Oops, I Did It Again

No, I did not suddenly become a fan of Britney Spears. What I meant was I finished the Des Moines marathon again. Well, half marathon (13.1 miles). And it’s not really oops, but rather “whoopee, I did it again!”

This year I decided to keep away my camera phone and just concentrate on the running. Though I still took pictures before the race started.

IMG_2892

photo taken at the start line

I planned to run at around 11-minute mile pace, which is what I trained for, so I followed the 2:20 pace runner. That is if I keep the right pace, I’ll finish the half marathon in 2 hours and 20 minutes.

I was doing great in the first two miles that I even overtook the 2:20 pace runner. However on the 4th mile the 2:20 pace group caught up with me. I must have been slowing down then.

I was still at par with the 2:20 pace group after 6 miles, when “nature” called me. I needed to pee! So I stopped at one of the many portable toilets lining the race course.

By the time I got out, the 2:20 pace runner was too far away already. Damn nature call! I didn’t want to burn too much energy to catch up with the group, so I ran on my own. Yet I was still keeping up with my training pace.

After passing the 10-mile marker, I was happy that I was still feeling great. Yeah, my bunions may be hurting a bit, but I could run through blisters and pain. Even though I never ran more than 10 miles during my training for this race, I knew that the sheer excitement and adrenaline rush could carry me through the last 3.1 miles. Just like in the past.

On the 11th mile, the motorcade with the lead marathon runners passed me. (Even though the course of the half and full marathon diverge at some point, the start and finish point are the same.) It was amazing to think that they have already covered 24 miles. That was way below 6-minute mile pace! Those athletes are really freaks of nature. And I said that in a good way.

Not too long after the lead marathon runners passed me, when trouble began. Leg cramps! It was not so bad, but I have to stop running. But I can still walk. I was still determined to finish this race, cramps and all, even if it means I have to crawl the last 2 miles.

On the 12th mile marker, the 2:30 pace runner and group passed me. I thought to myself that given the circumstances, I was still not so far from my projected time of finish.

I was working on my last mile, when the lead “physically challenged” marathoner passed me. He was “rolling” strong on his wheelchair to finish the 26 miles. That gave me renewed inspiration.

On the last stretch of the race, in front of cheering crowds of people lining up near the finish line, that I really wanted to finish strong. But whenever I tried to break into a run, my legs would cramp again. Certainly the spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak. Or more aptly, the flesh was cramping! But I plodded on.

Finally I crossed the finish line. Time: 2 hours 35 minutes. Maybe not to the condition I wanted, but it was still sweet regardless.

I know I will be sore for a few days. Was it worth it? Definitely! Every single step (and cramps) of it.

*******

Related Posts:

Take the Photo and Run

I Did It!

Take the Photo and Run

It was a perfect autumn day. It was clear and cool, with early morning temperature in the high 40′s but expected to warm up to 70′s Fahrenheit. Excitement was heating up the nippy air. Beautiful day to run the marathon! This was my third half-marathon race. And I even took pictures while running it.

Waiting to start. This was how far I was from the starting line.

There was a sea of people that day. Nice to be in this good company of athletes and wannabe-athletes. This was the annual IMT Des Moines Marathon (which also includes the half-marathon and 5K run). I learned that there were more than 8,000 runners that morning, and perhaps thousands more family and friends who were there to support and to cheer.

It took a few minutes after the official time begun before I even cross the starting line.

Iowa Capitol in the distance. I was trying to follow the pace runner with the red sign 2:20 (that is the goal time I want to finish the half marathon)

Court house building ahead. Can you still see the 2:20 pace runner?

I kept on taking pictures to amuse myself. I also took photos of all the mile markers as motivation for myself of how much distance I already covered. Somehow I missed the mile 2 marker as I was oblivious of other things, like keeping up with the pace runner that I wanted to follow, while watching other runners and not stepping on their toes, for it was crowded.

Mile 3 marker. Where’s the 2:20 pace runner? I think I fell behind already. O well, I’ll just enjoy the run.

After running through city streets we entered Water Works Park, and it was a change of scenery.

Mile 4 marker

Mile 5 marker

I was in mile 5 when there were several runners going the opposite direction, meaning that I was still on my way further and they were on their way back already. Are you kidding me? I must be running slow! The eventual winner of Des Moines half marathon was a Kenyan with a blistering time of 1 hour, 3 minutes and 18 seconds. That was really more than twice faster than my pace.

I was still going upstream, while others were already heading back.

There were several water stations along the way. They offer water and Gatorade. There were even different stations that handed out pretzels, candies, gummy bear, energy gels and power bars. I stopped on most of them and took whatever they offer. Hey, they’re free.  And I don’t even have to say trick or treat!

