Monday, October 27, 2008

Perfect Race. 1:40 - almost done. New Goal

I have a friend who is an UltraMarathoner going by the moniker StyrofoamDeity. He once told me, There is no failure, there is only the next race. I found that statement gripping. It embodied a competitive, indomitable, relentless spirit that appealed to my running self and I embraced it as a way of life. There is no failure, there is only the next race.

So yesterday, muscles torn, body aching, my entire system out of sorts, instead of licking my wounds and caressing my medal, I was busy trying to put together the building blocks for a sub 1:30 half marathon. It's easy to plan as you know and one thing you learn from the marathon is that reality cuts down your idealistic dreams to realistic sizes with hard surfaces, injuries, dehydration, time and the sheer attrition by the distance. But every time you meet your race objectives, you get galvanized and that is what had happened to me.

"When are you updating your blog?" one of my friends asked me. Interrupting my thoughts. "You know, I read it every day" he added. Okay two people had told me that but I didn't know there were others. It was good to know. In fact one finisher yesterday told me my blog made a big difference for him as far as completing the half marathon in the time he did is concerned. So anyways, here is the update. Shall I call it the race report?

Race Report

By the race day, I believed I had fully recovered from the stomach infection. My thinking was since it was a purely digestive problem, the losses made were recovered by my eating on Saturday. My lungs, heart and muscles were still OK. Or so I believe.

Making sure the target is clear to all and Sundry

Too Much Energy - Trying to Fly
So we gathered at the assembly area at 6am. And we are talking thousands of runners. Some with Obama messages, some wearing costumes that will take your mind off the race. I had my target time behind my back in cross hairs. The weather was perfect. I was strong. The crowd was perfect and the race was started in time. Nothing could go wrong. Except for some runners who thought they could be birds.

The lady on the left is frantically trying to fly with one hand. Rosemary clearly doesn't approve of the stunt. She is wondering: "Why cant some people just accept that they are not birds and settle down? What if she comes crashing down?"

After so not flying, she settles for being a bat instead and perches her excited wing on the nearest tree, er person, then flashes some teeth. Kamau thinks its a wiser move. Let her hang there. Flying should be left to birds. I agree. All she has to do now is learn to point her head downwards and her feet up.

Chaotic Start

After a few photos, stories, catching up and assuring the nervous first timers, the gun went off. But we weren't moving!
"Has the race started?" I asked Sikuku.
"It has"
"But people are not moving!"
"They are moving at the front"
So we sort of waited until spaces started opening between us and people around us started moving and we surged forward trying to occupy every single open space that showed up. We basically started running off the road on the pavement with Sikuku in a bid to overtake people. Its after one Kilometer that we started running on the road.

3rd Km
At the 3rd Km mark we were surging forward quite well. Overtaking dozens and hundreds of people every minute.
"One Forty!" Someone shouted behind my back. I didn't turn back.
"One forty! I like that. I am One forty five!"
"Hell yeah!" I shouted back without turning to record the face behind the voice.
"I am with you!" He shouted back.
"Lets go!" I said. I didn't want to engage in handshaking and a conversation while the clock was ticking.

And so we surged on. The road was white. It was white all over. Everyone was wearing a white t shirt and at the 4th Kilometer Mark, I passed Nderitu and some dude explaining that I was chasing a white lady ahead of me. "Sawa" they said as I raced after the lean lady in black.

The Elusive Lady in Black

There was this white lady that I chased for about 2Kms who I thought could be my pace setter since I could hand on her for that kind of distance. She was lean. She wore all black and seemed to run quite slowly. Her speed seemed manageable. Since she was in black, she was easy to spot so I decided to hand on her. But slowly, she opened the gap and by the 5th Km, she was gone. Sikuku told me his knee was acting up so I was on my own.

People around me seemed inconsistent. I passed most of them and did not see anyone interesting or consistent enough to use as a pacesetter. So I stuck to my pace and occasionally glanced at my watch.

10th Km Mark - behind time

I crossed the 10th K at 46mins. This was neither good or bad. I went on. Staying focused, taking a little water and thinking about speed and avoiding getting absent-minded and sliding into auto pilot. I met Shiko at around the 13th Km mark and passed her. She was going for the full marathon.
I also met a former schoolmate called Oscar and passed him at around the 16th Km Mark. Then a white muscular lady came from behind and passed me as if I were walking, so did some two Brazilians and a Chinese runner. They just zoomed past. Negative splitters, I thought.

