Thursday, October 18, 2012

More Musings About Munich

Here are some random thoughts about last Sunday's Munich Marathon:

Perspective: Last Sunday's race was one of my less stellar races. But every runner that I know has had both good and bad races. I have been very lucky because my good races outnumber the bad ones by a lot. I have had very few truly awful races. If it was the other way around, I would have quit running and racing long ago. Even though I had a disappointing (at first) experience in Munich, it will definitely not deter me from racing again. It's the bad races that make me appreciate the good ones even more. Now that a few days have passed, I am satisfied with how I did in Munich. I was tempted to quit the race, but I kept going all the way to the finish. Even with walking during a lot of the last 12 kilometers, I made it to the finish line with lots of time to spare. In an ideal world, all of our races would be great and each one would bring a new personal best. But we don't live in an ideal world and we have to take the bad with the good, learn from our experiences, then move on to training for the next race.

The Mental DJ: I started off the first half of the race with The Sweet's "Little Willy" in my head. It's a fun song to run to. In the second half the tunes switched between George Thorogood's version of "Move It On Over" and the French nursery rhyme about the bridge at Avignon (Sur le pont d'Avignon...). My mother used to sing me the Avignon bridge song when I was a child.

Dreams Really Do Come True: I have mentioned my pre-race nightmares in previous posts. On Sunday one of them actually came true. Sunday morning I woke up at about 3 am after having a dream about being in a parking garage and not being able to find my way out despite following other drivers to the exit. When I woke up, I started thinking, "How do I get out of the Olympic stadium parking lot and back home again?" When I had run Munich before, my husband was there to drive me home and I never paid attention to how we got back onto the Mittlerer Ring. When I ran the half-marathon that accompanied the marathon in 2010, I took the U-Bahn (subway/metro) from the stadium to my favorite park-and-ride. As I left the parking lot, there was a sign saying the road to Stuttgart/Lindau/Garmisch was on the left and the way to Nuernberg and Salzburg was on the right. Then the road split. The right fork had two lanes and the left fork had one. Because of the sign, I took the left fork, which was really the entrance into the stadium from the Mittlerer Ring. I was really supposed to take the right fork but stay in the left lane. Therefore, I ended up going the wrong way.  But, as the name implies, the Mittlerer Ring is a ring road. I knew that if I kept going I would eventually get to the Garmisch autobahn. On my wrong-way journey I discovered a tunnel that looked like something out of a science fiction movie. It was brightly lit up in white and Day-Glow green.

Running Apps: During one of my pre-race bathroom stops inside the stadium I was talking with two women. One was older and the other was younger. The older woman said that she was running her 38th marathon. The younger was running her tenth. I felt like such a novice because I was *only* running my fifth marathon. Our personal best times were within 3 minutes of each other's. Then the younger woman asked me which running apps I used. I pointed to my watch and told her that my watch was my running app. I don't use high-tech running apps because I don't really need to know my training distances to the 23rd decimal place and times to the nearest nanosecond.

The Kindness of Strangers: My husband was unable to come up to Munich on Sunday. Normally he's my official photographer. But I brought a camera with me and asked random people to take my picture both before and after the race. Everyone was happy to oblige. I even took someone's picture before the race. I figured that if someone really wanted to steal my cheap camera, he or she was welcome to it.

Stauwarnung (Traffic Jam Warning): When I ran the half-marathon that accompanied the marathon in 2010, both races started at the same time. The half-marathon started at the halfway mark of the marathon. This year it started three hours after the marathon. I can understand why the start times were staggered. In 2010 the U-Bahn was like the Tokyo subway at rush hour both before and after the race. It was barely breathing room only. With different starting times, the subway trains would be less crowded, at least in the morning before the race. But it seemed to be a problem for the runners because there were fast half-marathoners mixing with the slow marathoners. A lot of the slow marathoners were literally being pushed out of the way by the fast half-marathon runners. It also made the course more crowded. The good thing is if I decide to run the half-marathon next year I won't have to leave for Munich so early.

Refreshments: The organizers deserve a big pat on the back for having plenty of refreshments at both the water points and in the stadium after the race. I have been in races where the slower runners had almost no chance of getting water or food because they had run out. I remember one half-marathon in San Diego where the runners were asking homeowners for water from their garden hoses because they had run out of drinks at the water points. It's always nice when race organizers realize that not everyone is an elite runner and that slow runners also need water, sports drink, and food.

Numbers: There were over 18,000 runners in the four races on Sunday: marathon, half-marathon, 10K, and marathon relay. Eighty-one countries were represented, 59 in the marathon. There were 4934 men who finished the marathon and 1163 women. It's nice to see more and more women running the marathon. When I ran Munich for the first time in 1993, it seemed like there was a 10-to-1 ratio of men to women.

I haven't decided if I will run the marathon next year or the half-marathon. There's still plenty of time to figure it out.

Monday, October 15, 2012

2012 Munich Marathon

Here is my report on the Munich Marathon. My time was a less than stellar 4 hours 34 minutes 39 seconds. It was my slowest marathon, beating out my 4:29 in Berlin back in 1994. But the important thing is that I finished. As a fellow runner once said, "A last place finish is better than being the first DNF." No, I wasn't last and made the time limit by about 1.5 hours. I'm going to divide this report into 3 sections: pre-race, during the race, and post-race.

Pre-Race: I should have turned around and gone home as soon as I saw the black cat that I almost ran over on my street. Even though I'm generally not a superstitious person (except for the requirement to wear something black on race day), that set the tone. Then there was the ordeal of getting my number, taking my bag to the storage area, and then walking to the starting area. Someone obviously had a sadistic streak when deciding where all of those things should be. At most races everything is in one area, or at least close by. Not for the marathon. The number pickup was about a 10-minute walk from my car. Then it was another 10-15 minute walk to the stadium, where the bag pickup area was. I posed for a couple of pre-race photos, stripped off my extra layers of clothing, then walked about 1.5 kilometers (almost a mile for the metrically challenged) to the start. I was tired before I even started running!

Murphy's Law of racing was in effect. The Porta-Potty line that you're standing in is always the slowest. I saw some Porta-Potties on the way to the starting line and decided to take advantage of them. I got in what looked to be the shortest line. But all of the other lines seemed to move faster. It always seems to happen that I get stuck behind all of the runners with  digestive issues.

There were a couple of guys dressed up as bottles of Erdinger alcohol-free beer, which is one of the marathon's sponsors. They planned to run the race dressed like that because their numbers were pinned to the costumes. In the start corral I chatted with two guys from Ireland who had run a marathon about 5 weeks previously. They were lamenting how the Irish football (soccer) team is "rubbish," especially after their 6-1 drubbing by Germany earlier in the week. There were announcements about the number of countries represented in the marathon (59) as well as the number of tons of bananas and apples and thousands of liters of sports drink and water.

The weather was perfect for a long race. It was about 10 C (50F) at the start, though it felt cooler due to a chilly breeze. The sun came out and it warmed up to about 14-15 C (57-59 F) in the afternoon.I was surprised by the number of people wearing tights and long sleeves. I would have died of heat stroke if I was dressed that way.

During the Race: The race wasn't really very memorable and I felt out of sorts almost from the beginning. At around the 7 km mark I talked to an American who was living in Munich. He and his companion (I don't know if she was his wife, girlfriend, or just a friend) were running their first marathons. The other thing that was memorable was at around the 35 or 36 km mark. There was a group of men in an apartment above the course. They were singing the FC Bayern theme song (FC Bayern, Stern des Sudens...). For those who don't follow German football (soccer), FC Bayern is the First Division team from Munich.

 I was actually doing quite well through the first 25 km, with a time of 2:06 and change at the half-marathon mark. It was somewhere between 27 and 28 km when my left calf decided to cramp. I stopped to stretch it, but that made it worse. So I walked. But when I walked the toes on my right foot would cramp up. The only way to loosen them up was to run. I was still able to run at a slower pace most of the way. But after about 30 km I did a lot of walking. As I got toward 37 km, I started figuring out how long it would take me to walk that distance and if I could make it before the time limit. But I was able to get in some running. Just before I got to the tunnel that leads into the Olympic stadium, I was able to run all the way to the finish line. Somehow I was able to block out the pain in my calf and keep going to the finish line. It was a big relief to finish. The strange things was during training I had some minor soreness in my left Achilles tendon after my long runs. A little ice would fix it. I never had problems with my calf or toes cramping during training, so these cramps were very odd. My Achilles tendon was perfectly fine during the race. Go figure.

After the Race: The finishers' medal was nice. It was shaped like a gingerbread heart and said, "G'schafft," which loosely translates as, "Done" or "completed."

After the race I drank a cup of sport drink and had a banana. The sport drink tasted better during the race, when I mixed it with water. I also grabbed two pretzels to eat in the car on the drive home.

The Olympic stadium has changed. Instead of the nice, springy track there was pavement until the last 50 meters. The infield was also covered in Astroturf instead of natural grass. One good change is that the steps had been renovated. Instead of metal steps with spikes, they were smooth concrete. But it was still a Herculean effort to get up them to get to the bag check area. Did I mention that the race organizers have a sadistic streak?

On the way to get my bag, I saw someone wearing the best t-shirt. On the back of the shirt it said (in English), "If you can read this, that means I'm not last." I thought of my late running partner Bill, who used to tell me that if there was no last place finisher, a race would never be over.

Now it's time to rest and put some ice on my sore right knee. Tomorrow I have an appointment with my masseuse. She will definitely be earning her money. Soon it will be time to think about ski season. As it gets toward spring, I will decide which races I plan to do next year.