After making my Asian debut at the Thailand International Half Marathon in Bangkok last Sunday I made my white shorts debut at the Chiang Mai Half Marathon this Sunday (Dec 21). My race was alright, not quite as quick as I hoped, but another useful run to have under my belt as I prepare to head back home and get into serious training.
I was better prepared leading into this race than I was for the race in Bangkok. I arrived in Chiang Mai from Pai on Thursday and then didn’t have a lot planned for my time in Chiang Mai. One thing I was trying to do was battle a bit of a cold I picked up in Pai. Most of my travels have been in hot, tropical places, but Pai wasn’t like that. It never got hot, and got really cool at night. I think my body was a little shocked by this. I was popping Fishermans Friends like it was my job and drinking lots of water to try to avoid, or at least delay, the cold.
The day before the race was kit pickup at the Three Kings Monument. Where I was staying was only a couple hundred meters from the monument, which was also the start/finish. I got to kit pickup right when it opened at 10AM. I’m glad I did, it was very disorganized and slow. I was 3rd in line and it took me 15 minutes to get my bib.
After that I just relaxed for the day. I planned to have basically all my eating done by 6PM. Food for the day included a couple of banana-Nutella crepes, some chicken and rice, a chicken and avocado salad, and some pesto pasta. There was a dinner and performances that the race was putting on at the start/finish. I wandered over there to have a look and I munched on my second crepe of the day. I’m glad I chose not to eat at their dinner. I didn’t see what food was being served but the line was long, and they hadn’t started serving by 6:15. I watched a bit of the dancing on stage before heading back to my room.
I turned off all of the lights in my room around 8:00PM to try to trick my body into falling asleep early. I think I pushed the time a little too early because at 10:30PM I was still trying to fall asleep.
My alarm rang at 3:10AM. I had picked up some banana bread and a blueberry muffin for breakfast (similar to what I ate last weekend). I ate these right away, and washed them down with a small bottle of Thai sports drink. At about 3:40AM I headed to the start to see the marathon start at 4:00AM. 4:00AM was also the time I decided I’d stop drinking fluids before the start of my race. I watched the marathoners go off and then headed back to my room.
I didn’t leave my room until 4:40AM. It was a little chilly outside, and I’d been there so I knew that there was nothing I needed to do before the start except actually get there. When I got to the start I made my way into the start corral. Seeding wasn’t AS BAD as in Bangkok, but it still wasn’t great. I ended up 4 rows back. There was a couple right at the front that were still taking photos when they announced 30 seconds to the start.
Off the gun I had to side step around a couple people in front of me over the first 50m or so before the roads cleared up. There were a couple others that took off fast; one was up the road and would continue to accelerate away from me over the entire race, the others I was able to move ahead of at my pace as we reached the first turn about 300m up the road. I’d run the first 4k and the last 2.5k of the course in the days before the race, and from my running here in October I felt I knew the moat portion of the race relatively well. It was a bazar feeling being in a race half way around the world and feeling like I knew a chunk of the coarse better than I’d known the majority of the courses I’ve run back home. About 2k into the race I was passed by another runner moving much quicker than I was. Given my current fitness I knew I couldn’t hold his pace, and I let him run by. He was in a bright yellow shirt so I was able to see him as he ran into the distance. When I took a glance back I couldn’t see anyone (partly because it was so dark). This is about the way it stayed throughout the race. Besides the turnaround at the 13k point where you can see other runners on the way back, I didn’t see any other racers. I did have someone who was banditing the race run next to me from about 8k to near the finish. My head still wasn’t really in the race so we chatted a bit. Maybe I would have gotten into the zone if I would have kept to myself, but chatting did help pass the km’s.
Besides the opening km and the closing km, all my splits were over 4:00/km (my slowest was 4:16). There were a couple aid stations with water spread out around the course, I didn’t take any sort of gel or calories during the run. There were also some distance markers around the course, but they seemed inconsistent in their spacing, and I’d heard that this race is historically long. Around 17-18k I wasn’t feeling great; my legs were heavy and my stomach was hurting, but I did my best to keep my foot turnover high. When I ran past the hospital I knew I had 2.5km to go (from my run a couple days earlier), despite the fact my watch already read 19.2km. At this point the sun was coming up and I trying to enjoy the moment and what I was doing (this was going to be one of my last days in Asia), as opposed to thinking about the discomfort. I made my way inside the moat and my banditing running partner pulled off while I gave it all I had left to get to the finish line. I crossed in 1:28:35, good enough for 1st in my AG and 3rd overall.
After the race a 1 lanyard was hung around my neck. I later learned it was to identify AG winners for awards. Also, a bottle of water and a McDonalds burger was pushed into my hands. The post race food here was not on the same level as Bangkok, but it did the trick. My hotel was just a minute from the finish so I went back to take a shower and change before returning for the awards and continue to watch the finishers come in. The half marathon when off an hour after the full, so we were the first finishers in.
I didn’t have much in the way of thought for my race. I enjoyed the experience, but I didn’t think I had a very good or very bad day. I’m not fit like I was before I left, but I’m not as unfit as I was towards the end of my trip last year. I just don’t have a ton to say about this event either way.
While waiting for the awards to start I got a massage. Unlike races here where you lay on a bed or table, I was in a chair and the masseuse rubbed my feet and calves. Later in the day I’d spend the $7 to get a proper Thai massage from one of the countless number of places that offer them in Chiang Mai.
After the massage and awards I went back to my room and had a bit of a nostalgic moment with my running shoes. The award was rather large, so if I wanted to fit it in my bag something needed to stay behind. Both pairs of running shoes I had with me in Asia were no longer needed, and just as well because they were both pretty well worn out. That meant that they would draw the short straw and stay behind. After over 500km, 5 countries, and 2 races, their day had come.