Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Ayutthaya Marathon 2013

This post is only a couple months late ;) I'll stick it up here quickly just to have it on the blog to look at some pictures later. This year, Unique Running, a local race organizer, offered the marathon distance of 42.195 kilometers with their usual half marathon, 10k and fun run distances. I think there are three Unique Running races in Thailand, those being held in Ayutthaya, Khao Yai and Sukhothai. Previously, the max distance they offered was 21.1k and I think 2013 was the first year they experimented with the full marathon.
Eric and I signed up for the race, even though it was to be held shortly after the Bangkok Marathon. We had both just set new personal best times for the marathon in November but I really wanted to try to get under 3:30 (Bangkok 2013 was 3:32). We didn't really go to break personal best times, especially after having run the full marathon only weeks before. We went for the experience, to see the course, to run some together as training for the upcoming trail races that we had planned on doing and just because it seemed like the thing to do at the time.
Without getting too much into the details and logistics of our race mornings, we made it to Ayutthaya and met at the starting line. There was a good buzz in the air, it was cool weather and I saw a lot of Bangkok Runners, my running group. Shiny Bottom was there, if you remember Mr. Shiny Bottom from the 2012 Bangkok Marathon ;) We have eventually become acquainted and talk shop every now and then on Facebook. He's a fast guy and a very humble guy. On the day, he would lay down a 2:53 time for the marathon and walk away the winner. This was his first sub-3 marathon and he was very happy. HE has since mentioned trying to get down to 2:30...crazy fast.
Eric and I started at a 5:00/km pace and hit a couple bridges over rivers hard and hurried down them to try to pick up a little time. We had counted something like eight water crossings (bridges) on the route map, so we figured we could go hard on the down slope.

We eventually were away from the group behind us and the leaders were way off in front of us and we were in a good little 8 man group. We got to about 10km and were running through a park, in the dark, and took a wrong turn. We went left when we should have gone right. Eric and another guy noticed that there may have been a turn arrow sign in the shadows, so we all slowed up, hollered at the Japanese runner who had led us on the wrong left turn ;) and kinda jogged around looking for a sign. Luckily, right as we saw a 10km sign on our left, we also saw a course marshal with a flashlight waving us back the direction from which we came. Luckily we turned around because he was standing near a timing mat that gives intermediate splits and makes sure runners don't cut the course. Many runners weren't so lucky and were eventually disqualified for cutting the course or missing timing pads.
Eric and I separated on a bridge downhill section on a major highway. There were just so many big trucks and cars and it was dark and I just wanted to get off of that road so I hit the downhill like the rest. I was trying to stay with the older Japanese guy who had been in our little group earlier. We passed each other a couple times through the dark back roads of Ayutthaya, but eventually he got tired of the little game and just started going steady at a pace that I'm uncomfortable with, 4:30/km, and he slowly disappeared into the distance.

We ran on unpaved roads at times, gravelly roads and just completely middle of nowhere pitch black roads until the sun started to rise. The race started at 4:00am, so we were a good two hours into it before the sun started to light the sky.
The cool thing about the dark was that we ran past an elephant farm. I smelled them before I saw them.  Suddenly on my left side, I saw a light colored form, as big as a truck. As I got closer, not three meters from the road, was a light colored male elephant (didn't know it was a male at the time until I saw pictures that a fellow runner had taken a few hours later). What don't you expect to encounter during a foot race? Elephants. It was a good break for my brain and one of the highlights for me ;)
The only other real animal encounter(s) was all of the stray dogs (soi dogs) that growled and barked, nipped at and intimidated runners along the course. I was "attacked" twice by dogs and the runner in front of me got it really good on one occasion...a shop owner had to call the dog off of him. Nobody was hurt, just it throws you off for a while when you have to deal with that kind of distraction. The two times that the dogs came at me aggressively, I squirted them with my water bottle that I carried during the race and they turned tail and ran!

I hurt really bad energy wise at around 37km or somewhere around there. I had hit the last 5km of the Bangkok Marathon at a very good pace just a month earlier and I had figured that I could do it again this race. I didn't have the legs or the energy and I just kinda kept my legs going with the goal of finishing. As the kilometer markers passed by, I kept looking at my watch and feeling like I was on pace for right around a 3:30 marathon, but wasn't sure because sometimes the distance markers are a little off.
Once I saw the markers in the 40's I was happy and knew that there would be no bonk disaster on this day (although technically I bonked a little and wasn't able to keep the quicker pace in the end) and ran as hard as I could until the finish line. I had a straight away of maybe 200 meters and I could see the clock and it was still under 3:30...sprint finish! I made it under 3:30...I ran a 3:29:50.
No sooner than I sat down to rest, stretch then walk back to the finishing chute to watch Eric finish, did he come sprinting to the finish! Wow! Eric had also cut his personal best to shreds. He ran a 3:35:51 and was quite satisfied with it I think. Heck, we had both just run the fastest we ever ran. There was a suspicion that the course was a few hundred meters short as many people ran personal bests, but hey, we ran a good extra 400 meters when we took a wrong turn...that's two extra minutes right there of extra running. I'm assuming the course was accurate...haven't seen any GPS readings on it though.
Question for those who frequent running events back home...Here, as you can see in some of our finishing pictures, there are many other runners of other distances also finishing the race. So in one picture you may see a marathoner, a half marathoner, a 10k'er and many fun runners. It's tough sometimes having to weave your way through all of the less serious runners who are out there for a good morning exercise or whatnot. After 40km, it's hard to suddenly change directions to avoid people taking selfies in the middle of the road or pushing strollers or lined up across the road, arms linked so they can finish the run together. Does this also happen at other races? Are the different distances raced to where the shorter distance runners are finishing at the same time as the longer distance runners?

Something funny happened after the race. Eric and I went to shower and head back to Bangkok after we finished. After breakfast and showering, we were in the car and I got a call from Mr. Shiny Bottom. What?
He told me that they had just called my name at the award ceremony and that I had finished 5th in my age group and 8th overall :) I didn't believe it but went back to the race area to collect my hardware.
I told Eric during the ride back that I wouldn't be surprised if he had also gotten a high finish position...and guess what? We looked at the timing sheet and he had also nabbed a 5th place trophy for his age category! Hahah, so unexpected and a fun experience.

We drove back to Bangkok with our cool trophies. Kinda felt a little cheesy, but after the dust settled, we had run a good race and are happy with our cool trophies ;)

Ayutthaya Marathon 2013
Guy  Full Marathon in 3:29:50 (PB) 5th place Age 40-49, Overall 8th place
Eric  Full Marathon in 3:35:51 (PB) 5th place Age 30-39, Overall 11th place

1 comment:

mardenheyjude said...

WOW!!! Both you (Guy) and Eric just keep getting better and faster. Great finish times and wicked awesome trophies. Hi to Pae. Love always, Auntie

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