lined with
spectators, spurred me on to a fast finish and I had staved off the 3
hour 45 minute pace maker (the 3 hour 30 pacemaker paced me after about
28 km - always a bit dis-spiriting) to finish in an acceptable 3 hours 41 minutes and about 20 seconds.
It is amazing to see how one revises down targets as a marathon
progresses and the pain increases. After 10 km I had aspirations of
breaking 3:30. After 21 km, I had decided that breaking 3:40 would a
good effort. After 30km, I thought cracking 3:45 would represent a good
day at the office. After 35km, I couldn't care less what the clock
would say, I just wanted the pain to stop and would have paid handsomely
if anyone had the power to effect that...
the finish, there was the usual medal and commemorative t-shirt,
together with a can of red bull. I have two observations about this:
(1) I thought, and have pervaded the myth, that Red Bull is banned in
France and (2) after spending nearly four hours with my heart at a
dangerously high rate, this was not really my drink of choice - maybe
they could have gone the whole hog and given me a handful of
amphetamines, or injected a syringe of adrenaline directly into my
racing heart?
All in all, a beautiful course
and enjoyable day, but if anyone is thinking of visiting Nice and Cannes
- both of which I would recommend from my fleeting visit thus far - I
would suggest that the train (which puts ours to shame) is a better bet
than running between the two. Just a thought...
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