marathon

Blackpool Marathon recap

After a week of talking to people who really didn’t want to know ALL the details about my latest marathon (you know how it is, once they ask, it’s kind of hard to stop adding things), I decided to take my Blackpool Marathon recap to the interwebs. I closed my running site months ago, but since this was my first destination race, and in England, it also fits in nicely here in my wandering blog. Now, I’d like to warn you that I wrote quite a bit for this recap and most of it is really just interesting to me. You may want to stop a few paragraphs from now, where I summarize my race, or skip ahead to the breakdown of the miles closer to the end.

As I showed in my last post, Blackpool is a town on the north-west side of English coastline, looking out over the Irish Sea. We got to see a lot of this sea while running, which I think was my favorite part of the race. That being said, being on the sea, it was also very windy [stress factor #1] which I didn’t really take seriously enough until it was facing me, or I was facing into it, so to speak.

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As far as marathons go, this was a slightly-better-than mediocre performance. I went in thinking I had a shot at 3:25 and I came out with 3:35:13, which I guess only looks sad to me because I had such a high goal to begin with. In retrospect, I think I wanted to show the Cambridge University Hounds and Hares that I could run a little closer to their level, impress them in some small way, but realistically, given some over-training symptoms the week before, some Achilles pain, and a bit of stress the week/day before the race, I probably should have aimed for the sub 3:30 and left it at that. Though, I also still think I may have had a chance at 3:25 if I had known the course a little better and started off more moderately.

Anyhoo, race preparation started Friday evening, as I had big travel plans and wasn’t planning on getting into Blackpool until around 9 PM on Saturday. Friday evening, after an important presentation for my PhD [stress factor #2], I packed everything I thought I would need. Thankfully, I have a lot of practice packing from traveling in general, and I’d been collecting all the things I needed for this marathon for about a week in the same drawer: bib belt, gels, socks, sports bra, two options for running tops, two pairs of shorts- one for during and one for post-race, and three 20 pence pieces- since those would be my access to toilets on-course. I’ll explain more about the amenities (or lack thereof) at this race later. The shoes [stress factor #3] were the most difficult part of the packing process as I’d only recently noticed that the shoes that I’d been using throughout the whole training cycle were hurting me- specifically the Achilles. So when packing on Friday, I had both my Dynaflyte-2s and Nimbus-19s, both from the ASICS Gel line, out ready to pack in their shoe bag. I ended up spontaneously going with the Nimbus-19s, which had seemed too rigid in previous runs in them, but had felt the most comfortable in the week leading up to this race.

After a short, but deep rest, I woke up early on the Saturday to get a quick run in. This turned into two quick runs when I realized after getting back to the house that I’d left my key inside. I then sort of half-sprinted over to the Porter’s Lodge to get a replacement, which was a pretty simple affair. I like to think that this last-minute running was part of my preparation for the race, and locking myself out once already a few months ago was preparation for locking myself out this time, as I would not have known what to do so swiftly otherwise. I’m lucky it all went so smoothly, given that at 6:10, when I was standing at the counter waiting for the paperwork for a replacement key to be filed, I had 40 minutes to get home, showered, on the bike and to the train station. I ended up making it to the station with just enough time to grab a coffee, and thus began my journey to Newcastle-upon-Tyne. It was a pretty active day- but a super cool visit, as my post about that shows.

However, despite making it out of Newcastle alright, I was stuck in Preston for too long. It’s sort of ironically funny that after months of living in England and using the public transportation fairly frequently, the day before my marathon is when the (supposedly) notorious transportation quality made an appearance for the worse. This means that traveling to Newcastle, and then traveling to Blackpool wasn’t the most stressful part- it was having a train- and all the trains after that for the evening- fall out on the track from Preston to Blackpool and waiting around a chilly station for 1.5 hours [stress factor #4: even if I wouldn’t feel sick before the run, I was sure I’d contracted a virus that was activated by this cold, and it would start affecting me after the race with my weakened immune system]. And then sitting in the bus for an hour, worried for the first 15 minutes, until I could maneuver it elsewhere, that the heavy backpack on my lap was weakening my legs for the next day [stress factor #5]. And then arriving in the dark in an unknown city in continuing drizzle and cold gusts and having to find the hotel, which is really never any fun, even in the best of situations.

