I knew I was screwed when:
– The first guy I met (super fit looking ultra-marathoner) said his PB for the course was 3:30.
– The second guy I met asked if the area I lived in had hills. I said no, I had been running on a treadmill. He laughed.
Besides the fact that I had a near death experience at the hands of a bicyclist as soon as I arrived in Hangzhou my race didn’t go exactly as I had hoped.
My pre-race meal was popcorn from the movie theatre. (carbs? salt?)
*Side note: 2 reasons not to go the movies in China*
– Most people just read the captions, which I guess means it’s OK to talk on your cell phone throughout the whole movie?
-Sub-titles show up before characters speak! I heard gasps and oh’s and ahh’s before I even knew something exciting was about to happen! What! She’s pregnant?!
As soon as I woke up, I knew that I hadn’t eaten enough to sustain myself on a 28km trail run. Breakfast didn’t really help since the room I was in was micro-mini and there wasn’t any hot water or cups.
I also made the silly mistake of testing out new gear on race day. I bought a camelback, took it to the race and then tried to drink from it. It didn’t work. Awesome. My Garmin also died at this exact moment. Even better.
I decided to run naked and blind.
Blind because I had no idea what this actually meant.
In case you were wondering, it doesn’t mean an ‘easy’ way to get higher mileage in.
The watch was fine, I had just wanted it for time. No water= BAD IDEA.
The race director warned us to not start out “fast like bunnies.” Most people started with a dead sprint and I will tell you, I have never seen people run the tangents so well… I’m tempted to call it cheating. Is it OK to cut across a trail and go straight up instead of following the route?? Dave??
The first 8km of the race were awesome. I was up with the boys and was the leading girl. I love being a foreigner in these types of races because the Chinese always get so excited. #1! Fightin! Hello!! –Sup yo. I felt great and thought I could carry this for the whole race. (Except at the time, I had no idea how far we had run, we had only crossed one aid station and it seemed like an awful big stretch until the next.)
Between km 8-12, things started to go downhill. (I wish they had literally gone downhill all the way back to the start but we had more mountains to climb.) I was SO thirsty. I don’t know if it was because I didn’t have water with me or if I was actually dehydrated but it was all I could think about. When I saw the 10km sign, I wanted to cry. You have got to be kidding me. I have to do this 2 more times?! This was the first time I thought about quitting. I remember a girl passing me at this point and I kept thinking, just keep her in sight. Prove yourself to the Chinese racing community. You can medal!
After km 12 and a water break, I got a second wind. I felt great again and this lasted for about 4km. There was a super steep, technical part of the race here. It was like free-falling down a steep hill in a forest. No trail, just running from one tree to the next. From then on, things would get a little better and then a lot worse. 4 more girls passed me. I gave up caring. I started asking random Chinese people hiking on on the trail for water. (Someone needs to make a universal sign for water stat. Holding my hands to my mouth was lost in translation?!) I contemplated falling into a ditch and passing out. (At least that would be a dramatic way to go.) I questioned why I put my body through this. I hated my life. At what should have been the 18km mark a guy ran pass me and said, this is your first time, eh? (Was it that obvious?) I said yes, he said the good news is this is the last climb. The last 6km are on the road. The bad news is they said there is 10km left. It’s actually 12km.
I’ve never seen someone struggle so hard to make a peace sign.
I really, really thought about dropping out but there wasn’t really anywhere to go. I started climbing the stairs again. Very, very slowly. (I am running the Great Wall Marathon this May, I am nervous already.)
Even though I wasn’t moving very fast. This section of the race went by quickly. I was finally on the descent again.
Once I hit the road I realized I had major blisters on my feet. (Anyone want to see pics?)
Oh you didn’t? Sorry.
I had to stop and take my socks off. I almost started running barefoot but by now I was in the midst of Sunday morning Chinese traffic.
It’s funny because the trail section of the course was so well marked and then as soon as we got back onto the road it was like a free-for-all. I had no idea where I was going or how to get to the finish. I had to stop and wait at traffic lights and dodge cars and bikes.
The finish was pretty un-climatic. I finished in 4:08. Nothing special. 6th girl. Top 5 got prizes. Boo.
Lessons Learned aka things I know but have forgotten since living in China:
-Fuel up. I know that eating a lot the day before a long run always gives me extra energy and makes the run better. Not sure why I didn’t do this pre-race.
– Bring water! Carrying water is only annoying for a few minutes. Then, you forget you have it. So worth it.
– Even though I felt tired throughout, as soon as I was finished I was OK. I know I didn’t push myself as hard as I could have. I’m kind of disappointed in myself because I think I could have done better. I think this was more of a mental breakdown then physical. I just gave up caring. (Interesting article on pushing through the pain.) I swear I posted that article before it became the most popular thing on twitter. 😉
– It’s funny that something can feel so painful throughout and then as soon as it’s over, you totally forget about the pain and want to do it again.
– Not every run can be great. I’ve been seeing that on a lot of blogs lately and it’s true.
– Trail runners are so fit! And I don’t think I am meant to be one.
-I’ve really missed that tired feeling you get after a long run. It’s a special kind of exhaustion-ist. (?)
– There is a running community in China! I’ve got a long run planned in the Chinese countryside this weekend. Must learn more then 3 Chinese words by then… I’ll keep you posted.