Sunday, November 24, 2013

Standard Chartered Bangkok Marathon 2013

Here we are again in November, and that means two things: The Marines are a year older and it's time to run the Bangkok Marathon!!

This year's Bangkok Marathon was kinda in doubt due to continued political unrest and protests in Bangkok. The protests are (still) taking place in and around the government area right where the first two kilometers and the final twelve kilometers of the marathon take place. **Here's Eric on race kit pickup day, in front of the riot police and concertina wire.
So, we were a little worried that it would be postponed like in 2011 when the Marathon was pushed a couple months forward into 2012 due to the floods. I checked the running websites several times a day to make sure it was still on. The organizers insisted that they would not postpone or cancel it but said that they would make a course change. The course was indeed changed to exclude the area near the protesting and to add an additional 10ish kilometers of elevated expressway, which in fact ended up being the end of the expressway that turned into a normal road with cars and everything on both sides.

Eric and I had prepared using a training program off of Runkeeper. I initially wanted to go for a 3:30 marathon and Eric a 3:45. Achieving those goals would have knocked like 13 minutes off of both of our personal bests. I looked at the 3:30 training plan and compared it to the 3:45. Some of the runs looked a lot over my current fitness and ability, plus as Eric and I would be training together, it would be nice if we could run together, doing the same run at the same pace. It's so nice to have someone to run with. My decision was made, I would run the 3:45 plan. I would go for the 3:30 someday in a cooler place like perhaps at the Hong Kong Marathon. Who knows, could happen!!

We both had an excellent 16 weeks of training runs with very few missed runs (four runs per week) and relatively injury free. We both had some missed runs right in the lead up to the big day and it shook our confidence a little, but we pushed forward and took the positive out of each little training run to try to go into the race with positive thoughts, high self confidence and a feeling that we could realistically attain our target times.

Pae actually asked me before the race what my expectation was. I told her that I trained for a 3:45 marathon. I'd be completely satisfied with that. On a bad day, I could very well finish the race and limp in at 4:30, as long as I took something away from it and did my best, I told her, I'd be fine with that. If I had a good day and didn't have to stop on the course to use the toilet (which there were no toilets this year along the course!! amazing) I would feel great to knock a few seconds off of my 3:42 personal best. If I had a killer day I think a 3:35 would not be out of the realm of possibility and if I had the best race of my life and everything went perfectly and I was farting rocket fueled fireballs out of my butt, I'd give 3:29:59 a go!! Haha.

Part of having a good day, which Eric and I debated countless times during our runs, would be to start out slowly and not go full bore from the beginning. That's what I did last year, started out running way faster than we had trained, getting to 36km in 3:00 and crashing and burning soon after. The memory of that horrible feeling, the lingering phantom pains that I could still imagine in my legs those gruelling final 6km...they all helped me to try to ease back this year. "Ease back" probably should have been 5:20 minute kilometers for the first 8 km...but I was only able to control my excitement and emotions to the tune of somewhere between 5:00-5:05 minute kms. This did get me to the 12km marker at right at the hour mark and where I thought 24km was by the two hour mark. I sped up when I hit 8km but people were passing me left and right. I didn't get it. I started counting all of the runners who passed me, just to keep my mind in the race...luckily it didn't destroy my confidence, because I knew that we're all running different races strategically and we're all running for ourselves at our own ability level. So I just started counting.

A runner I know from Banana Runners passed me at 12km and I sped up to run with him. His Garmin said we were going at 4:45 minute kilometers, which I can do but not for long if I want to have anything left at the end. We ran and talked for two kilometers. He was running the marathon as a tune up race for the Singapore Marathon two weeks later. He intended to stop at the 32km point and walk it the rest of the way in...his training 20 miler basically. He asked me what my goal time was then he said he would pace me the rest of the way at 4:45, he wanted me to get 3:30 even though I told him I was aiming for 3:35 (the time I chose before the race to give myself something to aim for). I looked at him and laughed...I told him the 4:45s were too fast and we shook and he disappeared into the distance after running together for ten minutes.

I slowed down a little after that, but still maintained an average of a 5:00 minute pace until 24km. At 24km another runner passed me (the first one to pass me since maybe 16km). I tried to stay with him and even used him to break some of the wind, haha. Eventually it was obvious that I was running with him and we passed the 26km signage. I looked at my watch and he looked at his Garmin...we looked at each other, having not said one word to each other prior to this. My watch said we had just done 2km in 6:00 minutes...I just laughed and a conversation ensued. Turns out that we are both American, both teach science in Bangkok and both enjoy running marathons and ultras (although I'm just starting that).

