Sunday, 8 September 2013

Marathon half-marathon

It has been a long time since I took up the proverbial "pencil" to put down some thoughts of mine. I guess the routine of doing the "captain's blog" after the many years on Kalizma sort of put me off blogging for awhile. It also did not help that I changed jobs and work on a confidential project, there is not much you can write about something that is confidential except that it is confidential.

Start of the race, picture compliments of the organizers

Well, enough said, I have now been in Greece for a year and as I'm still apparently going to be here until summer 2014 I took up running to get myself fit and to keep fit and also to avoid getting a wardrobe of bigger and bigger garments the size of military troop tents.

So, when I arrived here I took up running with the Athens Hash House Harriers (AH3), a group that I used to run with when I was here first in 2003, it was nice to meet old friends although the ranks had thinned considerably due to the financial crisis of the country, many expats had left for more lucrative venues as well as exorbitant tax measures of the state.

Anyway, running once a week is not going to keep that trouser size down to constant so I started running and walking near my pad on the Imittos mountain. It is big enough to provide hours of walking trails and nature for those that fancy it. By now I am quite familiar with the trails up there and run there at least once a week in addition to my other runs elsewhere.

Then in the beginning of this summer I was asked by AH3 if I want to do the Athens Classic Marathon 10km run or the full one as it was getting full of participants and they'd have to submit the runners asap while there was still space left. I decided on a split second, maybe a bit foolishly, that I would run the full length of 42km. Well, said and done I now needed to act on my decision so I took up a training regime to get me fit for the run in November.

When I was on summer holidays in Finland in August I was still just running for the fun of it but when I came back I started following a program that would get me fit for fight in just 16 weeks. The problem was that I did not have 18 weeks, so I shaved off the necessary time to fit the program to the full marathon. I had to cut off about a month. The middle of the program included a half marathon and this is what the post is about, the program coincided exactly with the race date so I penciled it in and registered for the measly amount of 5€.

Meanwhile I was following my program and then arrived my first 22km run that was a disaster, went out straight in morning without eating and ran only on 500ml of water, by the time I reached 20.5km I was so much out of energy that I had to walk the remaining 2km and eventually cut short some 750m, runners call it "bonk", I had effectively "bonked" my run.

During the week I was studiously following the runs and studying information online for runners regarding the stitch, paces, chafing and nutrition and other stuff so the next week I was wiser, I had stored up on race goo, gels with carbs that will give energy when running as well as had a energy laden breakfast and a pasta the night before and ran with isotonic in my bum bag bottle. The 24.2km run was heavy but eventually I finished it running all the way through.

Me before start

Then came the race day and I was not overly nervous, I followed the same formula as on my 24k run and had my gels in my bum bag as well as isotonic. I was trusting the organisers to give water during the route. I met up with another AH3 runner, Knob Goblin, and we chatted until it was time to run. The run was offed on the dot at 0900hrs as advertised and we all were off. I was going with the pack and feeling great as my body was humming from all the energy I had ingested that morning.

Knob Goblin, me and Elizabeth

The road went downwards so I was cruising and my tracker was telling me incredible paces every km, I was doing below 6min pace/ km which was surprising to me as I was more accustomed to be at around 7min/ km pace on my dirt tracks but apparently the smooth asphalt helped. I tracked my half time to be 1h9min at 11km so it was all to do to keep same speed until the end.

At 8km I had a gel as I had been running around 45min and I was drinking water with it, meanwhile I was sipping on my isotonic to replace body salts with the ones I had sweated out, the sun was high up on the sky and quite hot. It was in a sense pity that the run had not been the previous day as Saturday had been overcast with isolated light showers the whole day, but no, the Sunday was sunny and warm. Luckily there were waterstops during the route.

The first half went straight down to Nea Makri where we made a U turn and run up the same way we came from apart that we also ran around the war memorial of Marathon, that detour was nearly 2km. When back on the staright road it was 17km and I was feeling a bit beat up but I manned up and picked up pace as I felt I was just slacking down although I felt I had the energy to go on, I guess my thighs were seizing up on lactic acid and they needed a wake up.

At some places there were drummers and some cafe's that had setup music systems blaring out music that was a nice boost for morale as well as intermittent spectators clapping runners on. At abt 18km where the last water stop was there was no water, they had apparently ran out. It was not a problem to me as I was carrying the bottle from the last stop and had still half left. I can only imagine what other runners who were thirsty thought of it. I kept on going with same pace uphill towards the end and it seemed an eternity before I sighted the triumph.

I ran through the end and heard the machine beep for my tag so I was recorded, at same time I clocked off my own tracker and I clocked a final time of 2h22m time which was abt 4m longer for my return than the 1st half. I guess a good result for an intermediate runner like me.

Tracked map and graph of my half marathon

Again there was no water at the end and nothing much else either, just empty cases bearing witness that all was already finished. At a stand I was handed a medal and a plastic bag of some sponsored souvenirs from the organizers. I saw a first aid group with half a case of water and asked if I could have a bottle but they refused telling me this is for emergency cases only.

So, it was done, I can only tell that the race was poorly organised for the end, I think they might have had the requisite amount of water for the runners but the distribution was haphazard as I could see runners taking a sip of a bottle and the throwing it away when a cup of water would have sufficed. The organizers also received some flak on their Facebook page regarding the same issue, I hope they wil take this into account next year if there will be another race arranged.

Now I am carrying on with my training for the big event in November that I hope will be better organised.
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