Sunday, December 28, 2014

Ayutthaya Marathon 2014

This is the second year in a row that I've run the Ayutthaya Marathon. I really enjoyed it the first time and decided that I should run it again. I jokingly said, since last year I got a 5th place age category trophy, that I had to race to defend my fifth place title, hahah, all in fun of course ;)

Adding to my desire to run Ayutthaya again was the fact that I missed out on the Bangkok Marathon this year. I needed to run a November or December marathon. I also have big races coming up in the beginning of 2015 so I need to get some distance on the legs before the ultras start piling up. Ayutthaya seemed like the perfect race to run since it was close to home (hour drive), didn't need to get a hotel, 4:00am start and a prior good experience. The only real mystery this year was the route because they changed it from last year's.

I have been running much less lately, cutting back from 5 runs a week to 2-3 per week. I was running my Sunday long run, two speed work runs (tempo or intervals) and two shorter filler runs back when Eric and I were training together. Now that Eric has switched his training to some shorter distance goals, I usually have to run alone. Two or three times a week seems about right for my goals. I have no lofty goals of breaking 3:15:00 or anything. I just enjoy being out there and not suffering too much. I wanna be in good shape for these races but I don't need to win, I don't need to trophy, I don't need to have a perfect race every time out but I want to be able to give a good effort. I just wanna run and these races help give me little goals along the way, motivation, something to work towards and a community of fellow runners to share something with; a common interest.

One thing that I was worried about before the race, even though I wasn't looking to go all out, was that I suffered a minor head injury (concussion) a week prior when my Marine buddy Woody came to visit from Japan. I was taking a family picture for them, in a boat, and I leaned back, propping myself up on one of the seats. The seat broke and I hit my head pretty hard on the front wooden seat. I was dazed for most of the rest of the day but not seriously, no nausea or anything like that. My head bled and ended up with a good one inch cut down near my external occipital protuberance (funny I remember that from anatomy!) I was fine though on two pre marathon runs, so I decided to go ahead and run. I was ready to DNF if I felt any dizziness or anything out of the ordinary.
The race started as most of my marathons have...too fast. In the starting chute, I chatted anxiously with fellow runners and the most common thing to talk about in that final 2 minutes before the start is pace, goal time and general "good lucks" and such. I guess, normally, this is when Eric and I would shake hands and wish each other luck and "See you in a few hours". Eric would run the 10K this time, so that was different ;)

I was talking to a Japanese runner and he said he was going out for a 3:30:00. I told him I planned to go out at a slow 5:15 per kilometer pace and settle into a 5:00 per kilometer pace after ten or fifteen kilometers...so somewhere around a 3:45:00 marathon (considering my lack of training the previous couple months). We smiled, shook hands and the horns sounded. I made my way from the fifth row back to the front within the first 200 meters where we encountered a small round-about or "traffic circle"...we all went left...we were supposed to go through the round-about, haha. The police officer quickly corrected us to save us from going too far off course.

I saw some white guys sprinting up in front of the pack and the lead vehicles did their best to stay in front of them. We were a pack of ten runners behind the two or three white dudes. I looked at my watch and saw a  pace of  "4:32/km". All I could do is laugh at myself for once again getting caught up in the excitement of the moment and starting out WAY TOO FAST. This pace was 45 seconds faster than I had planned, so I intentionally let off of the gas. Some of the pack of ten runners that I was in started to pull away, staying steady at 4:30s and for the next seven kilometers I'd average somewhere around 4:45s (still too fast).

At about 5K we passed the reclining Buddha that Pae and I had gone to the day prior when we came to get my race pack. It was all lit up at 4:30 in the morning and quite a sight to see. It kinda broke the marathon up as it recentered my brain as I passed it. I looked at Buddha as I passed by, remembered the day before with Pae, looked back to the front and started to concentrate on my breathing after a nice deep breath. I think one or two guys passed me on the next 2km straightaway. It was dark, they were both Thai guys.

Soon would be a big u-turn near a lake, one that we ran around in the later portions of the race last year (different course this year). So, this time it was dark, last year bright. It was the perfect chance to cruise down a straightaway looking all around, up and down to the horizon, and take in the still-dark sky (5:00 am) and all of the stars that we usually don't get to see in the bright night sky of Bangkok. It was nice and was good for the mind to be able to have something other than running and breathing and pace to think about.

As I got nearer to the u-turn, I became interested to see what my position was. I figured I was in the top 15 runners as only two guys had passed me since the early kilometers. As I reached about a half km from the u-turn the leaders passed. It was dark and the lead vehicle's lights were directly in my face so I couldn't tell who they were. Close behind them was a group of two then some individuals. By the time I hit the u-turn I had counted that I was in 13th place. Good for what was a really fast start for me.

At this point, I started looking at the runners who were behind me, now passing me the opposite direction towards the u-turn. We cheered each other and encouraged each other. I counted 8-10 runners who were pretty close to me and who I knew were of similar ability to me, so I figured I had a good chance at top 20 in the race as I would surely blow up and die somewhere near 35km because I was using up all of my energy early with the quickened pace. It didn't  bother me at all, I probably had a smirk on my face at the time, laughing at my inability to control myself at the start of races.

I continued running into the stillness of the early dawn hours. I could only hear my footsteps and my breathing. I have been practicing a new breathing pattern lately to help me to reduce the amount of joint injuries and running pain that I commonly suffer with through training. Without going too much into it, people  generally inhale and exhale the same amount of breaths when running or even just breathing normally. Turns out that inhaling tightens the core and the core is much looser when exhaling. This can affect form as the exhale will always fall on the same leg, meaning that the form breakdown on that exhale will only affect that leg, more stress on that leg and it's joints...pain...injury. Well, this is the theory at least. So, I've been practicing inhale three, exhale two so the exhale falls on alternating feet! It's hard and it takes focus, but I was able to maintain that pattern for probably over 75% of the marathon this time ;) Small victory ;)

I was entering a portion of the marathon when I start to feel alone and separated from the rest of the runners. I could see a group of 5 runners up in front of me about 200-300 meters almost at all times. I could not hear them. I noticed two runners behind me when I would come around a big u-turn (there were 8+ such u-turns on the course). The runners behind were pushing me, the runners in front were pulling me, the pace on my watch was still under 5:00/km.

As I looked up to see the 15km sign there was a ringing and buzzing coming from my fanny pack (in actuality it's a "fronty" pack as I wear it in the front) It was my phone ringing...at a little past 5:00 am...It could only be one person and that was Pae...I grabbed the phone quickly to see if anything was wrong, only to see Eric's name on the caller ID. I was like, "Ah, what the heck" and I answered it, haha.

Me: "'Sup dude?"
Eric: "Udaaaaaaaaaaaa!"

Haha, Eric was at the race preparing to run the 10K and his wife and kids were with him preparing to run the 4.2k family run/walk. Eric cheered me on the phone then had everybody cheer "Uda, Uda, Uda" on the phone. I laughed, we hung up, I smiled. I looked at my pace and laughed again...still too fast! But, now that I was a good 1/3 into the race and there were two dudes hot on my tail, there would be no slowing down ;) It had become an ego thing...that little bit of competitiveness, a race within a race ;) Chomping at the bit to pull that group of five runners back from a quarter mile up the road while running scared that the guys behind me were gonna eat me up and spit me out as they cruised past. I had entered the race expecting a nice easy challenge against my conditioning, my form, my training, my heart; a race against myself. I passed 15km in a race against the five in front and the two behind.
This dude is over 60 years old...and beat me by 2 minutes! Solid!
I hit the 21km point of the race and looked down to see an even 1:39:00 on my watch. Really fast for me, every kilometer had been sub five minutes. The wind was starting to pick up, my mind told me I was going too fast and I tried to slow down to a 5:00/km pace. The first kilometer after deciding to ease off was at 5:05...I had to take an inventory at this point and make a decision. If I let myself be satisfied with a 5:05 when I told myself to slow to a 5:00, I'd probably end up really slowing down to 5:30s the rest of the way which would have been fine considering I had goaled a 3:45:00. I still felt good so I told myself to hit my 5:00 kilometers and see where that took me. My next four kilometers were perfect 5:00, 4:58, 4:59, 4:58. It felt good to be able to maintain the pace I wanted and felt good to see the kilometers passing by so quickly.