Gatorade station

Along the route were signs that kind of encourages the runners to go on. There was one that said “Run as if you stole something.” Maybe I should have stolen the prize money for the winner when I passed the starting line and I could have run faster. Playing in my head was the Steve Miller Band song “Take the money and run.” Hoo, hoo, hoo! Here are the other signs.

Why can’t they hand them now in the water station?

I am a Filipino, and I can run fast too. Specially if I am being chased by a rabid dog! (see previous post here)

Besides the spectators on the side of the road cheering the runners, there were also several singers and local rock bands playing, boosting our moods and electrifying the air.

local rock band

Mile 6 marker

I need a break. This kind of break. A breath-holding break, if you know what I mean.

water station

A different kind of station.

They even have an ambulance ready. But not for me. Not today.

Mile 7 marker. I am more than halfway!

Another music band

Mile 21 marker. Huh? Oh, that’s a marker for the full marathon.

Here’s the right one for me, the half marathon marker.

I am not Dave, but I’ll take the motivation. Thanks doggie!

Downtown Des Moines in the distance. That’s how far I need to go still?

Mile 9 marker

Gray’s Lake in downtown Des Moines. A beautiful day indeed!

Still in Gray’s Lake

Mile 10 marker. That’s the farthest I ran training for this half-marathon. It would be sheer determination from here on.

I was on my 10th mile, when a motorcade passed, alerting us to give way. It was the lead runner for the full marathon. He already ran 23 miles in the same time period that I was running! The next marathon runner that passed me was almost 5 minutes behind the leader.

The lead runner for the full marathon.

I learned that this was James Kirwa (#1), a Kenyan runner. He eventually won the race with the time of 2:16:54. It was his third consecutive year winning the Des Moines Marathon.

Mile 11 marker

Mile 12 marker. The next marker will say “FINISH”

This band was blaring heavy rock music when I passed by.

Finish strong? My legs were like jelly. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

I can smell the finish line!

Finally! Finish time was 2 hours 29 minutes. Still close to my goal,while taking photos to boot.

I think I deserve one of those, please.

wearing it proudly

See you again next year! For now I need more ibuprofen.

******

(*all photos taken with my iPhone)

Conference Run

For the past 3 consecutive years I ran in the Des Moines Marathon, an event held in October every year. Before you faint in amazement, I want to clarify that I did not run the marathon course itself. For in that event, there was also the 5K run, the half marathon (21K), and the full marathon (42K).

During my first year of joining, I ran the 5K. It was actually my first ever road race. Though I run for exercise since I was very young, I never ran long distances before. Maybe 2 to 3 kilometer tops. I was more on doing sprint in my younger days. But after that run, I admit, I got hooked.

So on the following year, I did the half marathon. It took me a few months to train for it, but I did it. And I finished it with a respectable time (that means it did not take the whole day!) too.

Last year, I repeated the feat and ran the half marathon again. This built enough confidence that I wanted more. I felt then that I was ready to try the full marathon next time.

But not this year.

In fact, I did not even join the Des Moines Marathon event at all this time. I learned early this year, as I was planning my year-long schedule that I would not be able to join the run. There is an out-of-state annual physician’s conference this autumn that I just cannot pass, for the reason of where it is being held this year.

So to stay motivated and maintain shape and in good running condition, I did the next best thing. I joined a race in the city where I attended my conference. Though it was not a marathon nor even a half marathon.

I joined a 5K run in Honolulu. Yeah baby, in Hawaii!

Looks like Roxas Blvd, right? But's that's Honolulu harbor.

Here we go! To inhale the salted air. Do you notice the name of the run was “One Breath”? I think “Out of Breath,” at least for me, is more appropriate.

I'm somewhere in the back. I'm giving the other racers the head start.

If running has always this stunning view (I mean the ocean, not the lady doing the stretching), I really can get used to this.

The runner and the ocean.

What’s next? Boston marathon? I don’t think so. How about Boracay marathon (if ever there is such event)? That’s more like it.

I Did It!

I did it! I finished the Des Moines half marathon today. And yes, I’m still walking, albeit barely. Here’s the mile by mile account of my run.

Starting Line: It was a chilly morning. It was in the low 40′s F, but the sun was shining. The starting line was crowded with people, it was like a street party with a band playing. There were about 5500 people that joined the marathon and the half-marathon. I was happy to know that I am not the only one crazy to run in this cold morning. At exactly 8 AM, we were released to run, however due to the number of people, it took me about 5 minutes after the race had started, before I could cross the starting line. That’s OK, I was giving them a lead start!

1st mile: No sweat at all, in fact I was still feeling cold. I was pacing myself. 12 more miles to go!

