Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Koguryo Marathon 10K, Seoul Olympic Stadium

I finally ran my first race in Korea!!!

        Searching the races for 2011 with the Seoul Flyers Running Club I decided to go for a 10K in the later part of February. I didn’t much care what the swag was, but I did want it to be somewhere that I could get to within a couple of hours. The Koguryo Marathon fit the bill so I signed up. I didn’t realize until we got there that all the races, Full, 32K, Half, and 10K would start and finish inside the Seoul Olympic Stadium! It was really awesome to be in such a great venue, even if the stands were pretty much empty.

The tiny yellow arch in the distance is the finish chute. This place is HUGE!

        After meeting up with two other runners (who’s collective ages barely exceed my own), we hopped a bus, then a train, and arrived at the stadium in time to pick up our packets from the tent set up for our running club. Everyone was milling around trying to stop their teeth from chattering with cold and laughing hysterically at the tiny shorts that came in our swag.
Yes, my friends, those shorts I’m holding are not for an infant, they are Korean women’s medium!

       The information simply said the race started at 10am. What everyone else knew, but I didn’t, was that by the time they got through all the waves for the marathon, 32K, and half, the 10K would be starting around 10:45. Needless to say I was not properly warmed up at all! Oh well, no matter, I was only running for fun and not expecting a PR. It was all about learning the ropes for Korea and meeting the Flyers.

       When they finally called for the 10K, we all crowded behind the start, but first, a little warm up. Of course, I couldn’t understand the words, but you pretty much get the idea when everyone around you puts their hands over their heads and stretches to the right, then left, then shoulder rolls, then everyone puts their arms out and gives a shoulder rub to the person in front of them. Then we all turn around and give shoulder rubs to the people behind us. I must say, the guy in front of me gave a great shoulder rub! Okay, all ready for the start horn.

Some of the Flyer ladies

       Talking to another American runner, it sounded like we were similarly paced so off we went. Leah was great. She was planning about an 8:40 pace, but if she felt good at 3 miles would pick it up. Cool! We chatted while we ran, her giving me tons of info on Korean racing, me prattling on about who knows what. I repeat, I had not warmed up properly, but I didn’t want to lose Leah and be alone the rest of the race so I struggled to keep up with her. We ran around the through the stadium, and then out along the Han River. It was mostly flat with only slight grades up and down along the river bank, but sunny and warm enough to be comfortable. By the time we approached the turn around to head back, I had to stop for water, and that was the end of having a buddy. Leah got ahead of me while I gulped/inhaled a mouthful of water and I was never able to catch her again, she was true to her statement about speeding up if she felt good at 3 miles. No worries, I was on a good pace, finally feeling warmed up, and ready to relax and enjoy my groove.

       Earlier I had set the virtual partner on my Garmin for a 54 minute finish to show another runner how to do it, but I didn’t really expect to run that fast. I had glanced at a few of half mile splits, but was more concerned with my heart rate and having a solid race. Between the part of the race that was through the stadium, and a cluster of huge freeway overpasses that we ran under, my Garmin had lost satellite a couple of times so I didn’t know if it was accurate anymore or not. Once again, I didn’t really care. I watched my heart rate and if it went down too far I stepped it up, but when my “Pace” was saying things like 14:23 and 6:02, I knew I couldn’t trust what I was reading.

        On the return, somewhere between the overpasses and the Stadium, the 10K runners were split off onto another path. It was a little weird because the path had lots of Sunday strollers who were walking 3 abreast with a child in the middle and not paying the least bit of attention to the fact that they were in the middle of a race course! I weaved and dodged, hopped over chunks of old packed snow, and tried to spot the stadium entrance. Finally they turned us right and into the cement arches and darkness. Around we went and then up a steep slope. As I crested the slope, I saw daylight again with a steep slope back down through the stands to the track and finish line. For a brief moment I was sure I was going to make my entrance in a head over heels tumble down the ramp, but I managed to keep my feet under me and even pulled a final kick (although it couldn’t really be called a sprint). I had definitely left it all on the course! The clocks were about 15 feet in front of the finish line. Yes, clocks, one on top of another, 4 clocks. I figured the little one on the bottom must be for the 10K, but I couldn’t believe my eyes, 53:20! Of course, it took me a while to remember to stop my Garmin, so I wasn’t sure what my chip time was, but I didn’t care, had to be a PR!

        Gasping for breath I stumbled up to Leah, who had finished about 3 minutes ahead of me, and another Flyer. They told me where to go to turn in my chip and get my medal and snacks. The snacks were weird, but not as weird as when I ran in Thailand. I cracked my drink to discover it was something like ginger Gatorade, which was awesome since I love anything ginger flavored! Then the pint sized banana, and last a pastry with a hot dog in the middle. Even though it was only a 10K race, it had been 5 hours since I ate breakfast so I inhaled everything! After my finish line Kodak moment, we wandered back over to the club tent.

hot dog danish anyone?

       Some of the Korean clubs were in full party mode with delicious smelling food wafting from the groups and drinks being passed around. Someone took pity on us and brought us a bottle of Mekgeolli, Korean rice wine. While rather different than the cold beer served to runners in America, it was quite refreshing and tasty. Everyone was really enjoying the sunshine. Down in the stadium, with the breeze blocked, the warmth was amazing and people were sprawled out on the track like starfish on a beach soaking up the rays.

Mekgeolli, Korean rice wine

       One of my traveling companions, who is only in Korea for a couple of weeks for a military exercise, won the 32K! The prize was a nice digital camera and very cool trophy.

       When it was coming up on 3pm, most everyone had finished their runs and people had been trickling away to head home for some time so our little group from Osan headed south. I was told my final chip time would be texted to me on my phone so it was long after I had tumbled through the front door that I got my final time. 53:10! I hadn’t realized it took me so long to get to the start line! My splits were a total mess. The first mile was way too fast, but the half miles before and after the turn around were my most consistent and average. Each mile after that was slower than the last. I definitely need to work on my pacing again and get a better feel for what I’m going for. I hadn’t practiced 10K pace and it showed. Leah’s finish time was also a PR, I wonder if staying slow the first half helped her.

Finisher's medal
       And once again, the Vibrams were a big hit. At one point I had to grab onto a friend to keep the Koreans that were lifting up my foot to examine my shoe from tossing me on my face, LOL.
      Next stop, half marathon, Apr 10 Adidas MBC Marathon


C. Beth said...

Wow, that is an awesome PR! Congrats on such a great race!

robison52 said...

Great race report! Must have been very cool to start and finish in the Seoul Olympic Stadium!
You could always wear those shorts that are Korean women's medium as a hat...hmmm, might even be too small for as a hat?!?
Strange warmup tradition when you have a stranger massage your shoulders! Makes us Americans seem like Puritans.
In the future, you may wish to practice taking water on the run as to not waste precious seconds.
Your final time of 53:10 is fantastic!! Now you have a new PR to beat, which I'm sure you will conquer once your pacing improves.

Anonymous said...

Great Report, and congrat again on the PR.

Allen said...

Nice race & report! How many different countries have you run in?

WendyBird said...

Thanks! Unfortunately, I didn't start running in Europe until right before we left so if you don't count running for trains: Germany, US, and Korea. If you count treadmill runs (which I don't) you could throw in Jamaica, but I never ran outside there as the resort was on a steep hillside and it wasn't safe to run on the streets.

Clare said...

catching up...nice PR!

Jackie said...

Hahaha those shorts! And yay, you had some makgeoli! Soooo good. I'm so glad you recovering so well from your gimped foot lol! Congrats on finishing the marathon, Wendy!