November 2, 2011

Shonan International Marathon

Crazy people run marathons.  Insane people try to run them fast.  Being married to such an insane person is both fun and draining.  Sara has been training for this race for a while now.  Through the blazing, boiling heat of the summer, into the cool days of the fall.  Running at 5:00 in the morning in the dark, running in the rain, running all day saturday, running, running, running.  Her dedication and love of running is impressive, her determination is inspiring.  With race day upon us, Sara got dropped off at the train station before the kids went to school.  Abby and I jumped on the train soon after the kids got dropped off and we went to see Sara at the half marathon mark.  We would see her at other points along the way as Abby and I jumped on and off different trains, monorails, and trolley cars.  One thing that has to be said for the Japanese is that they can organize a race. I have never seen so much support, such organized water stations, and attention to detail.  The race went along Sagami Bay to Enoshima Island and back.  It was a good day: temperature was just right, minimal wind, and a flat course.  All I can say about the race is that Sara is amazing.  How she runs these things at all is beyond me, how she runs them so fast goes way beyond me.  Training by herself for months with nobody to run with, running the race as one of only a few foreigners among the 18,000 runners, and taking a train across Japan just to get there takes true grit.  Though she says its her last one, I'll believe it when I see it. Keep running girl!

I am crazy to have trained for this marathon in probably the worst time of year in Japan.  I spent most of my training running in the humdity and even at 5am it was still pretty nasty outside.  I don't really know why I like to torture myself.  Running is something that is so ingrained in who I am that I would truly be lost without the challenge of it.  I have to admit that my training wasn't as smooth as I would have liked.  I got sick twice which put me out for entire weeks and a previously planned family vacation really hurt some of my last long runs.  That coupled with the heat and humidity I should have realized that time should not have been a goal for this race.  I did manage to get in one 20 miler as well as an 18, 16, 14, and a bunch of 12 mile runs.  Once the humidity died down I was able to put in some speed where I was running at my goal race pace and even faster during some of my longer runs.  I was feeling pretty good but my confidence wasn't as strong and to be honest my heart wasn't 100% in running the race.  That being said, I went ahead with my plans to try and run a 7:40 min/mile pace so that I could attempt to beat my previous PR of 3:24:00 and possibly try to break 3:20:00.  I left for the venue around 6:30am and finally made it by 8:10am.  I took two trains and a city bus to get to the venue at the Oiso Prince Hotel.  I saw a few male foreigners but no female foreingers.  After dropping off my gear and going to the bathroom one more time I headed to my corral where I tried to make my way to the front.  It only took me 5 minutes to get to the starting line and only 4 miles to break free of the crowds.  The first few miles were challenging as I was trying to keep my pace and dodge in and out of lots of people.  I hugged the outside so that I could jump on the curb and pass if I needed to.  I was able to hold between a 7:15-7:50 pace for the first 12 miles of the race.  I was feeling great but I kept looking for Mike.  I felt quite alone in a sea of Japanese people who I couldn't really talk to.  I finally saw Mike and Abby at mile 12 which was lucky for me because they had just gotten there.  I thought after seeing them and making the turn around point that I would get a burst of energy but actually I felt depleted of energy.  Instead of taking my gu here which in retrospect I should have, I waited until mile 14.  Because the race started at 9am and the fact that it is hard to eat before race I should have realized that I would need extra energy during the race.  My pace slowed to the low 8 min range for the next 5 miles and then I was even struggling to maintain a 8:30 min/mile pace.  I don't know what happened and slowly my confidence started to tumble.  My body just felt tired and it was then that I realized that it didn't really matter what my time would be but that I needed to focus on just finishing the race.  I made it to mile 20 where I started to have some chest pains.  The last couple of weeks before the race I discovered that my blood pressure was higher than I am used to.  It was a bit unnerving so when I felt something at mile 20 I decided to slow it up even more.  I ran 9:30 min miles for the rest of the race and finished in 3:36:00.  It wasn't my best time and it wasn't my worst time.  It was a very challenging race for me because my body didn't feel great and because mentally I really struggled to stay focused.  As I rounded the last corner before the finish line I saw Mike and Abby again and I immediately smiled even though I felt like my legs were barely moving.  It was all I could do to run up the last little hill to the finish line (thanks a lot for that race planning people).  I am pretty positive that this will be my last full marathon.  I plan on training for half marathons and 10K races. I know that is where my true strengths are!