Saturday, May 05, 2007

Te Dejo Madrid

Back in April 2005 I went to Madrid with the intention of, what else?, running the marathon. I ran well, negative splits and a 3:31 time. The day before I went to 'El Prado' and the Thyessen. I have always enjoyed the Thyessen and its impressionist art... it's a quaint, small museum.

The day after the 'thon I felt pretty good so I made my way to the Reina Sofia, to view arguably Picasso's masterpiece: La Guernica. I spent close to 30 minutes admiring this work of art.

While I had seen it in previous visits, it still made an impact on me. Little did I know that I was going to be more *impressed* with a Mexican exposition that was being held there. Of note was two tires that had Aztec inspired carvings. Then as I am about to walk away, I see this block of concrete, lying on the floor. I thought to myself, hmmm - WTF, how is that art? I get closer to the 3X5 card describing the 'work of art.' *It* actually had a fetus inside. I was mesmerized...I am sure the artist was aiming for the shock value rather than the artistic value, but what do I know? I wonder how the US would react to something like this. Read this article, if you know Spanish :o)

The Race

I tend to find excuses to travel abroad. Signing up for the Madrid Marathon seemed like a good idea, considering I had failed to qualify for Beantown by two minutes. Unfortunately, I had not had a decent base going into this race, much less decent training; I had ran hardly any from the beginning of the year, due to a multitude of upper-respiratory infections, until 6 weeks before the M; and then it was an average of close to 30 miles a week. The training, if it can be called that, included two runs of fifteen miles and one of seventeen. What scared me the most was the 17 miler [at the Boston Marathon - yes I bandited part of the course] which I ran just five-and-a-half days before Madrid; I actually ran the last five miles at faster than my intended marathon pace (7:35) and this gave me hope I could break 3:30. But then I ran four miles on Thursday morning (4/21) and tried to run the last three at 8 minute pace and while I was able to do it, it felt TOO hard. Did I leave too much in the 17 miler? Oh well. I would find out soon enough.

I left for Madrid later that afternoon with a brief layover at CDG. I arrived in Madrid at 3 pm local time. Took the subway to my hostal and took a shower. It was now 5 pm and decided to go pick up my *dorsal* or bib number. The expo was about 2 miles from the hostal and decided to walk there. Part of the marathon actually went by portions of my walk to the expo, and let me tell you, there were some rather challenging hills. Not good.

What I found at the expo was nothing spectacular. They charged 7 euro, but it was free for runners. In the runner’s bag, there was the official T, an FM radio and a singlet. Also, the organizers use single-use timing chips – wonderful idea IMO; if a runner owns a chip, he gets 5 euro discounted off the entry fee.

I had dinner and went to bed at 10 pm. I did not wake up until noon the next day. Slept for 14 hours!!!! I honestly do not remember when the last time I slept more than 8 hours. Obviously, I felt refreshed.

The pasta lunch was held on Saturday from 2 to 4:30 pm. It was free for the runner and one guest. Anyone else would have to pay only 3 euro. Nice. The pasta was simple; nothing fancy but it was enough to carbo-load. Oh and the beer was very cold and tasty; it was so good I had four pints ;-).

The start was for 9:30 and my hostal was located about a mile from the start so I felt 8 am was a nice time to wake up on Sunday morning (4/24). I slept for about 6 hours but felt good from having slept so much the previous night. Jet lag? What is jet lag?

The weather was supposed to be overcast and in the high 50s. But when I came out, wearing a singlet, the sky was clear and in the 50s. So I assumed it would get hotter as the day progressed. Not a good thing since I perform miserably when hot. So sub-3:30 did not look good.

I lined up with the 3:45 group. Again, I did not think I could run sub 3:30 but I still dreamed that if everything went to perfection I could eventually catch up to the 3:30 group. It was quite crowded even though there were only nine thousand runners, with men outnumbering women 8:1.

The gun went off and millions of confetti dropped from the sky. It would take me over two minutes to cross the first mats. Right away I knew I would have trouble passing runners, especially on the turns; this course has one too many turns. However, I also knew that races tend to thin out by the mid-way point and I was going to make my move then. Yeah, right.

