Sunday, November 15, 2009
Marathon No.2 - Fresno CA Marathon!
My second marathon coincides with the Pasig International Marathon but due to the time difference I was able to read on the race via an email from Alvin, my pro-bono coach.
Anxiety made me check, double check and triple check everything and I did the same thing with the alarm (set up three different ones having the same wake up call). It was quite easy going to the race venue as there was a hotel shuttle that would take the runners there every 10-15 minutes. The weather was even COLDER than in San Francisco. I was shivering and had to use socks to cover my ears as they are the only exposed skin area. Per will wait for me for the entire race and will be my emergency contact as well. We went to the race together and got there a few minutes before the start of the Half Marathon race.
The Full Marathon began 30 minutes later and divided into four corrals. When I registered for this race in June, I was just targetting a 6 hour time and therefore put that in my application. Which lead me to corral D, the final and slowest group of all. Elite runners (including our very own RunRio) were at corral A to compete for the top prizes. But I didn't mind. Actually, I prefer it. This way, I won't go out too fast and be at an easy pace. I dread the wall and do not want to encounter it in any part of the 42.2km race!
Some more photos were taken between me and Per before I finally went to my area and got ready for the race to commence. At 7:30am, the gun fired, I said goodbye to Per and I walked slowly to where the chip timer mat was.
HOW IT STARTED
My original goal when I first registered for this race was to have a new PR. That is, to beat 6.5 hours! I aimed for below 6 with a best effort at 5.5hours. I know that this is my limit as I always burn out from my long runs and avoided it whenever I could. I also wasn't training properly. My 3-week honeymoon lowered my endurance performance even more (NOT that I'm complaining). I seriously contemplated switching to a half marathon due to lack of running. Per was afraid for me. My siblings warned me against a 3-day week run only (not sufficient). I was afraid for myself!
All this before I met Alvin again at Mizuno Run Club. He told me to run with him that night and that is where our friendship began. Twice a week we would meet and he would make me do tempo runs. He was confident I would reach sub-5 hours. Per and I laughed in his face. It was a nice dream but this is reality. That worked for slim, athletic people. Not for this running fatboy. Every session, he would use his positive energy to say 5 hours was easy for me. I laughed it off again. Eventually, Per also told Alvin that although she believed I could finish a race, under 5 hours is definitely out of the question for me. Alvin only smiled, shook his head and just gave two words to end the discussion "Trust me". This scenario kept on repeating over and over again. We were negative all that time. He was always positive and had no doubts about it. CRAZY!!!
But I kept going to his sessions. It was free after all and I needed somebody to push me. Besides, it was much more fun running it with a friend than by myself. So I continued to meet him for two months till the time I had to leave for the USA. Just two short months made up of three runs a week. But during that period, I slowly started to belive Alvin that maybe it was possible. Maybe not sub-5 hours but at least 5:15. That would cut off an additional 15 minutes from my target. Per started believing too....
THIS IS IT!
At the start, I was running slowly at a comfortable pace. I immediately prayed to God to protect me and to help me finish this race. I prayed that everybody will finish the race and to be safe here. I repeated the Lord's Prayer over and over again. It helped give me the confidence I need to finish the race.
I need to run at a certain pace at each kilometer to make sure I reach my target time. I started at a faster pace. It may be a good thing but I was afraid that I might be going too quickly and burn out at the last part. I tried to slow down and it worked. I continue running, feeling the cool breeze to my face and feeling good about this. So far so good (but it is just 2km so far!).
I have gotten dependent with my Garmin watch so I made sure its' battery was full before the race. What I didn't do was erase the old data so at 4km, it stopped moving. I had to stop and try to find some way to free up space so it can record this race. Problem was that I had to stop the timer too so by the time I finished fixing it, I didn't know how much time I wasted. I was in panic mode and ran fast to recover the time I missed. But knew that was wrong and slowed back to my normal pace. I did not know my normal time but just estimated an additional 2 minutes for that chore.
RANDOM THOUGHTS WHILE RUNNING
Back to running again. I'm always behind this old gentleman running in a straw hat. There are times I would catch up with him but he would just overtake me again. I designate him my target and keep a watchful eye on him.
Goodbye gloves! You've served your purpose and for that I am glad you were there to help me. It's time to leave you by the hedges and may someone else find you useful. There were discarded jackets and sweaters too. I couldn't throw away my new jacket (bought at SF Expo) so stuck to it the entire time. It was light anyway and protected me from the wind.
