Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Chuncheon Marathon and a New Marathon Maniac

       WOW, where do I begin! We spent the night in the city of Chuncheon so I wouldn’t have any problems getting to the race start in the morning and my parents and daughter could sleep in. This meant a chance to drive the marathon route before race day. I’m so glad we did because I got a much better look at the scenery when I wasn’t focused on running.
When we ran through the tunnel, all the runners yelled.
When we got to the other side, we could hear all the yelling from the tunnel!
       This view would be solid runners for miles less than 24 hours later! With the race being run around a long lake, created by damning the river, we had many points where we could see runners for many miles. There was no point in which the crowd thinned out! It was solid runners as far as I could see ahead and behind!

       I got up early and puttered around while breakfast settled and my coffee sunk in. I had planned to have a bigger breakfast, but I was still somewhat full from my big bowl of Bibimbap the night before, a lovely Korean dish with rice, veggies, an egg, and hot sauce all baked in an earthenware bowl and then stirred up, YUM!

       When I asked the desk clerk to call me a cab, he indicated that I should just walk. Umm, no thanks, I’d rather not take a 30 minute walk before a 5 hour run, let alone get lost on the way! The cab driver got me within a block of the start area and refused to enter the fray of marathon traffic so I still had about a 10 minute walk to find the my club tent (guess I should have walked afterall). Turned out, the club never found the tent and settled near the changing rooms. The only poor soul at the tent site was a guy that had traveled up on his own like me. Unlike me, he had registered for the race through the club and they had his bib and chip! (I believe he did finally track down his bib.)

     With a field of 20,000 runners, Chuncheon is huge! There were 9 corals that started in 3 minute increments, beginning about 10 minutes after the elites started. The race has a 6 hour cut off, which is generous by Korean standards, but pretty much eliminates the mostly-walking crowd that usually brings up the rear in US marathons. There were also pace groups in each corral that overlapped the pace groups of other corrals. In other words, when I was running with the 4:00 pace group I was really excited until I realized they were from 3 corrals behind me, which meant I started at least 9 minutes before them and we were only a few miles into the race.

       The course was hilly, but the hills were not steep. Unfortunately, steep or not, it seemed like every mile of the course was either uphill or downhill. I was doing great for the first half, my splits were:

5K 33:04,

10K (29:41) 1:02:45,

15K (29:06) 1:31:51,

20K (32:02) 2:03:53

Half 2:13:31

       Despite taking a bathroom stop and eating a traditional Korean race treat, the ubiquitous Moon Pie, I was still doing well by 25K, (34:01) 2:37:54, this is about when my calves decided they had had enough of the hills. Following a stop at the aid station for something like Ben-Gay to be rubbed all over my legs, one look at my calves told me I was toast. They were swollen up and hard as rocks. From 25K-30K I managed just under 39 minutes (30K 3:16:58), and 30K-35K was about a minute longer, but by then walking wasn’t reliving my cramping calves and my 35K-40K split was a painful 44:29 (40K 4:40:34). By this time I was mentally shot. I thought there was no way I was going to PR, but I could crawl and still finish the marathon so I resisted the urge to sit on the curb and cry. I tipped the bill of my cap down and stared and the asphalt in front of me while I ground out the last 2 kilometers in just a touch over 17 minutes.

joined by my daughter after crossing the finish line

       Even though I was hurting and discouraged, I did manage to perk up and run across the finish line, stopping to hug my mom and daughter before running over the timing mats.

      I missed a PR again, by 3 minutes and 31 seconds, but I met my goals for my double header. Even though the wheels fell off I managed my nutrition and didn’t run out of glycogen, I finished a full marathon in bare feet (the first of the two marathons), and qualified for Marathon Maniacs (#4381). So I’m happy with my results.

        After the race, we walked over to where the Seoul Flyers were supposed to be (again, never found them) and after hunting around for a while I finally gave up and decided to put my feet up for a few minutes against a statue. A nearby running club handed me a bottle of Makoli (Korean rice beer, very yummy) and I put my feet on the small pedestal. I was afraid to actually put my feet on the statue since I didn’t know who it was and didn’t want to offend anyone. Then something very Korean happened. They are wonderfully helpful people, but can be a bit abrupt and personal. A total stranger walked up and told me I needed my feet higher. I guess I didn’t react fast enough because he picked my feet up and moved them up so my legs were straight. Then he told me to take my shoes and socks off. I guess I didn’t react fast enough to that either because he then proceeded to remove my shoes and socks! Frankly, I was too worn out to care so I just let him do it. My parents assumed he was someone I knew, “Nope, never seen him before in my life!” With my feet properly airing, he moved on and I rested for about 10 minutes before putting my shoes and socks back on (a complicated and painful process I would rather have avoided by keeping them on in the first place,) and we headed back to the hotel to pack up the last of our things and for me to get a shower so my family could stand to be in the car with me.

AFTERMATH: Following a shower, I donned my knee high Injinji compression socks and draped my legs across my daughter’s lap for the drive home. Once I got home, I switched to thigh high compression socks to sleep (yea I know, really sexy, LOL). I don’t know if it was training or the compression stockings that get the credit, but I was not in pain the following morning. My legs were no more sore than the day after an aggressive workout with weights. I could walk down stairs fine, get up from chairs, and put my socks on all by myself! I can’t tell you how shocked I was not to have sore calves. After my first marathon I could hardly walk down stairs for days. My secondary goals were to PR, and to not be in pain for days. I may have missed the PR, but being able to go about my business the day after without hanging on the rails to go down stairs or taking 10 minutes to get up from a chair is a pretty big success in my book, and important for someone with RA.

COMPARISON: In both races I felt like I managed my nutrition and hydration well and I had a couple of gels still in reserve at the end. I believe it was running slow that just about ruined me in Seoul. It changed my gait and stressed my hip flexors. For Chuncheon I walked more, but when I ran I ran faster, but at a more comfortable pace. Unfortunately, I was flat out unprepared for the hills and paid dearly for my lack of hill training. Bowing to the piriformis problems I have been having, hill work seemed risky and my higher priority was to run barefoot. I stuck to a flat training route and didn’t develop the muscles I needed to deal with hills. (Note to self, if the race elevation map looks like a sine wave, TRAIN ON HILLS!!)

RA Update: The RA is fine, no flare from the stress of the race or the 5 hour drive. No stiff hands or hurting joints or any residual problems. Although I hurt plenty during and the rest of the day after the race, it was all very short lived.

       For the next couple of weeks I’ll take it easy and enjoy my family visiting, then hit the gym with a vengeance! I plan to do a lot of stair and weight work over the next couple of months in preparation for my next round of marathon training. I still have the Great Wall of China on the docket and am crossing my fingers that nothing gets in the way. My piriformis is responding very well to bi-monthly deep tissue massages so I hold hope that it will be healed in time to use steep trails to prepare for China. I have to admit, by mile 20 of Chuncheon, the half marathon in China was sounding pretty good, but now that the post marathon amnesia is setting in, I’m ready to register for my next adventure in 26.2 miles.

Korean Royal Palanquin


Allen said...

You did well, Wendy! Just doing two marathons so close together is an achievement, and having such a quick recovery is a great sign of your overall condition. Congratulations!

robison52 said...

I'm surprised how your calves recovered so fast, a definite sign that you're in better condition than before!

I love reading your posts as the exotic locales are so fantastic!

Clare said...

so fun! nice job and keep going!

abcsofra said...

Congrats on achieving two of your goals!