Thursday, October 30, 2014

Race Review: Disastrous Run United Marathon 2014

I joined this year’s Run United Marathon for a couple of reasons:

1) To finally complete the Trilogy!  I usually complete just 2 out of 3 legs.  I made it my goal for this year to complete this Trilogy by doing the farthest distance for each leg (21km, 32km, and 42km).

2) To maintain current running streak since its Inaugural Marathon Event.  I heard of people running certain Marathon events every single year (Boston, New York) and hoped this would be one of mine as well.

3) Perfect long run before New York Marathon the following month. 

A lot of reasons for this race, and I felt ready for it.  I hoped to get a good time of around 5 hours 30 minutes to 5 hours 45 minutes but it would always depend on the actual race.

The race start had moved its venue from BGC for the race’s past editions to Mall of Asia Ground.  The starting time was still the same at 3AM.  The route would take runners from Mall of Asia to Roxas Boulevard, to Buendia Avenue, Kalayaan Bridge, around BGC and U Turn back to Roxas Boulevard to the finish line.

The cut off for this race was at 7 hours but I wasn’t sure how strict the organizers were for it.

On race day, Alvin accompanied me to MOA as he wanted to get there early for his 21km race.  And he walked with me to my race’s starting line (he even bought me a bottle of VitWater drink from the convenience store as I left mine in the car).  He said he will wait for me even though I told him that he could ride with Kerwin going back home as they will all finish their 21km race ahead of me (by a good two hours at the least).  He said that’s okay and he will still wait for me (thank God for him committing to do so).

My race started on time and I got there just in time for it.  I was doing well.  My legs weren’t as tight as they were at Medoc du Marathon and I was confident that I will be able to finish the race.

The problem though was that the streets were dark and there were insufficient lights on the road.  That didn’t stop me as I was used to joining races like this here. 

I ran on Buendia Avenue at a steady pace of 7:30 to 8 minutes per kilometer and climbed up Kalayaan Bridge where not a single street lamp was turned on!  It was total darkness up here!  I cannot see where I was running on and relied on the runners in front of me.  I had to look in front to make sure I didn’t bump into anyone and tried to look at where I was stepping on as well.

“Well, it was a smooth road anyway as ran here in a lot of races”, I thought to myself. 

Unfortunately, just when you think that you are safe, something goes wrong!  As it was too dark, I couldn’t see that there was a small hole on the road in front of me and just my dumb luck to land squarely in it and trip in it!  I was able to roll with the fall and controlled myself from falling completely to the ground but my foot was in pain from the wrong landing! 

I couldn’t run with the pain and had to walk a bit.  Even though I didn’t fall to the ground, I made a big sound as I heard gasps from the runners around me.  Then, another runner patted my shoulder and asked if I was okay.  I told him that I was and thanked him.  I walked for a bit more till the pain subsided and stopped to test my ankle.  I rotated it both directions and it felt okay.  “Phew, close call!”, I thought to myself.

So I ran again, and somehow felt my foot became looser and I was able to run faster.  Wow, was this making me faster?  It was at 14.5km when that happened to me and suddenly I was able to run a 7 minute pace from an 8!  I was happy with this and kept going.

There was a little pain in my ankle but I felt it was just a bruise from the trip.  How wrong was I!

I reached the 21km mark at a time of 2:45 and felt I could finish this race at a good time.  I kept going.  But the pain in my foot didn’t disappear.  It was getting worse.  I looked at my ankle and IT HAD GOTTEN BIGGER.  I wasn’t sure if this was normal so I looked at my other foot and saw the difference!  But I could still run so thought that I should keep going.

As I kept running, the swelling got bigger!  But I didn’t want to quit and give up on the Trilogy.  I decided to continue this race.  If this was any other race, I would have DNF-ed.  But this was the one race I felt was important to do or the 21km and 32km legs I completed previously for this Trilogy would have been wasted.  This was probably my last chance to complete the Trilogy and I didn’t want to lose it.

I prayed to God to see me through and protect me.  The pain and the swelling were getting worse!  I didn’t want to look at it anymore and feigned ignorance of it.

