Sunday, September 30, 2012

Asahikawa Half Marathon

Well, I've now completed my first half marathon, and it's a great feeling. My feet do not agree, but who asked them?

I got to Asahikawa yesterday morning, and spent the day with a lovely new friend. We did some shopping and had coffee, and just had a fun day.

Last night, we ate soup curry in a big group. My friend and her husband were there, and several other ALTs in the area. I ordered very non-spicy soup curry, but when it came, it was really spicy. I thought I was super wimpy until we figured out that two of the soups had been switched. I had been trying to make my way through a Level 5, instead of the Level 1 I had ordered. Yeah!

This morning was kind of gray and cool. My friends were super kind and took me across town to the race site. There were a ton of cars and people!

I made my way into the city gym. We all had to take off our shoes, but the floor was really slick. I may or may not have taken a running start and then slid into the registration line.

Asahikawa has nice goodies! I turned over my registration card and got a bag with my race T-shirt and race book. It was a swanky bag. And the shirt is really cute!

Then, I proceeded to pin on my numbers. And I had to turn my skirt around, because I discovered it was in backwards. Yes. Classy, hmmm?

Finally, I was all ready! I made my way back out of the gym and followed the crowd. We made our way into a small stadium with a track. I started my half hearted warm-up. When you are running 13.1 miles, you have plenty of time to warm up during the race.

Well, while I was making a loop around the track, we were all called to the official warm up, led by none other than Ronald McDonald. Yes. It was a bit odd, but awesome.

After the warm up, I made a new buddy. We chatted for a while, and during some of the opening ceremony. We couldn't see past the herd at all!

Finally, we started lining up. I went to my favorite spot near the back.

At 9:30, the gun went off, and we all shuffled away. Then people slowed down, and we nearly had a shuffling pileup. Eventually, we got ourselves sorted out and settled into our paces.

The first thing we did was make a big loop around the track. It looked so awesome. A bazillion people (ok, about 1400), all in colorful clothes, running in a solid pack around the track. And Ronald waved goodbye to us as we left.

Eventually, we finished the loop and headed out of the stadium. For the first time in a race, I really felt like it was me vs. the distance, rather than me vs. the other runners. I did have a few minutes of wanting to catch certain people who passed me, but I just told myself that I'd get them later.

As I crested the first hill, I saw a really cool sight. I could see the whole massive pack of runners making twists and turns on the path ahead. Again, it looked amazing. Massive packs of runners just look cool.

I entered the twisty part, and then I discovered that there was still a pretty sizable group of peeps behind me. Pshew. It may be me vs. the distance, but it's still nice to have people behind.

As we chugged along, I felt so chill. I was at a good place in the pack, I was controlling my speed, and I was really focused on the distance.

I looked around at the other runners and realized that I knew one! She had run in the Wakkanai 5K. We greeted each other, and she went on her way. She finished 16 or 17 minutes before I did.

I had to laugh a little when I passed 5K, because it did not feel like 5K at all. It felt like a nice warm up.

We ran along a running path near the Ishikari River. It was kind of an isolated area, so I decided to put on my headphones and listen to music. That was really nice! It was my first time to listen to music during a race.

We ran, and ran, and ran. Finally, we passed the first water station. I grabbed the wrong cup, and then the guy in front of me decided to stop. Crash barely averted. Here's a tip for any of you who may be racing in the future: Clear the water station before stopping.

Many runners had cool shirts. I liked the one in the picture that says "Running is my transportation."
The kilometers 1-10 felt like they just flew by. It was such a strange feeling. Oh, there went 7! Oh, there's 8! Hey, did I pass 9 yet? Somewhere in the 7-9 block, I decided that I was quickly falling in love with distance running. I was in the zone, and it felt good.

We passed a staff member who was cheering us along. I did the Bolt pose and said "Dash!" The guy almost cracked up. I was very proud.

As we ran along, we started seeing the pack that had already made the turn. They were much more spread out than at the beginning.