Still, as one fellow traveler mentioned in our conversations (standing around train stations can lead to a lot of sharing), perhaps being put through so much extra stress would make me more tried and then it would easier to fall asleep. I think that was partially true as I can’t really remember much after getting to the hotel.

The next morning, race morning at 6:30am to be precise, I was excited to find a hot water cooker in the room as well as multiple coffee options, including the one I’d brought with me, which was nice, since the breakfast room wouldn’t be open until 8:30. This meant I also had enough time to write in my journal, reflect on my goals for the race, eat a honey waffle and drink my two cups of coffee. I packed my race bag with a bottle of water, some Emergen-C, a change of clothes, watch, MP3 and headphones, my 3 x 20 cents, my 6 gels, and the bib belt. 15 minutes in the breakfast room added a banana and an apple, and I shared the room with a bowl of cocoa puffs and another cup of coffee, and a few people with hangovers, before I had to meander over to the race. I like to think that the stress of travel the night before was worth it for being less than 3/4s of a mile from the race start.

Now, a few details about this race: the Blackpool Marathon was part of the Blackpool Festival of Running that stretched out over the whole weekend, included a 2k, 5k, 10k, half and full marathon, and was hosted by the Flyde Coast Runners (more about the Flyde Coast in the last post). The shorter distances were done on Saturday and the half and full-marathons on the Sunday- which ended up being perfect as the weather was absolutely awful on Saturday and amazing on Sunday- except for the wind, of course. There were 494 people who finished the full and 753 who finished the half marathons, which means there were about 1,247+ people walking around the starting area- and it was surprisingly manageable. I was able to show up at around 9 AM and still pick up my number and shirt without trouble, drop-off (more like toss) my bag in the bag collection area, and even make it to the restroom multiple times. It reminded me why I really like smaller races.

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That being said, the only services offered on course were water-bottle aid stations and marshalling by the local police and volunteers. Everything else, including money for the toilets, I needed to provide for myself. Hence the running belt for the gels, which I didn’t actually have a chance to test before the race and while it was supposed to be meant for any gels, including Gus, I ended up losing 1 Gu in the first mile and another at mile 13 [stress factor #6]. I felt like I may need to go to the restroom for the first miles [stress factor #7], but that feeling went away by mile 8- whether starting dehydration or just going away, I don’t know. The good thing is, after realizing I’d lost a gel, I started looking for lost gels, and managed to scrounge three throughout the rest of the race- all taken before mile 22. I don’t know if that was the best judgement… but I decided I’d rather contract some weird disease from the ground than bonk during this race. Logic just doesn’t work during a marathon.

Blackpool Race Course

The course itself was great. Here’s an interactive map, for those who are especially curious. If it hadn’t been for the wind, it would have been a nice out-and back course done twice with doable mini-hills and a wonderful view of the coast. The sharp incline shortly before the finish was a bit of a bummer, but even that was easily overcome.

The half-marathoners and full marathoners started off at the same time heading in opposite directions, converging, and then diverging again. The split, however, was stress factor #8, as I forgot to check this the morning of the race and forgot where the split was supposed to occur… meaning I stressed about it for the entire first half of the race. The race website now says it in these words: “Please note: Just before 13 miles, marathon runners split away from half marathon runners. Marathon runners need to keep left to proceed onto the second lap. There are marshals and signs to assist you, but please make yourself aware of the split point before competing to avoid any confusion on the day.” I was so sure, though, that this was different last I checked. When I checked in the week before the race, it was more like: “there will be marshals, but it is the racer’s responsibility to know where to split off.” Though maybe I confused the split point snippet with this one: “YOU MUST ENSURE YOU ARE IN THE CORRECT START LANE – THIS IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY.” Either way, I was a bit (read: very) nervous that I would get it wrong.

Turns out, I could have just watched the mile-signs (no timers on course) and seen that the marathon signs (in red) were still steadily ticking towards 26 miles like they should. But for an anxious person like me, even the evidence doesn’t really serve to reassure me as much as someone with authority looking at my bib and making sure I was in the correct lane for my race, and telling me that better well get in it if I wanted to continue on the marathon course, gosh-darnnit.

