Monday, March 1, 2010

Tokyo Marathon 2010

Here are my results, including splits.

The race was terrible. I'm fairly surprised I ended up with the time I did (3:14.30ish, which accounts for the 1.28 it took me to cross the start line). There are two reasons I credit with the failure to reach my goal: the first caught me off guard, the second I was just hoping wouldn't happen.

(1) The temperature on Saturday was around 10-12C (50-54F) and the weather forecast showed 9-11C (49-52F) on Sunday with a 20% chance of rain. Cold relative to my training weather, but still feasible for me. I debated until the last minute on Saturday buying some running "sleeves" which roll up or down on your arms to adjust to the temperature. I opted not to since 9C isn't terribly cold - and less so when I'm running fast.

[this is where we shed our non-running clothes and put our finish line bags into a truck, then stand around for 45 minutes waiting for the start]

I woke up to heavy rain on Sunday morning. It didn't let up until I reached 30km, or about 11:30am. I succeeded pretty well in keeping dry until the start, using a scavenged plastic bag as a poncho and sharing an umbrella while waiting at the start. But it didn't take long after the start for everything to soak through.

[the last picture before it got not fun]

There's nothing I can do in my Okinawan training to prepare for cold, so I relied on hope. Which turned out to be a little dangerous. The temperature at the start was 5C (41F). After 30 minutes it ticked down to 4C (39F) and never climbed back up. The heavy rain is what made that temperature so difficult to manage. I thought running would keep me warm, but it didn't. 17k is a distinct memory because it was then that I realized how cold my upper body was. My arms were just flat cold and my gloved (wet) hands didn't have much feeling. I was eating two Clif Shot Blocks (electrolytes) at 8k, 18k, and 28k. At 18k I could barely get the package back into my pocket and at 28k I couldn't - I had to drop it. Using my mp3 player in the latter kilometers was not an option because my fingers weren't usable.

(2) Two weeks ago my right calf inexplicably started hurting. This in itself wasn't worrisome because over the course of a six-month training season lots of things hurt. The hope is that nothing decides to hurt during the weeks immediately preceding the race. This calf issue had bad timing. It wasn't something I could stretch and it never seemed to improve, even with three days off just before the marathon. I did run 13k last weekend and was able to run through it so I was optimistic. But once the marathon started, I knew it was going to be with me all day. And I guessed that in the last 10k, when everything needs to be working perfectly, that this calf issue might sink me.

I was partially right, except for the distance. It was really the last 30k that the calf dragged me down. I was aware I wasn't running at full strength because my heart rate was too low. Even as late as 35k, my heart rate was dipping below 170. It should have been in the mid-180's. At 30k, when the rain stopped, I started to feel good. I had mostly given up on reaching my goal, but once I did some math I realized I might have a chance if I could hold my goal pace (4.30/km). So I stepped it up and felt good, but my calf just wouldn't let me go. I checked every kilometer and my pace was 4.38, 4.36, then 4.42 and it continued to get slower, even though I felt strong. I knew that if I couldn't gain ground at that point, I wouldn't be able to do it later in the race, so the marathon became a "run 10k to get to the finish because that's probably the quickest way to reach warmth."

If you were watching my splits you saw me going downhill late in the race. No question there - and I knew it. I really lost the wind in my sails early in the race when my calf flared up, but the cold rain just about capsized me. I wasn't dressed nor mentally prepared for it. There were numerous times during the marathon when I was shivering as I was running, which was a little bit scary. I was running to reach a goal, but also for survival. It was hard to concentrate on meeting my splits under such conditions.

I crossed the finish line and immediately stopped. I leaned on a volunteer who asked me "大丈夫ですか?" (Are you okay?) to which I responded "大丈夫じゃない" or "No, I'm not okay." He was torn between amusement and concern. I immediately had trouble walking on my right leg and had to limp the couple hundred meters of walking to get my chip removed, get beverages and food (which I didn't take because my fingers couldn't hold anything), a finisher's towel, medal, then a long walk to the unheated 'warehouse' where we could pick up our finish line bag and change.

[I look happy, but I'm really not]

I got a guy to take a picture of me (he was shivering pretty badly and struggled with the task) before collapsing to the floor and quickly removing my clothing (yes, I was sitting there naked with many people around, but that was the last thing on my mind - and probably the last thing on their minds as well) and started changing into the pile of dry clothes I'd left in my finish line bag. I tried to warm my hands up in my armpits and crotch, but those places weren't warm either! It was a monumental struggle to stand up, but I made it on my own, then limped my way through more giveaways and big rooms and hallways and escalators to the place where the runners meet the world again. Mariko was fortunately waiting there and she allowed me to put my hands on her stomach for warmth. She also went and got me some hot tea to start the rewarming process.

[a self portrait while I wait for the dry clothes to work]

I think if either of the two factors that worked against my marathon had been absent, I still would have fallen short. The calf really slowed me more than I could have overcome (and is still keeping me from walking two days later) and the cold just stole too much energy. But I did get a solid Personal Record (PR) out of it.


Brian Morrison said...

Sorry to hear that marathon didn't go as planned. I'd love to offer some words of encouragement, but it just plain sucks. As you know, I've had my share of disappointments, especially at Western States. The upside is that the training alone rewards you with tremendous fitness. The race is always the goal, but it's pretty dang cool to be so fit too. Good job.

Cliff said...

Ayumi and I watched it on TV. Weather looked horrible. Some of the cameras were showing snow, not rain. Also, some famous female runner went down around the 35k mark, so at least you made it to the finish line!

Dave said...

Thanks Brian. Yeah, it is comforting to be reminded of some of the racing luck you have had. I think it might be a good idea for me to do more than one race/year in the future so I don't have all my eggs in one basket. I trained for six months and think I mostly suffered from a strange ache in my calf in the last two weeks. Just crummy timing.
I'm considering doing a 58k trail run in April, but have to decide soon and am not sure how my calf will recover (just now, three days later, I am finally able to walk almost normally). I'd hate for all this stellar fitness go to waste.

Daniel said...

Great account of the race. Must have been pretty miserable.

From here, sounds like you did a great job.


Wren said...

¨I look happy, but I'm really not¨...I´m glad there is still some humor among all the hardship.

Kate said...

Hi Dave! Thanks for adding me and I hope we get to meet soon (I was supposed to go to Zamami that one weekend in February where it didn't work out on account of the weather).

Sounds like this sure was an awful race, but for what it's worth, after reading about your training and what you've gone through... you're my hero! Congratulations.

Laura said...

Wow. Is it wrong to say this post is inspirational? You persevered through incredible obstacles. I'm sorry that the outcome was not what you wanted. What are the symptoms of your calf? Also, colder body temperatures slow the heart rate, so a slower average would be expected.

Dave said...

Thanks Laura. Good point on the heart rate and cold. I think I was hoping to use a number to point to how much 'running strength' I still had late in the race. My form was fine and I still had more to give, but my calf just wouldn't let me. So frustrating.

2.5 weeks later I am still hobbling around on it. Running is completely out of the question. There is clearly something wrong with my leg that is not going to heal quickly on its own so I'm planning a doctor's visit to the mainland this weekend.