Monday, March 12, 2012

Half Marathon - Nha Trang (4th March, 2012)

5:30am my alarm sounded in my lonely, small but comfortable hotel room.  I got changed, pinned my number on to my T-shirt, drank as much water as I could take on, put on my ankle supports (yes plural!) and staggered in a half daze as I usually do that early in the morning.  I made my way the kilometre to the start of the beach run and prepared myself for my second half marathon, 9 years after the first.

My training had gone pretty well.  I was running about 30km a week, but my longest run but the day of the race was only 8.5km, which to fair, I was able to complete very comfortably.  I felt in condition, but had been suffering a little from a cold in the days preceding the run.  However, I felt confident I'd be able to run the 21km in a reasonable time without too much damage to my body.  Such high hopes, such high expectations....

Well, after a lot of waffle from the race organisers in Vietnamese, which absolutely no-one was listening to, the race started and from looking around, it seemed that most people had run many more half marathons than I had, weighed considerably less and could keep up a much faster pace than I.  My previous spirits waned a little, but were completely shot to pieces after 5km when I realised that the run was going to be much more difficult than I expected.  At the 5km marker, I felt short of energy, was breathing much heavier than I would usually do at the same stage of a run and a horrible feeling of foreboding 'Am I going to be able to complete the run?'

With the organisers being particularly worried about the well-being due to the humidity in Vietnam, there were motorbikes constantly patrolling the route.  At no stage of the run did they ask me if I was OK or seem particularly concerned about me, which I can only take as a good sign.  However, I was a little disappointed and ashamed that I appeared to be the only one walking so early in the run.  Indeed, I felt so fatigued that for the next 7 kilometers I devised a strategy of running for one song and power walking for the next.  However, this was proving detrimental to my legs as it was getting harder and harder to start running after each 'rest' period.

At the turn (12km) I was failing to see the funny-side of my folly of thinking I'd done nearly enough training.  The venue of the running was beautiful.  For anyone who doubts my love for Nha Trang, you only have to read my previous post to see my feeling for the place.  However, the sun was starting to beat down which was negating any sea breeze that mother nature was kind enough to provide.  The middle part of the run had several gentle gradients, which felt far from that after having run 12km over the best part of 80 minutes.  The attendants at the drinks station were also unreasonably happy.  I was dead on my feet, but they were smiling.  To make matters worse, they didn't take my request for a taxi seriously as apparently they thought I was joking!

At 15km my legs gave up and I finally experienced 'the wall' that so many marathon runners talk about.  After another one of my 'rest' periods, I tried to get my leg to move at slightly more than a snails pace only to find that both my calves and quad had lost the battle to lactic acid and had completely cramped up and I staggered, nearly falling.  Fortunately me for, non of the race attendants notice as I'm pretty sure they would have not allowed me to continue.  I was able to keep up as brisk a walk as I could manage, but jogging was completely out of the question and only 1st gear was available.

The final 6 km were, without exaggerating, were the singe most painful experience of my life.  I was lucky that my iPod still had juice and I could call upon some upbeat music to keep my spirits up.  I swear, if I had coldplay or radiohead on my dukebox, enough said.... In the distance, as there weren't many runners behind me, I saw a young Japanese man struggling as much as I was.  If only I could catch him.  I gritted my teeth and over a stretch of 2 km I reeled him in and we completed the final 3 km together, both of us fantasizing about the tiger beer we were going to enjoy after the race.  Honesty, I think chatting with my new comrade in arms was the only thing that helped me cross the finish line in somewhere between 2:30 - 3 hours (probably nearer the later but I'll yet to receive the official time).

Upon finishing, I was disappointed not to receive a medal, as I think the organisers only provided a certificate which I think was pretty lame.  Maybe I didn't make the cut-off time, but there was nothing on the website which stipulated a maximum time, though to be fair they didn't say finishers would receive a medal either.  However, my pain didn't end after the 21,097 metres of the run as I still had to walk the 1km back to the hotel.  Me being me, thought that the walk would be a good warm down, well at least before the run I thought it would be.  At approximately 9:30, I crabbed along the coast, barely able to put one leg in front of the other.  I got sympathetic looks for the locals and tourists alike, but they must have been flabbergasted that an overweight foreign had not only been stupid enough to run a half marathon, but was even more stupid enough to walk back to the hotel after!

Luckily, I recovered very quickly from the ordeal.  In fact, I recovered much quicker than I did after the first run I did, which is hopefully a result of being fitter that I was all those years ago.  And for your information, I enjoyed several beers after the run, after copious amounts of water!