If you got bored a while ago, you may want to restart here. I think I’ve set the scene for the race and all that remains is to quickly recap how the race went:

Mile 1-6 were with the wind, and I ticked down the miles pretty quickly with sub 7:45 mpms. For some reason, because of the wind-turbines being turned in the opposite direction of what I’m used to, I thought that I was running fast into a wind, and therefore wasn’t concerned until we reached the first turn-around and I remembered what running into the wind really feels like. I reached the first 10km at about 47:30, which I knew was too fast, but I was still delusional at that point. I think I took my first gel around mile 6.

Miles 6-13 I stopped being delusional, first with the wind being turned on and then around mile 9 when I started actually feeling tired- which in a 26.2-mile race is never a good point to feel tired [stress factor #8]. Yet the legs still had a good turn-over in them and it helped that around mile 10 we turned back around and had the tail-wind, but it was already a concern. As for turning back with the wind, I kid you not- it was as though someone had turned off the fan on a warm April day in south Florida; the sun, which had made an appearance shortly after 10 AM already, became too warm and the pace suddenly felt much easier. I took another gel at mile 11.5 or so with the next water bottle that crossed my path. I had skipped the first water station, but with the sun, it was starting to feel warm and the first station was the only one I skipped. Indeed, shortly before mile 13 for the half marathoners (but after mile 13 for the marathoners), the divergence point came and with that, back on the main promenade.

Miles 13-17 on the promenade were much less interesting the second time around with less support- a lot of it had been for the half-marathoners who were by now walking back to their homes/cars/hotels. One of these runners offered me his water, and I took the bottle without thinking about whether he was offering a sip or the whole rest of the bottle… The bottle incident at mile 14 or 15 were another sign that things were getting difficult- I’m normally super iffy on germs and who knows what kind of conditions that guy could have… but again, marathon logic. But just because there were no longer people really cheering, there were more than enough people walking along the course, enjoying the promenade and Pleasure Beach. To be honest, it was actually a little more demoralizing than running with no spectators at all would have been (and I’ve done those, too).I did the first half in 1:41:20, which incidentally is also 3rd place overall for women for that segment on Strava, and it’s, of course, a great time for a marathon.

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However, not something I could expect to repeat. I sort of managed to keep a steady pace before the turn-around back into the wind, picking up dropped two gels  (these made up for the two I’d lost up to that point), taking one of them at mile 14, because I was feeling tired and worried that I would run out of steam, which reflects a bit in the splits during this part; they were pretty varied: 7:45, 7:57, 7:36, 7:57, 8:01. These reflect that I already took my first walking break at mile 15.5, and another one at 16.8, which is even before we turned back into the wind.

Miles 17-23 were tough. We turned back into the wind close to mile 18 and I think I was so demoralized that I just took a walking break to get over the difficult stretch I knew was up ahead. Also, while I definitely had enough gels in my system at this point, I didn’t have enough fluid and this meant I started  cramping mile 20 or so, which is the first time I’ve cramped in a longer race. It was mostly the hamstrings- and they weren’t full-on cramps. They would just tighten, force me check my pace a bit, and then release. This wasn’t helped by the fact that the mini rolling hills appeared again. So yeah, fun stuff. Paces: 8:54, 9:08, 9:07, 9:16, 9:23.

Miles 22-26 were redeemed by the fact that we had a bit of a downhill, another flat stretch, and were out of the wind again. Also, it was almost the end. However, I knew that the last water stop was coming up close to mile 24 and had taken the last gel around mile 22… so I was yearning for some water and could easily have drunk the whole 500mL they gave us there. However, the easier conditions meant I could keep myself moving and even avoided walking anymore. The cramps had also subsided and the only thing hindering me were my slowly failing quads. Still, I was faster those last three miles than the three before that: 9:01, 8:47, 8:29.

Last 0.2 miles were me thinking “I’m so over this… just get me to the end.” Even though there was a little hill at mile 26, it was a nice little 8:28mpm pace… I’m also amazed at how much better I looked than I felt the last mile.

As I approached the finish line, I saw that I was at 3:35 something on the clock, so I just made it my mission to keep it under 3:36. That didn’t stop someone from sprinting past me those last meters (seriously?! How?)

So, at which point did I give up my 3:25 goal? Probably around mile 9 when I first started feeling tired. A little surer when I walked mile 14. Definitely when I had several 9+mpm after mile 19. I thought mile 19 I may still get sub 3:30, but unlike my last marathon where I had something to fight for the whole race, this time I think I let go of my focus on most of my time goals and it just became a matter of finishing as quickly as possible, regardless of the time. That is, I no loner had a specific time goal to meet, just whatever time I could manage after the cramps, walking breaks and tiredness.

