Race Failing in Lyon

I am on my train back to Basel right now (although we are still at the train station ten minutes later). I have a long train ride that is now ever so much longer due to aforementioned delay, which means it’s a good time for a blog post.

I tried to do a race this weekend and failed horribly. It started one morning as I was getting ready this past week when I realized that I needed to get a few races on my calendar. I found some website that listed upcoming races in Europe and, lo and behold, there was one this weekend in Lyon. It must have been sign, right? The entrance fee wasn’t that high, so I signed up and packed my running gear. The race was a night race, so I also had to pack the head lamp that I have only used once before for the SF Treasure Hunt.

I got to Lyon and very quickly realized that I forgot a very key component of my running ensemble. Strangely, my time here in Lyon was one of the rare times I’ve been in a big European city and have had trouble finding an H&M, which is where I probably could have gotten what I needed for cheapish. I could have taken that as a sign that maybe I should just eat the 15 euro I spent to register for the race and spend a relaxing day in Lyon. Instead, I found a Nike store where I found what I needed and was also informed very matter of factly that the Warriors are too good because they are a stacked team. I mean, it’s hard to disagree with that, but part of my Bay Area blood compelled me to try to defend the team with my limited basketball knowledge.

I checked into my hotel and spent the next few hours hanging out in the hotel. I needed the break in part because the 730 am train was starting to hit me and because I didn’t want to add too much mileage right before an 8k. Around 330, I got all my stuff together and left with the intention of doing both the big covered market and some of Vieux Lyon before the race.

Several bus stops later, I realized I forgot both my head lamp and my registration ticket, so I ended up doing the market and turning going back to the hotel to get my stuff. As I was approaching Vieux Lyon on the Metro, I saw more people dressed in running gear, which I took as a sign that I was going in the right direction. The funicular ride up the the starting line at the Roman theater was absolutely jam packed with more runners.

The pre-race expo area was packed, but I got my bib and the free gift (a running buff that was very much appreciated in the cold) with no problems. I spent the rest of the time pre-race hanging out in the expo, where for the first time I waited for a race to start among Roman ruins. You can’t get that in the US, for sure.

I also looked at the course map for my 8k and realized that the course was significantly more hilly than I expected.

As the race start came closer, I realized that I should go wait in the corral because I would otherwise not understand the announcement that would remind me to queue up.

It was crowded and, despite my attempts to keep towards the back where there would hopefully be other slow runners, people kept on joining the corral. I was getting hungry around this time, so I tried to distract myself from hanger by taking goofy selfies in my running gear.

Eventually and after listening to way too much Coldplay, the race took off. We spent the first half mile running straight down hill through some of the cobblestone streets of Vieux Lyon before going right back up hill. It was awful and painful even though I walked the steep uphill incline with my fellow back of packers.

At some point, the race circles back near the starting line and, after getting to the top of a long staircase, followed who I thought was the man in a blue jacket that I was using to pace. He ran through some of the spectators crowd. I thought this was a strange course decision, but saw people jogging behind me, so I continued through the crowd until I realized I was following some man who was running to the expo for one of the longer distances races.

At this point, I realized two things. First, I had gone off-course so much at this point that I was pretty sure I disqualified myself from the race. Second, even if I hadn’t, I kind of just wanted to go eat dinner. Nevertheless, given that this was a night race, I felt like I should notify the race organizers so there was no room for thinking I had injured myself in some back alley.

At the expo, I confirmed that I had definitely disqualified myself from the 8k. They offered to let me do either the 14k or 26k, but I politely declined. A mile of the 8k wrecked me, so I wasn’t ready to add 6 km and certainly was not ready for a 26k.

Out of curiosity, I made my way to the finish line, which finished in the big Roman theater. It would have been cool and pretty unique to do that, but whatever. Crazily, some of the people from the earlier corrals were already finishing the race.

I went back down the funicular to Vieux Lyon. After failing to get into some of the bouchons, I recognized from my pre-Lyon research, I chose one of the many in Vieux Lyon and ate dinner with my hydration belt still on.

There are lessons to be learned from this experience:

First, I really need to do hill training. I didn’t make it through that much of the race, but that little I did make it through wrecked me. I guess it’s probably about time I stop actively avoiding hills.

Second, sightseeing during a racecation works well, but it doesn’t work the other way around. I now have four successful racecations under my belt where I racked up far too much pre-race mileage but still had a wonderful time. Tacking this race on last minute to a weekend I had planned to sightsee and eat meant I had to postpone most of my sightseeing to the second day of the trip. I still got a lot done, but it would have been a lot more relaxing if I didn’t have to re-plan the trip around a race. It’s so much easier when the sightseeing plays second to the race.

Third, maybe I should listen to the key signs that the race wasn’t meant to be. I had such an easy out when I realized I left some of my running clothes behind. I shouldn’t have been stubborn and just accepted it.

Fourth, running while traveling is fun but maybe I shouldn’t do night races in cities I have never been to before? I probably wouldn’t have made the mistake I did if I knew the city a little better. (By the way, I qualify this in part to justify the fact that I want to register for a Basel night race I’ve seen a few ads for).

So, there you go. I tried and failed to do a race this weekend. I do want to do more racecations while I’m out here, but I just need to plan them a little better. It all worked out well in the end though. At least, I got more use out of that medical certificate I had to get for the Disneyland Paris race.

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