I asked him what the pace was when he looked at his Garmin. We were cruising at 4:56. We stayed under five minute kilometers for a while and he kept me up to date on the actual distance from his GPS. The marathon route distance signs were about two km off...which would have been a mind killer later in the race when we had to make up those two km, had I not know our exact distance. He walked through a couple water points and told me that he likes to walk through them after 28km for twenty seconds for a little lactic acid relief. I walked with him through a couple and just slowed up to wait for him through a couple. The lost time was worth the company that I had for those kilometers and who knows, it might have helped like he said!

We passed 36km at about 3:04:00 gun time. This was four minutes slower than I had run last year up to that point. But I felt good and my mind was not on running for such a long time and there wasn't the loneliness of previous long runs, because I was running with dude from 24km to 38km. That company for that 14km was great. Just like running with Eric in training. Here's a funny picture (from last year's marathon I think) but they were holding the same signs again this year! Gave me a little boost, even though it seems a little less than motivating at around the 36km mark!

I felt the pain start creeping in around 37k and reached over and shook his hand and thanked him for running together. He was cool, but we still stayed at 5:00 minute kms. He then said "4km to go". I was happy. I felt good and felt like I could continue a 5:00 pace the rest of the way. But then he said "Dude, I'm done, good luck" or something like that, we shook and I figured I had to break for it and use up the rest of my energy and see if I could have that great day and hit the 3:35. I assumed that I would slow to 6:00 minute kilometers and come in at around 3:36 and if I could kick the last km maybe hit the 3:35.

I started digging into my little box of happy thoughts as I was now alone on the course and actually passing half marathoners. I was running very close to 4:25-4:30 minute kilometers, probably the fastest I've run in a very long time over a 4km distance. I was feeling excellent leg wise, but I was drained and tired, I was hot and sweaty and I was waiting for the wall to hit. That punk never came and I sprinted the last 400 meters to the finish line.
I was in a daze when I crossed but Pae was right there, somehow she had gotten into the finishing chute and was about 5 yards from the finishing line with a couple Army guards and marathon staff who were there to cut off our timing chips from our shoes.

I looked at my watch and I had run a 3:32:16. I was over the moon. Pae kept telling me that I had ran so fast. I was happy to be able to share that with her and happy that she knew just how great of a run I had. Not just a number or a time, but since we had talked about it earlier, she knew exactly where I would be finishing in every possible scenario ;)

Pae and Eric's wife had come to the race to meet us (and Eric's wife to run the 10K at 6am) together and we waited at the finish line for Eric to finish.
And what do you know...before the race Eric and I talked about training plans and pacing and how cool it was that when we would see someone say "I wanna run a 4 hour marathon", that often they would finish like just a few seconds under the goal time.
Guess what Eric ran? Yup, 3:45:00 EXACTLY!!! Holy crap! Like, three hours, forty five minutes and ZERO seconds, timed by chip, exactly 3:45:00. We both just ran our plan, we both just knocked 10+ minutes off of our previous personal best marathon times! Our wives were there to meet us AT THE FINISH LINE. Could I have run a 3:30? Not on that day. It's still out there for me to chase! Could I have had a better day? No, it was perfect.

My motto going into the big day was "Don't poop my pants" from a youtube video a guy made of what he thinks of while running a marathon. I'm happy to report, although it took me until I got home and ripped my running clothes off in the shower, that I did indeed NOT "pants my poop"!! (much)

Standard Chartered Bangkok Marathon 2013
Finish time- 3:32:16 (PB)
Overall finish- 77/1904 runners
Age category - 26/506 runners aged 40-49

Finish time- 3:45:00 (PB)
Overall finish- 147/1904 runners
Age category - 37/446 runners aged 30-39


mardenheyjude said...

WOW!!!! 3:32:16. What an awesome time. I was looking at the qualifying times for the 2014 Boston Marathon and in your age group the qualifying time is (3:15) pretty close to your time.
Boy can you run fast. Your training program paid off for you. You sure were prepared for this marathon. I am glad to hear that you did not poop your pants. Haha;) Your friend Eric did great finishing at 3:45. It is always nice to have the wives waiting at the finish line for you. The pictures are great and as always I love the story. Enjoy your new personal best marathon time. Hi to Pae. Love always, Auntie

Pae and Guy said...

Thanks, Auntie. I ran this one "comfortably". By this I mean that I was in a very comfortable rhythm for about 33 kilometers. I only was in a state of discomfort for about 10-12 kilometers; first 2K, 12-14K running too fast, and 37-42K...I feel that I need to be able to put in more effort, increase the amount of the run where I'm on the edge, otherwise I'm just gonna run "comfortable" sub-4 marathons forever with little improvement. Or, maybe the decent training that we had made what would have previously felt uncomfortable feel more smooth and easy ;) I think next Bangkok Marathon I'll go with the 3:30:00 training plan and see what happens!

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