The race in numbers
Date: 28 April 2019, 5 months and 1 week since the last marathon
Cost of race: £35 + travel/hotel money; savings: 60 pence on a toilet on the route
Hours of sleep the night before: 6:06
Temperature at race start/end: 10 degrees Celsius, overcast/12 degrees Celsius,  sunny
Gels consumed: 2 Gus and 5 Iso gels
Number of times I wondered if the turn-around should have happened by now: 5
10km: 47:30
Half-marathon time: 1:41:20
30km: 2:26:06 (PR!)
Official chip time: 3:35:13
Placing: 87/494 overall;  6th woman overall; 3rd woman age group 18-30

The experience after the race was really mellow. I thought there was a chance I could have placed in something, so I hung around, used the time to change, refuel with my protein bar, their mini Cadbury chocolate bar, my water, their water, and my banana. I walked a bit too, covering about 2 miles afterwards- anything to keep the legs moving.

Once 14:30 came around and the awards weren’t being done yet, I let go of my glimmer of hope and figured if I won anything, I’d hear about it later. I shuffled up the promenade in the trail of the families of a few marathoners and got a bit of fish n’chips and a coffee at the North Pier. Walked around a bit more, and then headed back to the hotel. I wasn’t quite sure how to get back, but thankfully I recognized things pretty quickly and found the B&B in time for a shower, nap, and then still found some energy to hunt down a beer and a real meal.

More about post-race in my other post, but after a poor night’s sleep and 5 hour journey, I finally made it back to Cambridge, slowly rode up the hill home, and was glad to just lounge about and do home office a few days.

I was so tired this past week- more tired I think than I’ve ever been except after an intense surgical procedure in the fifth grade involving arteries and skin grafts…, yeah. Possibly, this fatigue was the result of having been fatigued before the run and just wiping myself out on that course. It could also have been the combined efforts of travel and racing (I have so much more respect for people who do destination races). It could also have been the combination of PMS and post-marathon recovery, which reminds me that listening to the body as a woman means extra things to listen to. Finally, it could also just have been post-race blues from having not met my expectations for this race. Or maybe it was all four. However, ultimately, it was Marathon #7 and I did it! I’m also feeling much better as of publishing this post and looking forward to getting a bit faster in the shorter distances again.

Sorry about this ultra-long post. Again, I think it’s more for my benefit than any potential reader’s. I can recommend Blackpool as a PR course on a less windy day, and in general, despite so few perks, the Flyde Coast Runners put on a great event- and I love the medal and the shirt! It’s also my first, and maybe only marathon in England, so it will always have a special place in my heart.

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you can see just a bit of the famous North Pier there. Also, quite surprisingly, I got sunburn in my face. That will teach me to put on sunscreen, no matter how overcast it is before a race!

p.s. As of this afternoon, right before this post was scheduled to be published, I received an email saying I was reimbursed for my ticket Newcastle to Blackpool, which means I’m 51 pounds richer and therefore can remember that part of the journey a tad more positively. Thank you Northern!

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One of the most beautiful places in the world…

I’m not just saying this to give the overused statment another whirl. The Fischland Darß, found in the north east of Germany, is really one of the most beautiful places in the world. Give me the Darß, 15 degrees, and a lot of sun, and I’m soooo happy. It helps that I like running marathons and managed to do that too.

On my running blog site, I’ve been posting about marathon training for the past 16 weeks. I figured I would spare non-runner folks the details*, but I don’t want to deny you the grand finale: I ran the Darß Marathon 2018 (and I have the t-shirt, too!).

Darß as a part of the larger map

I must have mentioned the Darß on this blog before, because since I was about 7 years old, my family would take bike tours around the Bodden (the body of water between mainland and peninsula) and break up the long 100+ km with lunches, coffee and ice cream. We’ve had a lot of good rides and some not so good rides. Sometimes it’s broken out into storm halfway through, causing us to ride home shivering and wrapped in beach towels on the bus. I even rode it by myself once, just to enjoy a late summer jaunt and see the leaves changed in the heart-memorized northern German coast and landscape.

I’ve always thought it would be amazing to go through the landscape a little more slowly and combine two things I love.