The first couple of klips are on a moderate uphill and I barely average 5:30s and I my singlet is already moist; I take it off (I think I was the only runner sans shirt. IMO, Europeans tend to overdress - and what’s up with the bicycling-type shorts?). I guess a sub-3:40 is more doable and I am okay with that; that is, if I can do it.

I run the first 5k in 26:59, so much for the intended 25 minute 5Ks. Here I grab a 12oz bottle of water. Now, I am not used to drinking from a bottle during training so it took me a couple of aid stations to get used to it. I found myself carrying the bottle for a while and it just did not feel right. Once I figure something that worked for me, my gait felt more comfortable.

At around 10 miles, I was averaging about 8:20 and my mind started to falter. In the last few ‘thons, this has been the rule rather than the exception. I began to doubt if I could even complete the darn distance. I began to dread me being there. thankfully, it would not last long. I began to focus on the race and chugged along. Right before the 20K mark, we ran on a narrow local street that is paved with cobbles. This and the fact that the cobbles are wet, coupled with the sharp descent make for difficult running. To make things worse, the spectators are crowding too much into the road and I feel like I am going to crash into them anytime now. However, the crowds proved to be a moral booster. I begin to lengthen my stride; I begin to gain confidence in my ability to complete this distance. I crossed the half in 1:48:22. Not bad. 3:37 pace, that is if I can hold on. The weather is holding in the high 50s and it is now overcast.

I would hold on even though the wind seemed to be on my face at all times. In fact I got faster at the sixth 5K. I ran it in 23:20!!! Then the rolling hills would bring me back to reality and brought my 5K splits in the 25-minute range.

At the 37K-point a kid remarked to her Mom: look Mom, he’s naked! To which she responded, that’s because he’s warm.

All along the crowds have been supportive and call to us: campeones – venga campeones (champions, bring it on champions). I am feeling quite good but I know the last 5K is all uphill; or at least that’s what the elevation profile shows. It was uphill alright, and it was difficult for I was tired. I did manage to run the eight 5K in just under 25 minutes. I go around another glorieta [traffic circle]and the finish line is straight ahead. There are four arches and I get a bit confused for I don’t know which one marks the finish line. I cross 42K and only have 195 meters to go. Less than half a lap I tell myself but it seems closer to a mile. I cross one arch but I need to cross two more. Damn these are the longest 195 meters I have ever run. As I crossed the mat I stop my watch and it reads 3:31:38. A 4:44 negative split!!! I am really tired but I am quite happy with my performance and I seem to be okay. I am a little disoriented though.

I walk over and get a bag full of goodies. I head over to pick up my Adidas gift for wearing Adidas shoes. It’s a cell-phone holder. Not bad for being free. I then have a large piece of watermelon and it tastes delicious. I also have a beer but this time it tastes quite bitter and pass on a second serving. I eat a banana and start heading home. The mile walk will do me some good. As I am walking I realized I did not get a medal. Oh well. Not a big deal. I have 28 medals already :-). I arrived at the hostal and took a shower. Sprayed my legs with cold water. Later on, while going through the goodie bag, I find a metal rectangle or trophy. I got a similar design when I ran Barcelona. So the Spanish give these instead of medals… interesting.

The following morning I would wake up with no signs of soreness. I have never felt this good. Was it the 17 miler so close to the race? Was it the cold water? I don’t know. I will continue to experiment. I felt so good I actually spent four hours walking in the Reina Sofia Museum that afternoon.

5K splits: 26:59, 25:22, 24:59, 25:16, 24:33, 23:20, 25:16, 24:59
2.195K – 10:53

From the race stats, I passed about 150 runners the first half and I passed
over 1500 in the second half. Boy, did it feel good to pass so many
people :-)


Love2Run said...

Thanks for the visit. I'd say you had a great race, getting stronger despite the hills. Perhaps a flatter course and cooler weather and a BQ would be a piece of cake. Nice report.

Quinto Sol said...

Thanks! It was not as hilly as I made it to be. The last mile was a gradual ascent, no more than 3% but as tired as I was made it seem like a mountain. =:o)