Monday, January 7, 2008

Chiang Mai marathon race report

We arrived in Chiang Mai on December 26th, plenty of time to rest up before the race on the 30th. We enjoyed day trips, walking around the city, going to the night bazaar, shopping and eating lots of good food in the days leading up to the race. The day before the race, we upgraded our room to a suite, so we could quietly sneak out in the morning and the babysitter would a have a decent place to sit while Catherine slept. The suite was beautiful and overlooked the old city (moat and wall included) as well as the mountains in the distance. I could look south from our room and see the Thae Pae gate, where the race would begin.
I slept poorly the night before the race, worried that I would oversleep. The wake-up call came at 3:15AM (necessary for a 4AM start!!!). I choked down ½ a power bar, a banana, some Gatorade and this was thankfully enough to go to the bathroom. J I saw people jogging (what were they thinking??) towards the start about 3:30AM. I hung out not wanting to stand around for a long time and get chilly.

My race outfit consisted of spandex shorts (my legs hadn’t seen the light of day since August in Arlington!), triathlon race dri-fit t-shirt, cap, fairly new shoes and sunglasses around my neck (not sure when I’ll get to wear these with a pre,pre-dawn start! My bib was pinned to my shirt the night before (dang! I forgot my triathlon race belt!) and this was a NO chip race.
I walked to the start and saw what looked like prostitutes on the corner of the street between our hotel and the race start. I later found out these “ladies” are the infamous ladyBOYS of Thailand. Think The Crying Game. You get the picture.

There were what seemed about 40-50 people at the start of the race. I was not hot or cold in my outfit, which made me worry I had overdressed. There were lots of announcements made in Thai (great!) that I could not understand, obviously.

A gun went off at 3:58AM and we were off! We ran along the city wall and out of the old city towards our hotel. I looked up at our hotel room and waved thinking Dave might be at the window. (His half marathon started at 5AM). He was not at the window, as I later found out, but busy taking care of his own pre-race “business”.

I decided to drink some water at every stop, which I was able to do, until about halfway through race when there were two kids on bikes blocking my way to the water table! Rats! I had just eaten some sports beans too and needed it to get them down! Oh well.

Let me set the stage a little bit: as I run the early kms out of the city I was watching out for cars, trucks, motos, etc. as this race was NOT closed to traffic, it was dark, quiet (i.e. lonely) and every few hundred yards I caught the smell of burning trash and was chased by random stray dogs. Good times.

The course was fairly boring-flat and straight until about halfway where we started into the Chiang Mai zoo. It was still dark and the roads were windy and not well marked. I was running with two Thai men, when we realized we didn’t know where we were! We called out for some direction, but there were no course marshals around!!! We doubled back (I know, BRUTAL!!!) and then found the right road. We then saw the leaders coming towards us yelling at the course marshals, “which way”? I really felt for them. I was irritated and I wasn’t trying to WIN this race!!!

I ended up having my sunglasses on since the start of the race, b/c the trade off was NOT see with no glasses on in the dark or to see exactly what you are able to see in the dark with perfect vision! It turned out a better bet to run in the dark with my sunglasses on! This only became a problem in the zoo, where it seemed to get darker!? There were little to no city or street lights and the weird shapes of the landscaped tree animals gave the place an eerie quality! It was like running through Edward Scissorhands neighborhood in the dark…with your sunglasses on! Weird! Also, there were great big HILLS in this zoo. My legs hadn’t run up or down a hill since July or August? In other words, A LONG TIME AGO. They felt it too. Dawn started to break as we left the zoo. Nearly 20 miles into this race and its finally starting to get light! If I could only be this productive every morning!

I only saw the following kilometer markers during the race-2, 4, 10, 21, 32. Yes, that’s right, the last 10K which is awful anyhow was run completely devoid of any knowledge of whether I had 9km or 2km to go! Yes, it was an out and back, so I should have KNOWN exactly where I was, right? WRONG. I was now running the same road, but running back into the city, so across a large divided highway and it was now light! I didn’t recognize A THING!!!

I tried to keep up with a small pack of runners coming out of the zoo. A woman and 5 men. They were keeping a good pace. A bit faster than I felt comfortable running. But, I worried that if I let them get away from me, I would slow down to a crawl. I stayed with them for several miles. I was with them, when I ran past an ostrich farm at mile 22. They stopped for water with (Im quessing here!) about 4km to go and I kept running. I knew they would catch me. The woman looked strong and fit and you can TELL when someone is in better shape than you and she clearly was. It was a matter of time before she/they caught me. I started to see some people ahead of me and realized this was the back of the half marathon pack (the 3 hour ½ marathoners).

I wanted to break 4 hours and saw that it was 3:58 on my watch and I was in the home stretch. The banner was up, I could see it, but it was still kinda far away. I was going to have to pick it up to break 4 hours…felt like Richmond 2006 all over again, only I didn’t have that awesome downhill to get me in! I spotted 2 people (1/2 marathoners) and tried to catch them. I did. I looked up as I crossed the finish line and stopped my watch with 3:59:25 on it. Hardest 4 hour marathon I have probably run. I guess it wasn’t bad considering my longest long run here in Bangladesh was 16 miles. Training in Dhaka was like this: NO hills, NO speedwork and next to NO long runs. This lame finish was good enough for 4th in the 18-39 year old female division and 5th woman OVERALL. Yeah, pretty tough field, eh? The winning women’s time was 3:30ish. I also heard she did TWO laps in the zoo as she was REALLY lost. She would have finished in closer to 3:10 if she hadn’t gotten lost. The beauty is that 5th female overall got prize money! I won 1000 Bhat, which is about what I paid in race fees. I have a nice Chiang Mai marathon singlet and a pink marathon dri-fit finishers tee. Whew! Lastly, check out this website for a picture of my photo finish!

Its on to our next race. Which will likely be one of the following: Tibetan marathon, Great Wall marathon, or the Kuala Lampur marathon.



Joe said...

I'm proud of you, Robin!

I negotiated the streets of Kathmandu for six months with a dirt biker's filter over my face, but to run a marathon through the same sort of third-world nightmare takes chutzpah.

Take care and we'll be talking!


Howell said...

Way to go Robin! Sounds you did as much orienteering as marathoning. I'll roll up some of the hills in Arlington/McLean and UPS them to you. Please return them when you're done with your training. Best wishes to you and your family.



Amy said...

Amazing as always! Running marathons wherever you go. I loved your detail account of the race, as I felt like I was there with you. I enjoy reading accounts of your life in Dhaka. How is the job hunting? And congrats on the pregnancy!!

Hugs to all - Amy

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