In 2016, I was hunting around for a marathon to run in the Spring and found the Darß Marathon. The Darß was a place I knew well, I’d have logistics taken care of easily, and I would have something to train for (always nice to have as a runner). Unfortunately, I didn’t get to run the race in 2017 due to other responsibilities, but it was always at the back of my mind to try again.

This year, the opportunity arose; I paid my entry fee, even rented a car to drive up north from Berlin, and started training. Things were good until about a week ago when I started having a pain in my foot that my doctor and I both feared could be a stress fracture, and so I waffled back and forth for a week trying to decide if I should even start the race.

I ultimately decided with the support of family and friends to just go to the race, start it, and see how far I could go.

I set goals for myself: first 5km, then 7km, then 10km… keeping a check on my foot and updating my plans on what I’d do if the pain in the foot sparked at any given moment. I ran without music to stay in tune with my body, and I was therefore able to have an open ear for fellow runners along the way. I found out what is meant by the sportsmanship drug Runner’s World talked about the other day in reference to Boston Marathon winner Desiree Linden, using energy I would have used otherwise for a PR to ecourage other runners and gaining some enery and distraction in return. The miles kept ticking by, no real change in the pain in my foot.

I didn’t plan on running a marathon anymore when I prepared for the trip, so I only had one sport gel on me, but the coke, water, and sport’s drink offered along the course, along with bananas and apples, kept me going all the way through 42 kilometers.

I also walked all the water stops and took a lot of photos, prompting a few runners to ask me if this was my first marathon. “Nah,” I’d always answer, “I’ve done four already. But this run is about getting to the end and enjoying myself along the way.” It’s not often one can say that about a marathon, but I really did enjoy myself.

Darß Marathon Küste Ahrenshoop

This is the face of a happy person; water behind me, miles ahead of me.

So, details? I finished. I actually had several goals for the race: place top-three women, PR, sub-3:30… all those I threw out the window with the foot injury. Still, despite all the dilly-dallying and worrying, I finished 3:55:49, which, as runners will know, is not too shabby for an injury. It also manages to land smack in the middle of my race results, so I know I’ve done better, but I’ve also done worse!

And now, for some photo evidence of the beauty:

There you have it, tourist advertising and marathon recap in one. If you are a runner and think about doing this race, let me know… because I wouldn’t mind doing it again!

Cheers and happy days,
Dorothea

*insert chart of training recap here, 600 miles and 78 hours.  Darß Marathon

p.s. that injury? Well, I had an MRI lined up for today, the day after the race, and no stress fracture! Not even a stress reaction! No clue what it is yet, but I’m sure the doc will have some theories for me next week.

Volunteering at the Berlin Marathon

 

 

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I’ll admit, parts of this post will only be interesting to a runner, and parts of this will sound like any newbie marathon volunteering experience without being specific to Berlin. If you’re not interested in running, and even less in the Berlin Marathon, then you’ll appreciate a comment by a guy I met on my way home today. He was irritated by the hub-hub and the closed streets everywhere: es sind Leute, die laufen nur so rum! (it’s just a bunch of people running around!).  But this is a recap of my experience on a new side of a marathon- and there are a lot of photos. Hope  you enjoy!

This morning, I was up before dawn (which, admittedly, is getting later and later) to have my cup of coffee and my  breakfast and some Sunday morning routine before having to leave. I suppose I can get up early for running or running related things. Other occasions, I’d rather at least wait until the sun (not looking forward to Daylight savings).

Anyway, I was on my way to the marathon course before I think most runners were, and checked in at the skeleton of an aid station, receiving my jacket and then-nothing. I sat around listening to other volunteers chat and smiling and being nice, but quiet (my family thinks I always have to be the center of attention, it’s not true! With strangers, I’m more reserved!). I was itching for something to do, though.

That came soon enough as I found my way to the fruit group. I could have ended up with the water people, gels, tea, or sponges. Instead, I found myself among others preparing the bananas and apples. Then, the group sort of picked apples or bananas and I found myself with knife in hand and a box of apples.

So. Many. Apples. I cut and cored two boxes of apple on my own, and maybe a few more. It was slow going at first, but volunteers would chat and I’d join in occasionally and soon enough the first hand-crank bikers were coming by, followed closely by the wheel-chair racers. That was exciting and I’d interrupt my cutting to clap and cheer them on.

