Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Cheonan Half Marathon

After making my second transpacific flight in a week, I dove back into training. The miles felt fantastic and I got in two runs and a rest day before the Cheonan half marathon....


      Cheonan Half Marathon

      At some point I decided that the weekends that included a fall back to 12ish miles should be half marathons. Why run 12 miles alone when you can run with a few hundred friends? Since I was running for training and not a PR I wasn't to worried about the fact that I was hopelessly jet lagged. Unfortunately, the weather was also lousy. It could have been worse since the rain managed to hold off until after the race, but everything was wet, it was cold, and the wind was blowing ferociously.

    I would probably have stayed home and just let this one go, but I was one of the drivers for the group and I had also decided to begin my membership in the Half Fanatics with a bang and want to do one half marathon a month for at least 6 months, which means not skipping races because the weather is less than stellar!

      Bowing to the cold, I did keep my shoes on...most of the way :-) I had left my MP3 player on the airplane so, without tunes and surrounded by Koreans, I toddled on my way, enjoying the scenery, studying the street signs so I would know where to go after the race, and trying not to look at my Garmin. As we approached the turn around and the front runners began passing us going the other way, I started counting women. You see, Korea is a couple of decades behind us in Women's Lib. so the gender balance is still tipped heavily in the male direction. This race was no exception with about 750 runners registered in the half marathon, and less than 50 of them women! I was looking for people from my group too, 4 of us had been together at the start line, but their planned paces were much more ambitions than mine. When I passed the first 2 girls I knew, they were in 9th and 10th place, YAY, and one of them was running more than 10 miles for the first time! Next I passed our lone male runner, who was holding up well, also running his first half marathon.

       I counted about 20 women before the turn around and about the same number afterwards so I was solidly mid pack with my pace, that turned out to be 9:25 ish. I had originally hoped to do a little better in this race than last month with its monster hill and bad start, but the weariness of travel and the stress of the previous weeks was still with me and I was finding it hard to hold my pace. This time my heart rate was low, but my heart wasn't really in it.

       The last mile or so was uphill, (an awful thing to do to distance racers), but the ground was beginning to dry out and the cold bite to the air had softened so I decided to stop and take my shoes off. My newly free toes were happy for a few minutes, before they went numb with cold. I am much more comfortable barefooted, but if I can't feel my feet, it kind of defeats the purpose. Oh well, no time to put my shoes back on now! I hunkered down and headed for the finish line. I heard lots of exclamations about my feet (a phrase I recognize, but can never remember long enough to type,) and just smiled and waved. Once I had cleared the finish line crowd, I spotted a place to sit and fumbled my socks and shoes back onto my freezing feet. I hope the chill was worth the finish line photo! (As of today, no photos have posted :-( 

       Finish lines are different in Korea than in the US. There are no volunteers to hand you medals, goodies, or space blankets (boy, I sure could have used on of those!!) On warm days, they will have kids handing out water, but normally you follow the stream of bodies up to tables where you get your bib marked as they hand you your packet of snacks, with your medal packaged up neatly inside. Further down the line there is usually food of some sort. Today it was Tofu, kimchee, and bowls of hot noodle soup, YUM!!

       Balancing my food, I headed back to the meeting spot for my club. In our group, most were running the 5K or 10K and since I finished about 20 minutes behind the other 3 runners from my club in the half, I was the straggler back to the tent. By the time I got there, everyone else was packing up the last items and getting ready for the trip home. Despite the bad weather, we were in high spirits as we parted ways to head for showers and naps.

Being silly
      My finish time wasn't too shabby, 2:07:12, so I was happy enough with that. I was more happy about not being at all sore, with no knee pain, and not wiped out tired. These are my great goals for volume racing, feeling good is much more important than a PR. I will go for PRs later, but right now it is about injury avoidance! The young woman for whom this was a first HM had been quite worried at the start. She has slacked off on her training and her longest run was less than 10 miles. I was going to offer to run with her and be a pacer, but when I asked her about her planned pace, I was surprised when she sheepishly said 8:45. I laughed and told her she had nothing to worry about and I was right, she finished about 1:50! Her goal to finish sub 2 was blown out of the water and she was on cloud 9, albeit, and rather stiff, sore cloud 9 :-) The one male we had running the half also beat his 2 hour goal, a few minutes behind the girls. He proudly sported his medal and then posted on facebook about how the hard part of the race isn't running it, but climbing the stairs to your apartment afterwards.

    This coming weekend I have my May half marathon, the Hwaseong Filial Piety Marathon to celebrate Children's day in Korea. Last year I ran the 10K and it was a great time so I'm looking forward to this year. My daughter, who missed her 5K in Cheonan due to a bad cold, should be ready to try again so it will be a mother daughter day.
    The Great Wall is approaching fast!!! My toughest issue for this weekend will be not to blow my taper by running too fast! I plan to look for someone who needs a pacer for a 2:15-2:30 finish and run with them, or just force myself to stay slow. I love pushing in races, but I also enjoy savoring them :-)


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