Saturday, 27 August 2011

Paris-Brest-Paris makes for an interesting distraction

First and foremost, no, I did not ride the PBP.

Why, then, does it make an appearance here?  Well, every now and then we get some inspiration from other people's crazy adventures, and this one appeared on my doorstep.  But how, one might ask, did a cycle race through Brittany get to my doorstep?  Last week, I got to spend some time with my Parisian colleagues.  Our Paris office is in an otherwise non-descript and fairly hum-drum business park in the southwestern suburbs of Paris.  The business park was also hosting the cyclists for the start and finish.  So, every morning the normally empty streets (it's August in Paris, so most people have been enjoying a holiday anywhere else!) were clogged with the few commuters as we eased around the road closures and bottlenecks put in place to protect the cyclists.  I expect they needed the protection, based on the one cyclist I saw gingerly approaching the finish with a neck brace on (either from an accident  or to keep his head up without using the tired neck muscles).

Crew / support vehicles covered every available part of the business park.

The PBP is 1200km long, and most riders finish in 3-4 days.  The riders ride all day, with their crew (volunteering friends or guilt-ridden family?) driving along in something suitable for providing a comfortable rest or at least carrying the tents.  I had the chance to talk to a couple of riders about their experience, and the overwhelming impression was "good right, thank goodness the weather was better than last year".  Apparently 4 days of wind and rain are enough to make these guys want to come back again.  This year, they were rewarded with a few sunny days to show off the northern French scenery.

It's great to see other endurance-junkies enjoying their sport.  They all looked shattered at the end, but the air of satisfaction provided a reminder that perseverance gets results.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Bugatti 2011 - Yet again, a great evening!

Another August, another Bugatti 10K.  I wouldn't want it any other way.

This race is easily my favourite 10K road race ever.  For a start, it's in August, so the chances are pretty good that the evening will be warm.  Add to that a beer at the finish line (an excellent choice from Prescott Brewery this year), a great selection of small hills to sort out all those flat-track bullies, and a fun atmosphere with plenty of familiar faces, and the result is a cracking local race.

The 2011 edition brought a few changes from the past.  It seems there's a new publican at the Bugatti Inn, and he's not too keen on a load of smelly, sweaty runners mucking up his pub.  I can't imagine why, but there you go.  So, instead of finishing outside the pub and filling its beer garden with runners and supporters, we finished by the Village Hall.  There were still plenty of supporters grabbing a drink while we ran, so the pub probably had a pretty good time of it.

On the way down to the race, Nic and I enjoyed the warm weather (28C!) and wondered what we had left in the legs for the race.  We'd both put in quite a few trail miles in the previous few days, and it felt like the heat would play a big part in the race.  But, along the course there was just enough of a breeze, and our fortnight in sweaty Georgia had us ready for the heat.

We joined in the crowd for the start, with fewer EVRC runners than usual.  I looked around for someone to use as a pacer, and was very disappointed to find that I'd have to figure it out for myself.  I wasn't feeling particularly coordinated (again - what's the deal with evening races?!), so really didn't know how I'd run.  When the horn sounded, I just eased off and tried to keep at a 7/10 perceived effort.  The crowd surged forward, and runners shot off down the gently descending road.  It's an easy start to get carried away on, and I started to recognize a few faces that would normally be running a bit slower than the 7min/mi my watch was showing.  As usual, I enjoyed the first two miles of essentially flat running, holding back a little for the hills and concentrating on technique and turnover (speed had gone AWOL, so didn't really warrant any attention).

Mile four on this course is the one that causes mayhem.  The road starts to gently rise, and then the course turns and the rise becomes a proper small hill.  It's easy enough to power up if you shorten your stride, keep a high turnover, and breathe through it.  If you hit it at full speed and run like you're on the flat, then you're going to go backwards pretty fast.  Once the course tops out, there's a nice long and fast downhill to use to get the speed back up.  The rest of the course is nicely undulating, so any loss on the up can be more than recovered on the down.

This year, due to the change in venue, we were treated to a downhill finish.  The final 50-60 yards heads down from the main road to allow a nice "sprint" finish.  I had a few targets to aim for, and put on a fair burst of speed to catch them.  When I crossed the line, I realised that I should have sped up earlier, because I still had plenty of energy left.  Oh, well, at least I enjoyed it and ended up having a nice tempo run.