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Then came the first runners – Kipsang closely followed by Lagat. That was awesome. Though, surprisingly, I never saw Bekele, who went on to win the marathon in 6 seconds within WR time! WHAT?! Though, I would have won the bet that the record would not be reset today, I was a bit bummed not to have seen Bekele or that he was so close- and still didn’t get it. But he ran an impressive race, I’ve heard. And he has the new Ethiopian record, which is top class anyway. Does anyone want to talk about how Kipasang only lost by 10 seconds? That means he was 16 seconds within the WR as well.

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Of course, the first thirty or fifty runners ignored us, most of them had their fueling behind them. One runner, Tesfamariam Solomon still had his bottle in hand and threw it at. my. feet. I felt like a guest at a wedding. Oh? I’m to be the next elite then? Thanks!!

 

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Kebede- even elites look at their watches while running

I was excited to also see the first woman runner, Aberu Kebede, kicking butt. There was no competition from her second at kilometer 30, and I was just in awe- for the few seconds I had to watch her run by. They were all so fast.

But I had apples to cut, and soon the first people were grabbing fruit. Most of the sub-3 hour runners were grabbing bananas…but then someone took my first apple!! And then another! I enjoyed this part, holding out the apples and catching names to call out. I alternated between encouragement in English and German- I just smiled and looked for the smile in return when they’d heard the encouragement.

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I’ve heard the Minion version of “banana” a few times today.

Seriously, I was feeling buzzed and enjoying myself. Running is my drug! And there’s such thing as second-hand running high, I’ve discovered.

But then, the bucket of water-caressed apples was nearly empty, and I realized I’d have to cut more. We were barely at the four hour runners. So I was stuck cutting apples further back in the volunteer zone, away from the runners and missing being part of it, until I’d filled my bucket again and could hand out, smile, cheer and enjoy myself.

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After that second bucket, I just cut at the table, putting out the apples for the runners to grab their own. I could barely keep up, but I was also first in line, so when a runner missed me, three volunteers down the line were also offering apples. It started slowing down with the five hour runners, people reaching km 30 at about 4:15:00 gun time. I was still there forty minutes later or so, when the last runner passed.

Then it was a super quick cleanup. I had a moment to reflect on the mass amounts of supplies used/used up for a marathon. We produce a lot of waste at these things. I’d support greener races.

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And then I was on my way home.

I honestly can’t believe that I’ve watched an entire marathon. I’ve never seen the pick-up busses before, the first and last runners, it’s crazy. Even as a runner, or maybe because I’m usually a healthy runner (and low on running buddies the moment), I’ve never specated a marathon. Usually, Im running in the the races happening in my area myself. Online and on tv, I’m not actually watching it without distraction. Usually, I’m just listening to the reporting. This time I saw the runners, so many runners. And honestly, I was kind of glad I didn’t have to run. Of course, if I’d been preparing for it for months, I definitely would have. And it was a glorious day to run- perfect weather. Still, without running, I can come home via bike after volunteering at a marathon and get some work done. I could not do that if I’d run it (I mean, I could, but it’s usually harder). I’m usually in a funk after a marathon. All I want to do is sit around, eat, and talk about what I’ve accomplished. Then sleep. Of course, this way I don’t get a celebratory meal, but I’ve got enough apples to last me for… a week? I like apples.

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Apples or bananas? New water bottle! That beer is not part of my haul, I picked it up on my way home for Tatort tonight. It’s a dark hefeweizen, for those interested.

I will say, it was cool to see all these runners, Berliners, Germans, and internationals. I saw a few first time marathoners (that I know of for sure, because they told me or had it as part of their kit). I saw a few USA reps who got a special call-out. I saw the whole Israeli hand-bike team well-represented and zooming by. I saw people grab for apples and miss. I heard so many thanks yous (though admittedly more from the later runners- sub 3:30s, work on that!).

In short, I had a great time at the Berlin 2016 Marathon.

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Congrats to all the runners, race organization, police,  medics, and all involved for a great event (I’m feeling a bit self-congratulatory).

Hope you all enjoy your Sunday! Racers (I’m looking at you, Paula and James), best of luck!