There were rock bands here and it was nice listening to music again while I'm running. They perform without any jackets on in this cold weather and I applaud them for that. The music boosted my spirits and I keep running at a steady pace.
There were timers: people who hold stop watches and shout out your time as you pass by them. That way you would know how near or far you are to your target time.
I LOVE GATORADE! I don't care what flavor it is. I just love the sweet flavor compared to plain water. But I make sure to alternate it with water just the same. GU I take every 45 minutes or so. I hope the Philippine organizers can emulate the organizers in Fresno, that is lots and lots of water and sports drink being given out by volunteers to runners to save time.
I'm at old town Clovis. Now, I can safely say I ran the Two Cities marathon. Lots of people cheering. Strangers shouting out my name. In an effort to be nice, I sometimes wave at them and at other times, whisper "thanks". If I am too tired, I just grunt to show my appreciation. They somehow understood.
No pain yet but so much more to gain! Darn it!
I love running inside tunnels and there were about 3-4 here so I ran inside them twice (back and forth)! What a nice photo to take here (if I had a camera)! I see dog prints on the sand and for some weird reason, thought of T-Rex prints from Jurassic Park movie. I loosen my shoulders from time to time. Pain already there and still far from finish line.
21km - halfway mark. Good time, even better was that I don't feel tired or hurt yet. I keep on running, praying for confidence and humility and inner strength to finish the race. I thought of Per and said to myself, "I'm ready to see my wife again". She will be waiting at 26km mark and I use her image to focus myself for the last 5km.
Back to Fresno! I see Per in her green jacket waving from afar. I am soooo happy! It's like I finished the race already. Sheer joy! I drank from the water she gave me and half hugged her. Some bystanders smiled when they saw I stopped there. We talked for a few seconds before I ran off again. She said she will see me at the finish line. I hold her to her promise.
I overtake the guy in the straw hat. He does not come near me again. Thanks dude. You helped me keep going at a good pace. I overtake some walkers. I keep running. I keep drinking water and Gatorade. I push myself to 30km mark with a thought "if I reach it, I reward myself with a GU". I do reach it but didn't take the GU until 32km as realized its the 20-miler that most people hit the wall. I made sure that that doesn't happen to me.
A surprise steep hill at 22-mile! Of all places, it was placed here! My slowest time but I do not stop running. I overtake more people. I push myself thinking, "Just a few more meters, then it's downhill. Be patient and keep going".
I'm still on target but realize that this is going to be tight and know that there can't be room for errors. At 23-mile, I overtake a guy and he said that I still had a lot of energy in me. I honestly replied that I just wanted to finish this race as quickly as possible and get it over with. He laughed and wished me luck. I kept going.
Final few miles but instead of speeding up, I slow down. There was no way I could run fast anymore. All the speed has burned out of me. I'm ahead of my mark but there is a small fear as to whether my calculations were correct or not. I do know that I will finish this race. I DO KNOW I WILL GET A PR from it.
A lot of people cheering me on. Saying how close I was. Some were spectators. Some had the medals around their necks. I wonder whether they finished the full or half marathon (only 600+ full marathon runners vs 2,000++ half marathon runners). I move on.
I still could not run fast but didn't care as Per was there at 25.5mile again with her camera. I smiled at her (or maybe I didn't) and kept on running. I hope to see the finish line at every turn and corner but it always eludes me. Finally, I see it! But still could not run fast!
I cross it! It's over! It's all over! I can relax now.
To God be the Glory of this run!
God for answering my prayers, for protecting me and for showing me a very small sample of everything You created during the time I ran in Fresno.
Alvin for believing in me even if I didn't believe in myself. If there is one other good thing that would come from my first marathon in Singapore, it's that I got a chance to meet you and do a redemption run for my second marathon.
Per, my loving wife for your support, especially for those long long Sunday mornings when you had to wait for me to finish my runs. Thanks for the patience!
Running buddies whom I run with on and off race. This includes my siblings and friends from Nike run clinic. You know who you are!
As for my new marathon finish time? Well, that was something I saved the best for last:
Clock Time: 4:53:38
Chip Time : 4:52:54
Goodbye 6:31, goodbye sub-6, goodbye 5:30, goodbye 5:15, goodbye 5:00! Hello, 4:52!
MORE THAN 1.5 HOURS IMPROVEMENT!
I guess Alvin had the last laugh in this! Welcome to the new "reality". It really is POSSIBLE! Best of all, no blisters, cramps or Wall in this race. Cold weather helped too!