Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Olomouc half-marathon race report ... FINALLY - Part ONE

Getting to write the race report for the Olomouc half-marathon I ran on Saturday took me little longer than expected. I hope you will forgive me :) It was a demanding weekend followed by truly important presentation at work on Monday, so here I am finally ready to share some thoughts and memories with you. Snap preview ... missed improving my PR by 20 seconds (I knew I shouldn't have picked up that gel that fell down at mile 9!). Keep on reading for more juicy details :) For those who won't, my real time was 1:51:45 and I finished 77th out of more than 250 women!

Even though the race start was at 7 pm on Saturday, I travelled to the destination (or nearby) already Friday after work. Since my best friend lives nearby and we hardly get chance to see each other and she was running as well, this was a great opportunity to spend some time together. Something around 400 km is the way from Prague to Ostrava where Katka lives, I had a chance to drive with someone, otherwise I would have taken a train, since 4 hours of driving attention does not seem to be helpful before the race. We arrived bit later due to the Friday traffic and some minor accidents that blocked the highway - for those who know, nothing unusual on this main highway.

We got plate of pasta and some salad and went to bed really early just around 11 pm (early given the start time at 7 pm and the fact that it was a Friday night and the girls should be out on Friday night! we weren't ... or not for too long as said). Morning again some more carb loading. I took cous cous with yoghurt (I fake my body into thinking that cous cous is cereal and not pasta, so I can eat some pasta for breakfast, apart from this tiny trick, I cannot eat breakfast pasta pre-race meal).

What do you do when the race starts at 7 pm? You have tough job - eat well balanced so you have enough energy and nothing goes wrong with your stomach. And get enough rest. So our Saturday was pretty simple, breakfast at Katka's, car ride to her parents' house, some chatting, getting our easy to digest mainly carbs lunch done and after lunch one hour nap to get some extra rest and relax. On the photo above cute sailors' designed table set up on the outside patio for our light lunch. Surprisingly the only pasta, chicken breast and little bit of pealed zucchini turned out to be pretty tasty with high quality olive oil present and little bit of cheese. I know that the zucchini and cheese are not ideal for pre race meal, but we are too much of a gourmet girls to do without :) And the race was still 6 hours ahead of us.

We arrived to Olomouc after 4 pm soon enough to pick-up our numbers and measuring chips. Felt little bit strange walking through the city already in our running gear. In Prague, the runners were everywhere since there was almost 10 thousand participants, but here the number was limited by the city to 2000 participants, so we got some strange looks walking ready to race in the other than pre-race areas :) We had plenty of time on our hands and the only task was not to get tired, stay hydrated and refuel just a little bit. We spent most of our afternoon chatting at a nearby coffee bar flipping through the summer shoe guide by that we found in the race number package. We chose our motivation targets: cool turquoise Asics for Katka and some Nike Frees for me :)

We moved slowly back to the start/finish area just in time to see the last finishers of the 2,5K family run. Some of the kids were so so cute! And bravo for all the moms with the strollers on the cobble stones! Some more wondering, we finished the last bit of banana, applied the anti-chaffing gel (to an honest surprise of nearby homeless group) and were trying not to get too nervous. I was pretty OK, since the race is "just" a part of my training for my first full marathon coming fall. But Katka had her first half ahead of her and I still remember the butterflies in my stomach back in NYC 2009. I hope I was at least a bit supportive.

Weather wise, the conditions were perfect, somewhere just bellow 20 degrees Celsius and it seemed it might start raining anytime soon. We took the ibuprofen (just in case), the carbohydrate gels, went to restrooms like trillion times and here we were few minutes before the starting gun, ready with other races. Given the limited number of entries, the starting field was way more competitive to the sections I have been in in any of the previous races. Lot of serious runners here, but still friendly enough to chat through the pre-start nervous moments. Last kiss on the cheeks with Katka and here we go. Unlike from Prague, we decided to run separately from the beginning since I hoped I got at least a bit faster through my serious training these past two months.

I did really poor job on pacing in the first few miles. The atmosphere was so energetic and also my legs felt fast. It was tough for me to slow down to somewhere around 8:30 min/mile that I set as my target pace for the first half of the race. As all the articles, books and successful runners say, negative splits are the key. And I knew I was not going to be able to reach them when I had hard time slowing myself from just below 8 min/mile pace at least to 8:15 min/mile pace. But I got better at my job and balanced my pace somewhere around 8:20 min/mile and got my mind ready for the alternative plan of trying to stay more or less around this pace for all the race.

I have to say that this was the most comfortable half-marathon I have ever ran. By comfortable I mean that I pushed hard, but given the almost no tapering period prior the race and the fact that this is just a part of training, I felt really at ease running this half. There were three important hills on each round of the course, so six in total (first half that actually had loops). OK, I have to admit that I started to feel my right calf going all hard and sore on me around the 10 K (finish of the first loop). Fortunately, I managed to push myself in the theory that it is only a technical problem, took in some Isostar to get more minerals and just stopped thinking about it. Recipe worked, my will was stronger than the tired calf and I have forgotten about it towards the end of the race.

This post is getting way too long and it is way too late, so just renamed it as "Part One" and will continue tomorrow

Stay tuned for Part Two :) You can also sign up for email updates or RSS feeds or leave a comment, tell me about your story or send me a link to your blog! And just keep running and listen to your body.

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