Closing note about my new water bottle: was it kosher to take it home? Who knows. I’m pretty sure it would have been thrown away, anyway. I cleaned it and took off the sticker, but the green band remains. I’d like to share about Tesfamariam Solomon- he was an Eritrian refugee who is a member of the TVL Bern running team. Just making it to Switzerland alive was a challenge most of us can’t even imagine, and here he was, running sub 2:15. Herzlichen Glückwunsch, Mr. Solomon!

Two days to recover, two days to savour- HaSpa Marathoner!

I suppose I could have seen it coming, but yesterday would not have been any better even if I had been better prepared for it. Who put me on the second floor of my building?!

As to be expected after 26.2 miles (or the scarily higher-number 42.196), my quads were not happy with me. I was happy with them, though, and what they had accomplished for me. For one thing, I’m glad they took the beating without letting it out on my knees or knee ligaments. Still, climbing stairs (worse, going down them) was no fun lately. Actually, it was bad enough to put me in a bad mood until dinner time, where I was finally home and allowed to rest again. That’s saying a lot, since I’m a generally happy person.

But since that’s the worst of it, I will say I’m grateful with how things turned out.

Basically, I had a good run. No, actually, I can say I had the best run of my life thus far.

Gruppe_Marathon_Hamburg 2015

It was especially great to have people to meet before the race, take care of business with (pun intended, though not literally with) and wish one another luck.

This was the first marathon where I actually feel like I raced it. It’s a tough distance to run and I think that the first time, I only ran to run.The second time, I ran to race, but ended up not fueling properly and not being well enough prepared. This time (three times a charm!), I fueled hella well, but maybe could have been more prepared. However, the point is, I knew I could have raced smarter, and that, I think, is the truth to the beginning of a beautiful life aspiration that I can carry with me from here on out.

Here's a picture of me at 16K. Of course it has proof running across it. Does anyone want to buy it for me for 39 Euro? Just kidding. I think I'll wait for another race.

Here’s a picture of me at 16K. Of course it has proof running across it. Does anyone want to buy it for me for 39 Euro? Just kidding. I think I’ll wait for another race.

At least, I figured out that what they (people like Sabrina Mockenhaupt, the German favorite at this marathon) mean by saying “the race begins at mile 20 (or kilometer 30). I had two plans for this race. One was in regard to fueling, and the other in regard to running. Both aspects needed separate, but equal attention.

For running, I took the advice to not start off too fast very well… perhaps too well, as that is probably what set me back the few minutes it would have taken me to run a 3:47 (my less-reach-goal than 3:45). I walked across the starting line (not that I had much of a choice with the mass of people around me) and settled into a comfortable 9 mpm pace. No weaving or skipping across people’s trajectories for me. I just wanted to take it easy, soak in the sprinkling of rain and people’s cheers at the starting line, and appreciate the fact that the race was indeed underway. My first 5K split was 27:56. I had an almost even split for the 10K, coming in at 55:51. This was slower than I had anticipated, but I wasn’t worried about falling too far off track yet. I just wanted to take it easy, make sure all systems were in check. I had slight tightness on the back of my knees and my right hamstring, but it wasn’t a dangerous kind. I also had to go pee since before we had even gotten started, but I told myself I could handle it. I would only stop to go number 2, if I had to. Turns out, I was able to finish the race without stopping. Success!

So there I was, trotting along at a reasonable pace, feeling alright about things, couldn’t stop smiling about the cheers, running through the streets like a rebel, running, hearing the conversations around me, and feeling life in color. I had a few people from my dorm I was expecting to see on the course, but I think I must have missed them, and they me. But looking for them through the faces of the spectators, while exhausting in its own way, took my mind off running.

Part of my plan was to keep steady until the half-marathon point, and then pick it up for a negative split. I split my sections into 3 miles, which coincided with the 5K splits the race course was divided into, and just stayed positive. After nine miles, I thought to myself “already 1/3 through!” I had a similar sort of feeling after 18 miles… the race was almost going by too quickly to be true!

I will say that things got harder after 22 miles. At mile 20, I told myself “10K left to go!” and thought of how simple that distance usually is for me. But after 20 miles, 10K is a lot and it became harder to keep up the pace. Even though I was still keeping a pretty steady 8:45 pace that I had started around mile 14, consistently passing people (always making sure to pass on an encouraging word or sentence- and passing people is psychologically very motivating for a competitive person like myself) things (my quads specifically) were starting to hurt. Also, anytime I slowed down to get water, a banana or a gel, I could feel the lactic acid starting to build up. It took forever to get to mile 23, where I could tell myself “only 5k left!” Mile 24 was a blur, and I hit tunnel vision around then as well.

Mile 25 was only a “one mile left, one mile left” mantra, and at the 42K mark, I could see the finish line. I hit full-speed (as much as I had) and went soaring in… into the wrong entrance. There was a relay race done for this marathon as well (6,000 runners doing the relay!), and I ended up in the lane where they ran in together to finish. I saw this just in time to turn around before hitting the finish line, but it cost me at least 25 meters. I must have looked like a dork, though I was too high off running to care, but I did have huge thumbs up to show!

3:50:55

I’m proud of my ability to stay strong through the finish. This is the first marathon where I did not walk. I am also very pleased with my negative split. The only thing I regret, is that I realized with my spurt at the end (I passed at least 20 people in the last 200 yards) that I could have run a faster race. Oh well, that’s what next time is for. For now, I have a 7+ minute PR and an idea of how these races are run.

I wasn't just saying it when I wrote that I couldn't stop smiling. I didn't even know this picture was being taken.

Here’s a picture of me at 38K. I wasn’t just saying it when I wrote that I couldn’t stop smiling. I didn’t even know this picture was being taken.

The way I ran, of course, would not have been possible if I had not fueled properly.

The other plan I had in regard to nutrition was something I developed during my long training runs. I used to be (and still am, for the most part) someone who will run 13 miles without bringing fuel or water if I can find fountains along the route. This can get tricky in Florida, but in northern Germany during the winter and early spring, dehydration was not really an issue. If I ate a sturdy breakfast and had a decent amount of simple carbs the night before, I could head out and feel strong for 13 miles no problem. However, at some point during my last marathon training cycle (which ended with injury), I figured out that I can run better after 15 miles if I’ve eaten something during it. This marathon training cycle, I discovered that eating something as early as 6 miles in would ensure I had the strength to pick it up and stay strong through the end of my run. If I ate again at 13 miles, I had enough to get through 18 strong, and if I ate at 18, 20 was a breeze. Basically, even though I’ve read the advice for years, I never actually practiced mid-run fueling properly. Now I have, though I find that refueling every 6 miles works best for me.

The best part about this marathon for me was that they provided bananas, electrolyte drinks, water, and the energy gels (albeit gels only after 22K). As someone who has decided to go sugar-free, bananas on the route were amazingly thoughtful. The food aid stations came every 5-8K (perfect for me to take something every other time ) and the water was every 5K. I felt weak between miles 10 and 13 (because I hadn’t taken solid fuel yet, my mistake), but got a high around mile 13 and picked it up after each refueling on the route. That could account for some of my smiling on the route.

While the fueling during the run was almost perfect, I still need to work on pre-race fueling. I took the advice that carb-loading should start 72 hours before the race, and had a good balance of complex and simple carbs during the Wednesday-Saturday of the race. I was actually feeling good-energy was high and I felt confident. But then I overdid it at the pasta-dinner a fellow soccer player and runner hosted, and ended up with a little too much in my system. I didn’t feel stuffed or bloated, but I knew I had too much, on top of what I had already consumed, leading up to this race. Thus, on race morning, because I knew something had to leave, I resorted to a very risky measure. I took a laxative early before the race… it worked within 15 minutes and all was well (sorry if this is all TMI), but I don’t ever want to have to risk it not working in time again, or working for too long. I will be more careful about what I eat the night before the race next time. I’m thinking that the last full meal should be at lunchtime, and then a lighter supper fare is more reasonable for the evening. I still stand by my yogurt, fruit, and coffee on race morning though.

All in all, this was a great race. As some closing notes, I’ll say that the German racing system is kind of neat. They also took a picture of me at the finish line, but mine is not updated yet. They’re still sorting through multiples of 21000 to get everyone their links.

I also got to know the city of Hamburg is a splendid new way. We ran by some of Hamburg’s best sites and I saw the Stadtpark, an area I had never previously seen before. It was beautiful. The people of Hamburg also put on a great supportive face, coming out despite the poor weather. I had a lot of random people yell “go Dorothea!” or “Lauf, Doro!” (Doro being the German nickname for Dorothea). It was really encouraging and the race was so much fun. I can only say again and again how happily I would do it again… though give my quads a chance to recover first.