Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Seoul Open Marathon

Seoul Open Marathon (the Half)

       I really tried to behave myself on St. Patrick’s Day knowing I would out the door before dawn to head to my race start. I had one beer, which was good, and two helpings of corned beef, which was very, very bad. I woke up race morning having had no sleep and an uncomfortably full tummy that felt like a large, food filled balloon. UGH!

Me and Christina,

       The good news is I was driving in with my friends Jay and Christina so we left really early and got to the race start with enough time to sit in the car for an hour between running to the bathroom 5 times. Thankfully, by the time the race started I was feeling a bit better and my stomach had settled.

       It was cool, just above 40, but brightening quickly as the morning fog burned off. I decided to hand my jacket and wind pants to Jay right as the gun went off and to wear a small back pack to put my Merrell’s in once it warmed up a touch more. I should have just left my shoes with him too because after a mile I was ready to ditch them. Into the back pack they went and which instantly improved my mood.

       For the first 3 miles I really piddled around. I stopped to take my shoes off, I ran for a while with some ladies from my running club that were doing their first Half, and I walked while I got out my MP3 player and untangled the cord. I was using pretty much any excuse I could find to not run. Finally I decided to catch the 2:20 pacer that I had been player leap-frog with, and get down to business. By this time he had gotten pretty far ahead of me and I could barely see his yellow balloon bobbing in the distance.

       Slowly and steadily I closed the gap. I felt better once I passed him and started enjoying a more suitable pace. At one point I spotted mud on the side of the path and decided to indulge in a little play. I avoided the water, but let the cool mud squish between my toes and cake the tops with goo. It made me feel like a rebellious kid and I picked up the pace again.

       I was not watching my Garmin at all. I had the screen set up to only show me my heart rate so I wouldn’t go too nuts, but I had no idea what my time or distance was. There were kilometer markers, but I usually forget what they say 10 seconds after passing them, so I had no idea how far I was from the turn around when a large hill came into view. UGH! It was a steep slope that seemed never ending. It would climb and then level off teasingly before beginning to climb again and again. I was sure the turnaround would be at the top because this hill was going on for miles! As I ground my way up the hill, determined NOT to walk an inch of it, the 2:20 pacer started creeping up on me again. ACK! In my head I screamed “NO YOU DON’T” and forced my feet to pick up the pace. I never saw him again.

        Of course, the climb was only about ¾ of a mile, but we had to go down the other side before the turnaround, which also meant doing it all over again on the way back. Just past the turnaround, there was a water stop. I had been sipping at my small hand bottle because I was too full to gulp water, but too dehydrated to run without. When I stopped to let the volunteers refill my bottle here, they quickly shooed me on my way. I guess dawdling at the water stop isn’t the Korean way, LOL. Back up the hill we went, grinding away at the incline before coasting down the other side.

       At this point I finally broke through the last of my mental blocks. Having lost the 2:20 pacer, I knew I wasn’t going to be too disappointed with my time and I settled into a nice cruising pace that was hard, but not painful. I let my mind drift, sometimes listening to a podcast, other times just zoning out completely (some areas we were so near traffic I couldn’t hear what was in my headphones.)
       Finally I was down to the last few miles. I was getting tired, but not so tired that I didn’t think I could hold my pace to the end. I started focusing on picking off runners one at a time. Towards the end of races, the other runners have already seen me at least in passing from the turn around, so I stop getting the gasps and comments about my bare feet. This was a quiet march, each at his or her own pace, grimly determined to get to the finish line. The last mile brought us into the full force of a bitter wind off the Han River. I actually had to lean forward to keep from being blown back and it was the only point I wished I had kept more layers with me.

        The finish line was a sharp right turn and then about 10 ft to the timing mats. I had kind of forgotten I was barefoot until the exclamations of the finish line crew went up. “Ahhh, Barefoot!!” with lots of pointing and cameras going off. I hammed it up a bit and saw someone with a news camera and reporter running over to video my feet so I did the obligatory dance to show the tops and bottoms. At that point I realized I had big chunks of dried mud still on my toes and moved to use my heel to scrap it off. A very helpful man, in true Korean fashion, came to my “rescue” by pouring ice cold water on my feet, AHHHHHHHHHHHHH! My feet immediately began spasming and cramping as if I had stepped onto a cake of ice. It hurt so badly, but there was nothing I could do except say thank you and head off to get my swag.

       Fortunately, they had hot food for us; a bowl of soft tofu with sauce. Umm, okay. I’m one of those people that leave a race course ready to eat an elephant and new food doesn’t really deter me so after a brief moment of tentativeness, I took my paper bowl of tofu and headed to the sauce table. One tiny taste assured me it wasn’t going to blow the top of my head off with peppers so I added a bit more and dug in. It was amazingly satisfying! Carbs, protein, salt, nice onion and sesame flavor, YUMMY! I wolfed it down like I hadn’t eaten in a week.
Tasted way better than it looked

       After collecting my stuff and finishing my tofu, I headed across the street to the Olympic Stadium to watch the Seoul International Marathon. It was great fun seeing people finish and made me sorely wish I had gone for the full. Later, after showers and probably some naps, the club got together for dinner and had a great time. It was a long and tiring day, but I had a blast!

Finish time: 2:06:56

Lessons learned:

Lesson 1, do not protein load the night before a race!

Lesson 2, I am capable of a lot more than I give myself credit for.

Lesson 3, my brain slows me down more than my body.

Lesson 4, I am totally capable of running UP hills!

Lesson 5, trail running does not prepare you for a road race, I need more road miles if I’m going to survive China.

Lesson 6, I need to practice hills in bare feet, as attested to by one small blister on my big toe

Lesson 7, bashed knees can come back to haunt you at mile 12, give them more rest time!

Next up, Hwasong Filial Piety Half Marathon April 22nd

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