I was so excited to see the 10K mark. 10K is the longest distance I've run in a race so far, so it was awesome to pass that marker and head into new territory.

Finally, it was my turn to head up the hill and make the big course turn to head back. I passed over the timing chip halfway point, and cheered.

Right away, it was time for a water station. I grabbed two glasses of water. Why? I was actually looking for sports drink. I had been hit by a wave of hunger, and I was hoping for something with calories. No luck for me! So I drank one of the waters, and then decided to save the other one for a treat.

My knee started to ache around 13K,, and it ached off and on for the rest of the race. Seems fine now. It was just making itself heard, maybe.

We also ran into a headwind around here. I was a little excited, because I'd read about drafting (running behind another runner to alleviate the wind resistance) and I wanted to try it. But I just felt like a stalker, and I'm not sure it helped that much. The people around me were kind of short. They should have all drafted behind me!

Around 15 or 16K, it started to downpour. Most of me was drenched by 17K. Water was running down my elbows and the brim of my hat dripped. The worst problem was that my heavy socks, my leggings, and my shoes got completely soaked. The reason it was such a problem was that my tired legs suddenly felt like they were each 5 lbs heavier.

I ran on, and soon the rain slowed. Then, I saw a sign about mini tomatoes. I was a bit confused about why there was a mini tomato ad on our race. But then I realized that it wasn't an ad, there really were people handing out mini tomatoes ahead. They cheered and tried out some English as I came through. The mini tomatoes were tasty, too.

Finally, there was a sign telling the half marathoners that we only had 2K remaining. It's a bit of an odd distance in km, as you can see in the pic. I was pretty happy to see that sign. I was still feeling good, but dragging along all that water was not so fun!

By this point, the people around me were really flagging. But I could see the stadium ahead, so I was ready to blast in and burst across the finish line.

I blew past several walkers and sloggers and sailed into the stadium, only to discover that we had to still run around the whole track before we could cross the finish line.

I felt a smidgen of despair at this point!

But, it was almost the end, and I was determined to finish strong. I ran along, looking at the folks walking towards the finish. I was glad that I had enough gas to be running at that point. Who wants to walk across the finish line?

I made the final turn, and saw the time on the clock. I had been aiming for a 2:45 finish (despite what some of you may have seen on FB...as I was running, I realized that I had made a big math fail). Anyway, the clock said 2:34, and I was pumped. I put on a little burst, and suddenly I was across the finish line! Yay!

They were handing out sports drinks and towels at the finish. I collected my goodies and my official certificate. I was so happy, but my brain also felt a little blown out. I walked around a little, trying to get out of running mode, and I started to get chilled from being so wet.

After I collected my things, I bought a big bowl of hot soup. And, joy of joys, it had no stomach in it! I felt much better after that.

I met my friends, and they took me back to their house for a hot bath and to rest a little while. It was absolutely wonderful. They had to leave for an engagement, so I just sat in a lovely beanbag and watched a TV show that I couldn't really understand very well. But I enjoyed it.

We hung out a little while later and had some yummy coffee at Tully's. It was so nice to have such a long time to relax before having to get on the train (where I am now, actually).

So, overall, I'm so glad I stepped out and did the half. It was an awesome first half marathon. I had so many points during training where I thought I'd have to give up, but I just cannot overstate how glad I am that I just went for it.

I'm also glad that I paid attention to training materials. I could easily have been one of those barely stumbling across the finish line, but I learned how to conserve energy so I'd be comfy running at 20K and beyond. I'm also glad that in Shibetsu, I learned how debilitating negative self talk can be. And I'm glad that since I'd run 4 races before, I pretty much knew what to pack and wear.

I have one more race this season. I'm running a 10K next weekend in Sapporo. It will be interesting to see what it's like to run a 10K after a half. We'll also see if I'm actually fully recovered by that point!

For anyone who may be thinking about running a race of any distance - go for it! Train and have a good time! Accomplishing such a concrete goal in our abstract world feels so good!

No comments: