Sunday, May 17, 2009

May 10: PIM Marathon

Trying to take advantage of the fact that Jennie and I are living in Europe, I have been trying to run marathons in as many different European countries as I can manage. So far I have managed to leave tread marks in England, Ireland, Germany, France, and today I was going to add the Czech Republic to that list by running the Prague International Marathon. (Although it is referred to as the PIM marathon, this is not to be confused as the goal race for a local Houston training group...I think this one might be a little longer!)

I was really excited to run this marathon as I have heard from many people that Prague is, quite possibly, one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I was looking forward to the opportunity to form my own opinion one footstep at a time. It took me 3 hours and 19 minutes to arrive at the same conclusion. I must admit, however, that the most beautiful sight in all of Prague is the finish line!
Here I am (pre-marathon) infront of the finish line in Old Town Square. The Church of St. Nicholas is in the background.

We arrived in Prague the day before the marathon to go to the expo to pick up my race packet. Even the building where the Expo was held is beautiful!

This makes my certain pain tomorrow official. The guy behind me must be one of the elites!

After picking up all my gear, it was off to carb load. Well, that probably would have been a good idea, but I am in the Czech Republic, home of Pilsner beer and hearty bavarian cuisine. I am not about to let any meal go to waste on something silly like carb loading - I can do that at home. So, we headed to the nearest beer hall (U Fleku) for some of their own dark lager, gulash, and dumplings. The live entertainment certaintly reminded us that we were, indeed, in the city that created the Beer-Barrel-Polka.

The next morning I woke up, took a look outside and immediately thought to myself, "Wow! Today is going to be a perfect day! .... to watch a marathon." This takes me to the first of 4 key things (excuses?) that added complications throughout the marathon - the heat. After my Houston readers stop laughing at me, I knew that the bright, hot sun would require me to dig into my marathon experience to prevent rookie mistakes, but I did not - I am on vacation afterall, I do not want to have to think too hard about these things afterall! I did, however, take water with me to the start line to give myself refreshing redneck showers even before the race started.

Here I am infront of the Old Town Hall waiting for the marathon to start. Note the cloudless sky, the fact that it is 8:05 am and the marathon still has not started. These europeans do not like to wake-up early, even if it means beating the heat...I still had another 55 minutes of "chilling".

After getting my bronze on waiting for the race to start we were finally off. Things were going just fine (as the usually do within the first 5 kms) until I reached the first water station. Wanting to keep hydrated and cool, I ran through grabbing 2 cups of water and began my normal dance of attempting to put more water in my mouth than up my nose. I was quite unsuccesful, but for a reason that really caught me off gaurd..."Is this mineral water?!!" I choked to myself. This was the second complicating factor. (But at least now I know what the 100 euro entry fee was spent on.)

I continued to choke the mineral water down for the next several water stations, only because I knew that I had to keep my fluid intake up on such a hot day. After cruising through the 8 mile water station, I started to go through my post-water station routine of blowing errant water out of my nose, wiping my face and eyes so I can see clearly, burping, and repeating as necessary. I knew something was wrong when my burp suddenly took root deep within my inner core. Like a nervous volcano my stomach and throat began to shake in its digust and disapproval of the mineral water (or perhaps it was the lager and gulash the night before?!) so I closed my mouth to trap whatever was coming its way. Not wanting to waste this half cup of recycled GU, I swallowed it back down and kept running.

About a mile later I saw Jennie for the first time along the route. Despite what just happened, you always have to smile for the cameras!

After I got over these initial stomach issues my attention turned to the running surface...miles and miles of hard, unforgiving cobblestone roads (issue #3). There were areas where the cobblestone was divided by thin, paved sections where all the runners would start running single-file just so that we could get off the cobblestone.

All of these previous issues were minor compared to the real issue (yes, time for me to be honest with myself) - Lack of Training. I blame the difficulty I had in the final 6 miles (actually, more like the final 18 miles) on this fourth and final issue of the day. With only 4 'training' runs under my belt since the Paris marathon (5 weeks ago), which was also ran in a grossly under-trained state, I entered this marathon knowing that my legs and I would not be pals when it is was over. We usually get along just fine. It has even been said that we are 'attached at the hip' but with all corny puns aside, I knew they would be angry - I was right.
Here I am at the 32 km mark. I stopped for several minutes to get some fresh water from Jennie, tell her that I would retire from marathons in 10 kms (what a drama queen!), and to get my picture infront of St. Vitus's Cathedral and the Royal Palace.

In retrospect I think about the marathons that I have trained really hard for, where my legs are in constant pain for the better part of 4 months, and the marathons which I use to kick-start a vacation, such as this. Sometimes I think that it is better just to accept the fact that you WILL hurt for the final 8-10 miles of the marathon AND for several days afterwards and rejoice in the fact that the pain is short-lived and not dragged through every missed Friday night happy hour and every early Saturday morning track-long-track workouts over the course of nearly half a year. Instead, enjoy yourself, sip the French wine, and find yourself waking up one morning going, "Oh dear, what did I sign myself up for?!" This approach to marathoning also requires that you are not embarrased by walking backwards down stairs the following day.
Despite my 4 key issues, it was a phenomenal marathon - definitely one of my favorites! One thing that was not an issue, and has never been an issue in any of my marathons, is that I did not have to stop to pee or use the bathroom, despite the suggestion by some of the sculptures in Prague. (These sculptures moved and rotated and did pretty much everything you would expect from a guy peeing except giving it a shake at the end!)

Here I am back by the 32km mark, but as a smelly and dehydrated spectator. What is cool is that this is my 15th marathon and it was the 15th anniversary of the Prague marathon so their medal is dominated by a large 15 across the front - it was almost like they made it special just for me!

Once my stomach finally seemed to get under control, I went and enjoyed the local cuisine again.

But I think I may lay low on the marathons for a while. I just do not think my stomach can handle it...or maybe it is just these marathons in "man-food countries"?!

Regardless of what I do and where, I am just glad to be doing it with her.

Na shledanou (good bye)
ps - here is the route as recorded by Garmin. The course had several out-n-back portions (bottom) and a repeated loop section (top).


MM said...

Is that Big Wave Dave - or, is that Fred Flintstone attacking that side of pork? Wowzer...that's some serious meat dude...

jason bourne said...

not exactly sure if the true issue is the training regime or the age, rather i'd suspect it has a direct correlation to your pre-run routine, which as i've seen includes Guinness, Irish Stew, Snickers, McDonalds, and anything else typically sold in a convenience store. Not the sort of advice written about in Runners World...

Karoline said...

OMG this was by far the best blog post ever. I was falling on the floor! Plus, great pictures!! Congratulations on your 15th marathon. What an accomplishment (in spite of the MINERAL WATER?!)!! P.s. This blog post was worth the wait.

Bert said...

Excellent photographs, the new camera (and same photographer...) definitely get the nod. How strange, mineral water at a marathon. Now if it were in Paris, I might have expected it, but in Prague... As for that massive hunk of meat on a plank, for a vegan it's like sunshine to a vampire. Can't look at it for too long... :-)

Laura said...

I'm with Kari on this one - a MDR post, for sure. Unusual for our marathoning master to have such a difficult time with his 15th - glad to see that you survived. BRING ON le TOUR de FRANCE (can't wait for the blogs about that!) If you can get an autograph from Bob Roll, I'll be impressed!