By 29km, I was walking more that I was running.  I had 13km to go.  “Let’s not waste the 29km I completed”, my ego said!  Pride indeed is a big sin and I didn’t quit.  My pace hovered around the 10-11 minutes per kilometer now and at 35km I was 90% walking. 

“Just a little more, just a little more”, I tried to convince myself.

I kept going.  At the last 2km, Alvin saw me and told me to run.  I answered back that I couldn’t anymore because I sprained my ankle.

It was a horrible, horrible experience but by God’s Grace I made it.  I finished at a time of 6:31:58, my worst marathon time ever!

As I sat on the sidewalk with the finisher medal around my neck, I wept bitterly.  It was the worst kind of experience and no words could describe what I felt that morning.  I had never wept in any marathon before but this pushed me to my limits!  I should have stopped but my stubbornness was too much for my own good.  No one could understand why I didn’t and ruin any chance for a fast New York Marathon time, my goal race.  Even running New York became a big question mark!

At the sidewalk, I couldn’t walk by then and Alvin was the one who got the car and drove us home.  My ankle had swelled up to a size of a tennis ball and it was red and very painful.

I have completed the Run United Trilogy but at what cost?  The New York Marathon is in a couple of days and I am not 100% well yet.  I took two weeks off to heal my foot and my fitness level deteriorated during that time.  Last week, it was a balancing act whether I should start running and risk my ankle not healing properly or to rest and lose further my fitness level.  I chose the former but was extra careful with it.

It remains to be seen how bad or how well I fare in New York.  Only God knows the answer to that and I lift up to HIM my race and my injuries and I thank HIM that He is able to heal me so that I will be at the starting line on November 2nd!  I thank God that at least I am able to be at the starting line instead of at the hotel resting my foot.  

By the time this blog entry is published in this site, God Willing I will have flown to New York already (my flight leaves on Wednesday) and be at the New York Marathon Expo.

Please pray for me that I will do well in New York Marathon.  Please pray that my ankle will not swell again and that I won’t make it worse during the race.  Please pray that I will be able to cross the finish line strong, safe and injury-free.  Thank you for your support and prayers.

very hard earned medals!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Race Review: 30th Marathon du Medoc 2014

The fabled Medoc du Marathon, a very unique race that involves running a distance of 42.2km while drinking some of the region's best wines!

Wine and Marathon?  What a weird combination, and yet there I was on September 13th right at the Starting Line of the race with one simple goal:  to reach the finish line intact, never mind how high my alcohol blood content was!

Of course, it isn't as easy as it seemed as they even added a cut-off time of 6 hours and 30 minutes.  That would be fine in an ordinary Full Marathon but with one where you can be severely intoxicated, that time was a bit scary.

Reading some of the reviews from people who entered some of the earlier editions, there were stories of people who entered with a plan of not finishing the race.  They simply targeted the Chateau with the finest wine and set out to reach that place.  Once they got there, whether that was at 8km, 20km or 25km mark, they set out to get as drunk as possible with the unlimited red wine!  And just wait it out for the sweeper to get them and bring them to the finish line!  That was an interesting plan and something I thought of too.  Hehe!  This, after all, wasn't in any of my plans for the year but something I chanced upon when we have already booked our plane tickets to Europe via a promo fare.  This was also a good way to drink some very good French wine at rock bottom prices!

But then I saw the finisher loot bag and my, was I captivated by it:  One bottle of Chateau Margaux red wine in its specially made Marathon du Medoc wooden box, a very nice finisher medal, two glasses for drinking wine, and a souvenir bag.  It was too good to pass up on!

Plus the fact that I found out at the expo that I was the only Pinoy in this race!  How embarrassing would that be, the only Filipino who joined this marathon, and DNF-ed because he was too drunk to run!

No, I had to run this race and I had to finish it within the cut-off time.  I would just manage my drinking as that was one area I didn't practice in my long runs (the ONLY time I combined running and drinking was when I had two glasses of red wine in one long run where I just had 5km to go and I got so dizzy that I didn't even finish said distance, stopping at the 4km!).


Bus to Pauillac

We booked with a marathon affiliated travel agency (through the official Marathon website) so that it would be easier to get to the race.  This included transportation, race bib pick up and hotel accommodation.  Good thing I booked early as slots got sold out quickly!

