Monday, April 11, 2011

MBC Adidas Marathon Seoul, South Korea

 My First Barefoot Race in Korea

       After all my frantic worries, I made it to the race area a little after 8am after almost 3 hours of travel time, ugh. I found my group, put on my bib, sorted my gear, and headed for the bathroom and gear bag check with about 35 minutes to go. The bathroom line, however, was half an hour long and I was really sweating it, but I was very glad I stopped because there were no potty stops on the race route! After the bathroom I dashed to the gear back check, and then to the start. Needless to say I did not get to warm up and reached the back of the crowd just at the gun went off. I wasn’t even sure I was in the right race start as I frantically looked around trying to find someone else with the same color combination on their bib. No one else had red numbers, but they all had pale yellow background so I joined the crowd and shuffled to the start line.

Standing in the shuttle line. Yes, there is such thing as too much sunscreen

       I didn’t mind that I was at the back of the pack. I was still fighting the dregs of a head cold and really just wanted to enjoy the race so, no hurry. My plan was to run with the crowd, not zigzagging to maintain a pace, and relax until I was fully warmed up (which generally takes about 3 miles.) As we got on our way, I met and chatted with several runners that were curious about my bare feet. Usually their first question was, have I done this before. Mostly I heard the exclamations of disbelief and surprise, as if I were on a unicycle juggling 50 tea cups. The only somewhat negative comment I heard was from a group of young American girls. I heard the usual, ‘”OMG, she isn’t wearing shoes!” finished with a heavy Valley Girl accented, “but, WHY would you do that?” Hhehehehe. The Koreans were totally supportive, giving smiles, fist pumps, thumbs up, and scattered English words of encouragement. All in all, the reactions weren’t really different from what I had in the US.

       By around the 5K mark I was feeling really comfortable and picked the pace up a touch. Since I started at the back of the pack, I had been steadily passing people for a while, but it was hard to do with the crowd so thick. I would speed up or slow down according to the bodies in front of me, not particularly concerned with my pace, but as the group started to thin out it was getting easier to move forward in a straight line. Everyone was in such high spirits! We trundled up and down over passes, and down and through underpasses, with the crowd hooting and hollering to enjoy the echoes. Every time I crested a hill, all I could see was a sea of lime green race shirts spreading out ahead of me like a river.

My pink shirt may have been more shocking than my bare feet

       After the first hour or so I went ahead and put on my headphones. I tend to get a little bored in the middle miles and since I couldn’t really strike up a conversation with a fellow runner, I turned on the tunes and retreated into my head. My music mix is very odd, but that makes me smile. The irony of going from Jonny Cash, to Pink, to Frank Sinatra keeps me pumped up and moving. I never know what will pop up next and A Boy Named Sue is always sure to lighten the mood.

       The weather was perfect! Somewhere in the mid 50’sF with a cloudy sky and slight breeze. Once or twice I felt a bit cool and worried that a drop in temp would be a problem, but it never got colder than that and I never felt hot. That was another God send since in my hurry to get to the start, I had neglected to Body Glide my usual chaffing spots. I had dabbed a bit of Aquaphor before I left the house under my heart rate monitor and where my waist band hits my belly button, but that was it. Thankfully I did not suffer for my neglect! Around 6 miles I thought I was getting a blister on my toe. That was BAD this early in the race, but it never seemed to get any worse. I made a point of stepping on white road lines every so often and glancing back to make sure I wasn’t leaving a blood trail, but I passed all the checks.

       I hate water stops in crowded races and didn’t want to deal with the bumping and jostling that goes on because I’m very likely to get my bare toes stomped on so I wore my hydration belt. It should have been enough water for the race, however, I was not well hydrated to begin with so by the 15K water stop my bottles were bone dry and I was starting to cramp. Thankfully, by then the crowd had thinned considerably so I stopped to get two bottles refilled and proceeded to push some fluids and down a pack of Sports Beans. It worked like a charm, my muscles stopped cramping and my energy picked up in time for a final push.

       With 10 miles behind me I was feeling really good and ready for a final 5K! I picked up the pace once again as many people were petering out and walking. Then, just after 12 miles I looked ahead and saw something NO runner wants to see on a race course. A hairpin turn onto a slope so steep I thought we would be running up stairs! It was our last climb up the river bank to street level and nearly everyone had slowed to a walk. I was determined to keep moving fast though. I managed to maintain a run, albeit a slow run, up the slope and back onto the road. From here it was a gentle uphill grade all the way back to the finish line UGH!

       As we came up to the crowd-lined finish chute I broke into a full sprint, flying past my running club to cheers of “Go Wendy!” and our standard waving! That was SO cool! I’ve never had my own cheering section before!! I crossed the line and hit my Garmin stop, glancing only enough to see 1:58:__ in the numbers, PR!!!

Jim Bates, my buddy from the Peninsula Track Club in VA.
So cool to have a familiar face at the race!
       I really hadn’t expected much from this race. Being under the weather I didn’t feel prepared and I haven’t had a lot of barefoot mileage in the last 8 months, but I think I have turned a corner. When I’m not worried about pace and just there to have fun, I believe the energy that had previously gone into worrying and feeling pressure to maintain my pace, now is going into my running and giving me very positive results.

       After a thorough cleaning and inspection of my feet I found no blisters or damage, YAY! Overall I’m much less sore than I was after my last 2 hour HM 17 months ago and this one was SO much easier. On the other hand, the RA flare that has been annoying me reared its ugly head. My hips were sore for the last 10 miles, not horribly or enough to change my gait, but enough that I worried they would cause me to DNF. They never got worse during the race, although it was pretty rough in the post-race hours and next morning, but they have settled down now and will not be the worse for wear.

       I am really happy with my splits. The first 3 miles were about a 9:20 pace, the next 7 were a steady 9:00 and the last 3+ miles where better than 8:45, including the wicked climb up the river bank! My last full mile was faster than the average pace for my 10K PR in Feb., and my Garmin says the .10 mile sprint across the finish line was at 6:21 mpm! These numbers blow my mind! I had no idea I had that in me, which is exactly why I race, to see what is hidden in my soul and soles.

Koreans really know how to picnic after a race,
 they are actually cooking the meat!


Staci said...

"When I’m not worried about pace and just there to have fun, I believe the energy that had previously gone into worrying and feeling pressure to maintain my pace, now is going into my running and giving me very positive results." - That's a great observation and an appreciated reminder to me!! Well done on you PB!

fetish4running said...

Your recovery is amazing! I love reading about your races and seeing the pictures. Thanks for sharing!

greentigress said...

Wow Wendy!!
excellent to get a pb!!
I think i will never forget what a horrible 10 miler i had when i started off too fast!!

Allen said...


C. Beth said...

That's a fantastic PR, Wendy! Sub-2:00...WOO HOO!!

BarefootJosh said...

Post-race Korean BBQ? Mmmm...

Great write up, and congrats!

Clare said...

i finally put your blog on my google homepage so i can keep up...thanks for being a faithful commenter on my blog! great job on the race...loved reading the report. hard to believe you ran it with a flare in your hips?? i've never had hips involved but any flare makes things tough.

wayoutback said...

Fantastic!!! It's inspiring. With fibromyalgia, my pain kicks in when I'm not running (okay, trotting mildly) and it will be there all day and night. As long as nothing hurts while I run, I can hope that means I'm not injured. What motivated you to try running barefooted in the first place? Did you get support? Were you viewed as the local weirdo?

murphthesurf said...

God Bless! I'll be running right there beside thought of course. Congrats on the finish!!