After the 26th kilometer, I started to hear the shuffling of feet behind me. Closer and closer they got until this Thai dude who was last year's 3rd place winner in my 40-49 year old category caught me at a water station. He pulled away after each water station by about twenty meters as I stopped and poured a cup of water in my Gatorade bottle each time. I'd quickly pull him back and pass him. Turns out that he was waiting for me and would tuck in behind me as I passed and use me as a wind breaker. The wind was terrible for a good one fourth of the race. Directly in the runners' faces for kilometers at a time. Near the lake there was a strong crosswind coming off of the water that really affected form but was kinda fun as it was still early (10k) and we still had plenty of energy. But from kilometer 27-32 the wind was straight into the face. We were basically on the side of a highway for some of the long straightaways, a part of the course the half marathoners and ten k runners didn't have. Many of them weren't bothered by wind.

These really windy kilometers brought us right up to where I usually get worn out and really tired from the run. Those were about 6km at about 5:20/km. Very slow compared to the sub-5 pace I had been running. The Thai dude stayed tucked in behind me for about ten kilometers until the wind was gone. Then he started to go hard. I stayed behind him, this time I was the one tucked behind for about two kilometers of about 4:50 pace. The wind hit again for 2km and I pulled up beside him and started a conversation...went something like:

Me: Strong wind
Him: Super strong, Eating up our time. Waste time.
Me: You strong!
Him: You run well.
Him: We are stronger as a group, We run together the rest of the way and I'll let you cross the finish line first.
Me: Okay
Him: I need you to pull me
Me: **thoughts** Uh, you may need to pull me dude!!

So, I ran with dude until he started to fade back quite a bit. When we hit a couple 5minute+ kilometers in a row and he was straggling, I smiled, waved and "put the hammer down" hahahah! Dude would go on to finish 5th in the 40-49 year old age category ;)

The next seven, the final seven, kilometers I ran pretty hard, just inviting my body to use up all of it's remaining energy. I had eaten all of my Gu Gels when I had planned, I had hydrated properly before and during the race, I had taken my electrolytes when scheduled, I had no digestive issues. The perfect race really. I knew I had a chance of finishing in the top ten, but I didn't know how many of those runners in front of me were in my age group. I'd have to wait for the finish to find out, and perhaps longer as last year there were no results and no cards given to the trophy finishers as they crossed the finish line...so a finisher would have no idea that they finished in the trophies. Haha, last year Eric and I had both showered and were on the way home when we got a call informing us that we had placed.

At this point I could see two marathoners in front of me. The group of five had split and two were straggling. I passed both of them in the last couple kilometers. I waved at the Japanese dude that I had spoken to at the start line as he had done a u-turn and was only about 2km from the finish with me about a km behind.
The Japanese runner in the last three km passing some Fun runners and 10K runners
I caught another younger runner who had cramps. Feel bad for the dude cuz he had made it about 40km already and in the top ten certainly before disaster hit for him. I passed him and he started running again. I agreed to pull him along and he stuck with me at a sub5 pace for only about 400 meters when he had another huge cramp. He told me to go because he "Q"...I didn't know what "Q" meant, but I guessed it had something to do with cramps as his body looked as if it was cramping. I think he stopped at the water station for aid. I took off.

I ran the last kilometers pretty hard, trying to stay with some of the half marathoners who were also finishing on the same stretch of road. There were a bunch of 10K runners and Family Run runners also, but they were taking it easy so it made it feel like I was really running fast, haha. I made the last left turn and sprinted to the finish. Waiting for me there was a race marshall and she handed me a little ticket with the number 4 on it and the number 40. Then I knew that I had the perfect race. I had finished 4th place in the 40-49 age category and 9th place overall. Last year was 5th place and 8th place overall.

This event is so nice compared to the Bangkok Marathon. So much more to engage the mind. There was a lot of wind, but the cooler temperatures made up for it as I was able to go faster, longer. The push and pull from other runners was also a help. Eventually when I felt that there was a chance that I could finish in the trophies, I kept my pace up and even when I was going slower because of the wind pushing me backwards, I kept pushing hard, daring my body to run out of energy. Usually I do just that, bonk. This time was different.