The Champions overtake the runningwriter

At around the 18th Km Mark, I felt strong and my legs got into the routine of gripping the tarmac and pushing me forward and I passed several people. At the 20th Km, I was tired but not done and I maintained a comfortable pace to finish at 1:40:42 by my watch. The first guy crossed the line in 1:02 and the marathon winner finished in 2:10. Chiku's time was 4:23 Sikuku 1:46, Yvonne 3:01, Wangare 3:23, Maggie 2:55, GK in 1:54 and Ogutu 2:34.

The Next Race's Goal

My certificate time was 1:42:14 and I am happy with that. I consider my goal met and I am setting a new one for next year. I want to fly and I am aiming at 1:30.

According to Macmillan's calculator, I need the following:
Sub 19mins 5K
Sub 40mins 10K
1 Hour 1mins 15K

I intend to erect the following as the three pillars of my training:
Stretch my long runs to 30Kms every Sunday. Starting from 25Kms. Look for Hilly routes.
Run 4-5 times a week. One of these should be tempo and one a speed run. Do speed runs on the track from February.

The Entire Team Some still wailing in pain. But Maggie's feelings are much too deep to vocalize. They find expression in her face instead. Trick question: How many people in the photo above are trying to fly? Post the answer in a comment below. Which of the above runners wants to Kill the photographer with his/her bare hands? Correct answers will earn you a Kosewe lunch.

Dreams that were born and nurtured on the road become real at the Finish line. These three men are making sure they leave their footprints at the finish line. Kamau is assisting his left foot leave the footprint. Rigging!


Anonymous said...


Your completion time on Sunday was good. I had a good race finishing with an official time of 1:54, which was over 25mins better than my last year's time and with significantly less post marathon aches. I arrived within 5 minutes of the start and was still warming up when the starter’s gun when off. I realised that crucial time is lost in the beginning as 'faster' starters navigate through ‘slower’ starters. In a bid to go-ahead of the other runners I ran on the plants for a few metres and thinking I hadn’t crossed the start mat (and hence would not get an official timing) attempted to turn back (against the forward moving runners). I gave up after about a minute. From then on it was mainly overtaking tens of runners on the way which gave me the energy to move on. One of my aims was to finish my race way before the full marathon winner finished and to finish the race in under 2hours. I achieved this among other objectives.

As mentioned last Sunday, I read your blog daily or at least every other day. Your article to me on dealing with shin splints helped because I experienced none of that last Sunday.

I sometimes experience a nagging hamstring ache on my left leg that is made worse by traffic jams and having to use the clutch a lot. My greatest fear going into last Sunday’s race was that my left leg hamstring would start aching but thankfully, it did not happen. I aim to strengthen my hamstrings and glutes before the next race.

Both of us having done Ndakaini in 2:07 can aim and hit 1:40 at Ndakaini next year.

George Karimi

Jacob Aliet said...

Congrats to you too! And thanks for your race report GK. About the hamstring ache, junk the car and get an automatic. Seriously though, I will look up something on that. 1:40 Ndakaini? That will mean sub 1:30 Stanchart which is close to impossible. However we shall definitely try. It just depends on if and whether we do enough practice in Ngong hills. We plan to visit Ndakaini before the actual Ndakaini marathon to clear all the hills without walking if it kills us. You could join us.

Sikuku said...

Hi, Congrats man for the great achievement. I was aiming to do that time but my knee decided that it wanted an oscar award for acting, for almost 5km(6-10km) i was running on one knee. Btw seeing you negotiating the bends on Harambee avenue and Haile selasie gave me the boost i need to keep going. I realized i had not be left so much behind so i kept on pushing. By the 10km mark my knee was tired of acting and i picked up from there onwards i was back to my old self again. I crossed the 10km mark at 50minutes point.
Am targeting Ndakaini at 1:45minutes. Trust me Aliet. GK congrats.

Jacob Aliet said...

Hi Sikuku, You ran pretty well considering you had a knee acting up. This time, we should start early especially if we are to meet those ambitious times. I am advised that first we should seek to get a sub 40 10K and a sub 19mins 5K in the next three or four months. Then maintain between 50 and 80Km per week.
I will develop a plan in a few days then we work it. 1:45 Ndakaini? Ngai fafa!

Constantine said...

I loved the backdrop of the photo at the finishing point. It has given me an idea for next year.