Monday, September 24, 2012

Ansan Seawall Marathon

The race course
       My second race for September was on the Ansan Seawall. The weather was going to be nice, 70’s with a breeze and a little cloud cover and the course promised to be pancake flat, it sounded great! Needless to say, I was a bit tired starting this race and more than a little worried about the overuse injuries that are creeping up. I decided to give KT Tape a try on my knee since it is so in vogue. Probably 30% of the Korean runners had KT Tape somewhere on their body, thighs, calves, knees, ankles, shins, necks, etc. I’ve also noticed big circular bruises and finally figured out they are from a practice called “Cupping.” I can’t say for sure if the KT Tape made any difference at all, but it is comforting, like a security blanket for a baby, to feel the contact of the tape on the problem area.

Sporting my KT Tape
       This was definitely my toughest race on the mental aspect. The last two races have been in lovely places with constantly changing scenery. Ansan is pleasant enough to look at, but the view never changes. You can see aid stations half an hour before you get to them so it never seems like they get any closer, and for most of the race we could see the tents at the start/finish. I’m also finding that flat races beat me up way worse than hilly races. With hills, the muscles you use and the way you use your joints changes constantly as does the range of motion used with your joints. Sometimes your quads work harder, sometimes your hamstrings, more hip or more butt, lean forward then lean back. It is always changing and giving a reprieve to the parts that worked hardest a few minutes ago. Throughout the Ansan race, I never felt any acute or specific pain, I was just tight, tired, and week everywhere. I also spent the day in bed with a headache on Saturday. My husband and daughter have both been sick, but I’m guessing I have had it before because my glands were a bit swollen like I was fighting something, but I never came down with it. Knowing I wasn’t up to my best running condition, I planned from the start to take the full 5 hours to finish.

       After about 10 miles, I felt like I had been running forever. The thought of 16 more miles made me feel totally defeated. I kept thinking, “I can’t do this, I can’t keep going for over 3 more hours!” Our course was like starting at the bottom of a “Y” with two turn around points and an opportunity to bail out and skip the second part of the course. It was incredibly tempting! My thoughts were turning into a song from Annie Get Your Gun, “no you can’t, yes I can, no you can’t, yes I can, YES I CAN!” It was brutal and I didn’t think it would get worse, then we turned into the wind.

      About this time I was approached by a runner that I had talked to at the race in Cheorwon the week before. Since less than 10% of the runners at any given race are women, and there are probably 3 of us that are blond, I’m not hard to spot so I constantly get waves and cheers from people that remember me from previous races, I wish I was equally good at recognizing them! This particular runner, Mr. Kim, (not the same Mr. Kim from Yanggu, Kim is like Smith over here, but worse,) was so excited to see me again that he decided to be my pacer. As we passed people, or were passed, he would shout to them that he was my pacer and I had run Cheorwon last week, which would be answered with cheers and encouragement. As lovely as this sounds, I really needed to be in my head for this race. I had forgotten my MP3 player and was bored to death, but didn’t have the mental capacity to both run and try to decipher an extremely heavy Korean accent at the same time. Most of the things he told me had to be repeated 4 or 5 times and I still only caught a few points. I did get that he is 65, but I think he was trying to shame me out of my walking break, LOL.
My elf-appointed "Pace maker"

       Around 16 miles, I told him to go ahead, which got me repeated utterings of, “5 hours in, no out! 5 hours IN, NO OUT!” Okay, okay, I got it, the course closes in 5 hours, (although I know for a fact that the gate is kept open longer because every race has times recorded for at least 45 minutes past the official close time.) He finally went on ahead, which gave me immediate relief from the zipper tabs on his fanny pack that had been keeping up a steady rhythm like a drum beat on the front of my skull. Really, he was so sweet and so interested in making sure I finished the race on time that I can’t hold anything against him, but MERCY he was driving me out of my ever loving mind!

       I managed to keep plodding along up the second leg of the “Y”. Not cutting the course and going back to my car was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done! Not jumping in one of the sweep vans as they passed was only slightly less difficult. There are always a few runners that stand out, the guy with the full beard, the one with the red and blue fake fur headband, or the guy with a Troll wig. I look for them at the turn arounds to see how far I have fallen behind. At one point I passed the guy with the beard as he leaned on a sweep car to finish puking before getting in. I felt bad for him because I can only imagine how hard it is to quit in this high pressure culture.

       Even though it was a very temperate day, I still felt hot and was sucking down a lot of water. The wind was keeping us from being soaked with sweat, but it also carried away a lot more moisture than I realized. My mind doesn’t work all that well when I’m pushing so hard so it takes a while for all the clues to gel into a thought. I was drinking tons of water, but I was so thirsty I felt like I hadn’t had a sip in days. Then I noticed my fingers were swelling. DING DING DING, I needed salt! I took one salt capsule and gave it some time to sink in. My fingers started shrinking and my thirst seemed less intense. A second salt capsule about a mile later brought my fingers back to normal and I finally felt like I was getting fluids where I needed them. It is so odd to think that salt can make you less thirsty, but when your body is shoving fluids into your tissues in order to conserve electrolytes, you can’t use them. Salt allows your body to use the fluids properly.

Race swag!! A huge box of locally
grown grapes that tasted very different,
had skins too thick to chew, and tons of seeds,
but still hit the spot after the race
       The last turn around was at about the 20 mile mark. In my first couple of marathons, hitting 20 miles was where my heart sank. I felt like I could never eek out 6 more miles when I had only gone to 20 on training runs, but now it is totally different. If I can get to 20, I am home free! Just a 10K back to the car and I have another finish. With this in mind, I stubbornly ground out the last few miles to the turn. Just before the turn, I saw an excited Mr. Kim waving at me and pointing at his watch. I’m pretty sure he thought I had thrown in the towel when I sent him ahead so he was shocked to see I was not far behind him. In his enthusiasm to see me finish, he WAITED FOR ME to catch up to him again and we resumed our pattern of running with him telling me to slow down and walking with him telling me “5 hours in, no out.” Now, as we approached each water stop, he would ask, “Rest one minute?” I would say yes and he was run ahead of me to procure a bottle of water to fill my hand bottle so I would keep moving, LOL. There were times that I could hear, from his breathing, that my 10 mpm pace in the last few miles was not easy on him though. I worried that he had lost too much by waiting for me and waiting on me, but I didn’t ask for it.

       3 Kilometers from the finish I passed the 5:00 pacers. I knew as long as I kept them behind me, I was okay! Mr. Kim was happy about passing them too. With 1500 m left I took one last walk break. Finishing 4:55 or 4:57 made no difference to me, if I needed to walk, there was no reason not to. Mr. Kim had had it with my walk breaks though, and went on ahead with a wave. I crossed the line about 30 second behind him and he was waiting there to shake my hand and say, “See you next week in Gapyeon!” I think Korea doesn’t have a Marathon Maniacs club because they expect marathoners to run marathons all the time. It isn’t a weird group of crazies like it is in the US. Korea has a HUGE “100 Marathons” club and it isn’t unusual to meet someone who has run 200 or 300 full marathons. I think they get a kick out of the American woman toeing the line with them over and over.

On to Gapyeon!

Cute medals showing the dutch influence in this lowland area

More race swag, full marathoners
got 10 kilos of rice, half marathoers got
5 kilos, and 5 K runners got a box of seaweed
The rice was delivered to our club ahead
 of time, poor Sun had to keep
 it until each runner could pick it up!

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