It would be craziness to attribute my great race to the two Smoked Turkey and Bacon bagels (on Jalapeno and Double Cheese Bagels) that I ate the two days prior to the marathon. Although it probably has nothing to do with my meal choice, it does probably have something to do with how relaxed I was and how I just went out with "nothing to lose" attitude, not caring of my finish time, not having high expectations. In the end, and near the end of the race, I started to "hope" that my great run would result in a trophy or a good time that I could claim as my best...and I was lucky to get a trophy again. But when I look at it, a week on, I am just happy that I was able to train as little as I did and still go out there and give it a really good effort. I attacked the course at times and didn't let the wind bother me mentally. I wasn't all alone for the whole race like I usually am since the one guy came and drafted off of me for so many kilometers. Even though we didn't talk too much, we were both fighting the same wind, we were both breathing hard. I could hear an occasional scuff of his heels on the ground, telling me that he was starting to struggle, I could look back and encourage him. He would pass me at the water stations and look back to invite me to run with him for a little longer. No words needed to be exchanged for most of those 10-12km late in the race...we both knew the deal and were happy to have those kilometers not pass all alone. Makes the pain easier to handle.

Bangkok Runners did really well again at this event, as they usually do at events organized by Unique Running. For the Marathon we had the 18-39 age category Female first place winner and myself finishing 4th in the older category Male.

For the Half Marathon we had the Overall winner, a couple age category 2nd place winners a 4th and a 5th.
Matt usually wins the half marathon, and even marathons, by Unique Running
For the 10K, the guy who won it is a dude we all know, but I don't think he is a Bangkok Runner, but still, great job to him. We also had a 1st place Female and a 3rd place Male...

I go into all of this detail because Eric was the 3rd place Male for his age category! Haha! Eric has been training so hard the past few months for his 5K time and decided to do the 10K at Ayutthaya. He clocked a fast, fast, fast 42:00 minutes flat for the race and brought home another Ayutthaya trophy. Other than not having him in the Marathon and not starting together at the starting line, it was like deja vu! Congrats Eric and glad that your family got to be there to share the experience with you!
Working hard
One funny thing about this year's trophy ceremony was that it was a little like last year's in that when I got my trophy, most people had left already. They saved the Marathon results for last. Every five minutes that passed, during the rest of the ceremonies, a BKK Runner would say "Sorry guys, gotta go before we miss free breakfast at the hotel" haha!! Soon, our group of ten or so Bangkok Runners had been whittled down to two or three of us who were still waiting for our trophies. Everyone else was off to eat breakfast. They were all so apologetic but I told them that I was exactly the same...if there was free breakfast on offer at the hotel that I payed for, I'm not gonna miss the breakfast hours!! Unfortunately, because there were no Bangkok Runners left when it was my turn to get my trophy, I have no photos of that, yet.

The Unique Running website has taken two weeks already to post photos in it's gallery, and they are still not up, so I have no trophy ceremony photos...I'll just post this with the few photos I do have and post the trophy pix later if they ever get posted.

I've had a good week away from running since Ayutthaya already and it feels like time to get back out there. January awaits. Columbia Trail 25K as a warm up for the North Face Thailand 100 Duo with Eric. February is the biggie; Koh Chang Ultra Marathon 66K. I'd just like to show up to each of these healthy and go out and enjoy three totally different races in the boonies! Looking forward to them all.
Stats:
Place Overall: 9th
Place Category: 4th
Time: 3:23:24 Official record says 30 seconds, no chip, no timer, just a guy with a clipboard, 24 seconds is my GPS time ;) Nah, the 6 seconds is the time it took me to cross the start line at the beginning of the race.
Course: The course was anywhere between 41.6 to 42 kilometers, so up to 500 meters short. I suspect many of the u-turns had something to do with distance getting cut off from peoples' GPS readings, but at the same time, Thailand is notorious for having short courses. Even if the distance was short, I was running negative splits and really going hard that last few kilometers. My overall pace for the distance was certainly a personal best ;) somewhere down near 4:52/km.

Eric:
Place Overall: 14th (correct me if I'm wrong, Eric)
Place Category: 3rd
Time: 42:00
Course: 10K

4 comments:

Eric said...

Excellent run, Uda! I enjoy reading your posts too. See you soon for some more shufflin'.

mardenheyjude said...

Hi Guy;

You and Eric had a great race and the pictures are great. Your post is as usual a wonderful story to read. I so enjoy reading your post. Hi to Pae

Pae and Guy said...

Eventually these running posts may become redundant if they haven't already. But they will always be here for me to read in the future...when my mind is going and I don't remember things so clearly as when I typed the blog ;) Auntie, glad you enjoy reading about your nephew and neice(in-law) and our adventures...and me and my partner's running ;). Partner, glad you have been able to share most of these races and the training that goes into them with you.

Pae and Guy said...

**niece

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