The bus ride to Pauillac Region was a good one and a half hour from Bordeaux, where we stayed in.  The moment that we got off the bus, we already saw a lot of people in costumes.  This definitely wasn’t your ordinary Marathon race!

A lot of Japanese runners joined this race!  There were Samurais, Anime characters, Gaishas, and some ninjas!

some Prehistoric Running Cavemen
There's Waldo!  And there's another one! And another one....

wife enjoying the experience with me!

Such a festive event!  It was the Mardi Gras event for runners!  And people came in all sorts of costumes.  There were also large floats that 5-8 runners pushed while running as well.  Hands down to them!!

some Asians running with a dragon tagging along!

Philippines REPRESENT!

The atmosphere was pretty awesome and even my wife said that this was probably the most festive running event that she had ever witnessed.  She promised to wait for me here while I walked slowly to the starting line.  

There were some fireworks before the gun was fired.  And once it did, everyone started running.  
The course would take us through the vineyards of Pauillac as we would run into various Chateaus of this region.  There were no Gatorade served here.  No energy bars, No GU.  Rather they had water, crackers, chips and lots and lots of red wine!  

We hit the first wine station at 5km mark and people were lining up to get their first taste from it.  I remembered how I felt when I had wine in Manila and skipped it.  Out of a possible 24 plus different wine stations, I chose 4 only from the list based on popularity and decided to just hit these places.  That meant drinking wine at 8km, 15km, 20km and around 30km again.

I would also have two glasses of water right after the wine to ward off the alcohol!  Haha.  And eat some crackers or chips too.  

Well, not everything goes according to plan as by the halfway mark, I had four glasses of wine, two from just one station as it was the most popular!  That didn’t give me a good effect and I walked a bit before I ran again.

By this time, it was getting harder to run as the noon day heat was horrible.  There were no shaded areas and I had to look at where I was running on as it was on the rocky vineyards AKA Trail Run!  But it was pathetic if I would quit or stop going as people with large costumes and even huge floats kept going.  It was humbling to see how strong they were when I was having a hard time and I wasn’t even wearing any heavy costume!

At 35km mark, the water had ran out.  But don’t worry, they had wine!  Lots and lots of wine!  Uh Oh!   

I skipped that station hoping there was water in the next one.  There wasn’t!

So it was either – get dehydrated or get dehydrated with wine!  I chose the latter and gulped it all down.  With no water to wash it down, I hoped I could be sober enough to get to the finish line in one piece.  
This repeated again in the next succeeding stations.  And I drank again.  But there were some crackers to counter the alcohol (at least I hope they could do the job!).  At one point, they were serving fresh oysters and I had to take one too!  Mmmmm, very delicious!  But scary for my tummy!

Per, at the finish line, was getting worried too as to why I haven’t finished yet.  She started praying a lot that God would keep me safe and that I would get to the finish line in time!

While she was waiting, she took pictures of other runners crossing the finish line:

Captain America finishing!

And before long, GOD indeed answered her prayers and mine:

It was a big relief for both of us that I finished this race.  Being busy touring France before the race didn’t help me as my legs were tight from 3km onwards!  There were a lot of stairs that we climbed during the trip which had me running this race with tired legs.  I had to stretch a couple of times during this race.  But thank God I didn’t get any cramps here!

And thank God I finished before the cut-off time!

My chip time was at 6:00:57!  I didn't make it to a sub-6 finish time as I was too tired to do so! But who cares?  Haha

The extra one kilometer in this race was frustrating as well (made me think if all marathon distances are 43.2km!).

But GOD kept me safe and after asking Per to buy me two cans of coke, I got some of my energy back!  I was too tired to explore the finisher's area and we walked slowly to the bus to wait for the other runners. 

I am quite happy with finishing this race and getting the best loot ever from this race.  Very memorable and something I would recommend every runner to do and experience.

Thank You Lord!

PS. At the 6:30 cut-off time, the organizers announced that they would extend the cut-off time to 7 hours, the second time they have done so in this race's 30 years history due to the very hot weather.