2nd mile: I started to warm up. I was feeling good still.

3rd mile: I passed a drinking station and got my first cup of water.

4th mile: I was feeling good about myself as I was maintaining a 10-minute-mile pace. I thought I can finish in 2 hours and 20 minutes which is within my goal of finishing under 2:30. I was barely on my 4th mile when a motorcade going in the other direction passed us by and directed us to stay on the right lane of the road. It was the leading pack of runners for the half marathon, already on their way back of the route! Are you kidding me? This was demoralizing.

5th mile: The lead woman runner of the half marathon passed me by going downstream while I’m still heading upstream. I guess I run like a girl? (I’m not chauvinistic, I’m just stating a fact.) Then I felt an urge. I cannot hold it anymore. I have to take a break. So I did. A restroom break that is.

6th mile: I was working on my 6th mile, when a kid, I don’t think he’s even 12, passed me by, going downstream already. Then shortly thereafter, a grandpa, I believe he’s in his late 60′s or early 70′s, passed me by. My status was deteriorating by the mile! Who’s going to pass me by next? I finally reached the halfway point: the official timer read 1:09.

7th mile: My pace was getting slower. The 2:20 (2 hours 20 minutes) pace runner whom I was trying to follow was getting farther and farther from my view. I let go of my goal of finishing under 2:30. I just want to finish the race at least the same day! The crowd, the singers, the drummers, the mascots on the side of the road, cheered me to go on.

8th mile: I passed the loop of the course and I was now going downstream. I passed by runners who are still going upstream. This infused some morale in me. I’m not the slowest after all. Then I passed a participant who was supported by 2 walking canes as he walked the course. If he is determined to finish despite of his limitations, I should too.

9th mile: I stopped for Gatorade and some Gummy bears. In my head, I can hear my son singing the Gummy Bear song.

10th mile: An ambulance stopped at the side of the road and loaded up a participant into a stretcher. I’m dying here, can you pick me up too?

11th mile: I was reduced into a walk for a few minutes. Now, my goal was just to finish this race, even if it’s not today!

12th mile: Another motorcade came from behind me. Following the motorcade was the lead runner of the Marathon. He already overtook me and he ran twice the distance I covered?!! (I later learned that his name is James Kirwa from Kenya. He finished the marathon in 2:14:20 which is a record time for the Des Moines marathon.) My legs were as heavy as lead, and my feet are aching, but I could smell the finish line, where food (more than just Gummy Bears and Gatorade) were waiting for me.

13th mile: A mile to go! I had renewed determination. There was no train to stop me in my track this time, like what had happened to me last year. The music, the band playing, the cheering crowd was getting louder and louder. I could see the finish line in the distance!

Finish Line: I finally did it! My official time was 2:23:58. (No! It’s not 2 days, 23 hours and 58 minutes! It’s 2 hours and 23 minutes, and 58 seconds.)

 

My Bib and Finisher Medal

 

Was it worth it? Every mile of it! Now, where the heck is the ibuprofen.

Nothing Stops Me. Except a Train.

My training for the half marathon is now on high gear. Neither the heat, nor rain, nor flood, nor snow (snow? good thing there’s none yet at this time of year) can stop me now. Except maybe, the train. And that’s exactly what happened to me at the race here in Des Moines, last year.

During my first half marathon run last year, as I was rounding the last leg of the course, when I turned the corner for the last 400 meters, I was stopped on my track by a crossing train. I have to wait for about a minute or so before I can continue and finish the race. A minute of delay is nothing to me, but I felt bad for the leading runner for the marathon, an elite athlete, who was finishing the full marathon course at the same time I’m finishing my half marathon. (The full and the half marathon ends at the same finish line). He too was stopped by the train.

Simon Sawe from Kenya, was stopped by a train, but still able to finish first at the 2009 Des Moines Marathon. Photo courtesy of Des Moines Register.

Speaking of elite runners, I just cannot imagine how can they run a dizzying pace of 11-12 miles per hour (twice as fast as my pace) and sustain it for 26 miles. That’s a full pledge sprint speed to me! I tried running at 8 miles per hour and I cannot even sustain it for half a mile. I have so much respect for these amazing athletes.

I may not acquire the athletic prowess of those elite runners, but I can sure have the iron resolve to finish the race. For “The race is not always for the swift, but to those who keep on running” – Anonymous. And this is true in the race we called life. I believe that life is not a sprint, but more of a long distance run. We may falter, fall, or slow down to a crawl. But if we keep on going, we will reach our destination.

long, lonely road ahead

I know there’s only one way I can finish the race: to keep one foot in front of the other at a time. And that’s what I will do.