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the Wongstar’s “Real” Marathon Debut « Jocelyn Wong's Blog

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the Wongstar’s “Real” Marathon Debut

teamTBB sweeps the running events!

teamTBB sweeps the running events!

It all started last Wednesday with a Skype from Coach: “marathon here on Sunday.”

Ok, track marathon or long run, Coach?  Neither, a real marathon event here in Jeju!

Whoaaa, a real marathon?  I have never done a real marathon.  The closest I ever got to doing one was training for the L.A. Marathon when I was 19 to prepare for my first Ironman (IM California back when it was still a full IM) which was to be a couple months later.  Obviously you should have to do a real marathon before you do an Ironman, right?  I never made it to either starting line.  I didn’t really have the patience or discipline to build up slowly back then and got injured a lot… when our Claremont Colleges tri club coach, Mike Lee, trained me for my first Ironman the following year, he said I didn’t need to do a real marathon before my first Ironman.  So my first marathon was in my first Ironman. 

I know lots of people, pros and amateurs included, who haven’t ever done a standalone marathon but have done Ironmans.  Then there are those who have run marathons and believe that just because they have run a x:xx marathon, they should be able to run the Ironman marathon in x:xx + :yy.  Some say :yy is 20 or 30 minutes…in reality :yy is sometimes an hour or more!  Because it’s different!

Everyone including me was curious as to how a “real” marathon would feel compared to an Ironman marathon.  Or a track marathon in training…  I dated a marathoner in grad school.  He would always tell me about how he hit the wall at mile such-and-such and if he ran well, he had trouble walking the next day.  Some who have done both the “real” marathon and the Ironman have said it’s harder to do the marathon by itself since you are going so much faster, and it hurts so much more.

Well, time to find out for myself!

It was not to be made a big deal of or anything, as Coach kept telling me “this is just a training run.”  “Can I go really fast?”  “You can go really smart.”  Of course on race morning in the car, he was giving out instructions to everybody (we also had teammates entered in the half marathon and 10k) and I was allowed to go for a good time.  Coach said the winner last year went about 3:20.  “I can do that, Coach.”  “Anything under 3:30 would be fantastic, Wongstar.”  Yeah, yeah, but I already did that on the track in Switzerland!

I threw on my Camelbak, which was filled with normal Gatorade.  Wasn’t sure what to expect at the aid stations…The course was out and back along the coast of the island.  The marathoners and half marathoners started together, and when the gun went off it was hard not to go out too fast since the half marathoners BOLTED.  The weather was pretty ideal conditions for a marathon–cool and slightly misty, although with quite a bit of wind since we were exposed along the coast.  And later, sprinkles of rain on the way back.

I tried not to get too excited and held myself back, although made sure not to get complacent, and pushed a pace that is best described as comfortably uncomfortable but under control.  I kept myself moving through the field, and passed from cluster to cluster of men running together, with a woman here and there.  There was a buzz amongst the Korean athletes about our team (or just about me, haha) being at the race, when I dropped one group of men I heard them babble to each other in Korean with the word “ironman” thrown in.  I have been studying some Korean and translated this as “Oh shit I hate being chicked, but it’s the Jeju ironman champion, so that’s quite acceptable.”

As I approached the 10k mark, I started seeing my teammates in the half on their way back.  Bella looked really strong leading the women and I think she was even in front of the men for a while!  James, Hiro, Tereza, and Maki all looked fierce attacking the field; I love seeing teammates during a race, it’s always motivating knowing how hard we train together.  At this point the field thinned out quite a bit and I was able to see who was actually in the full marathon race.  I could see a lone woman here and there in front of me, but again tried not to get too excited and just slowly and steadily closed the gap.

Most of the volunteers were female and I could tell they got extra excited seeing a woman near the front of the race beating up on the guys.  :)   I couldn’t understand what they were saying when they cheered but some Korean phrases are similar to Chinese, and one thing they yelled was “Fie dee!  Fie dee!” which in Chinese means “Faster!  Faster!”  Ok, ok, but I have to wait until the turnaround to speed up, I want to go negative splits!

A strong headwind picked up towards our turnaround and I figured at least it would be a tailwind on the way back.  Rei and Stephen looked good coming back and were in a small pack with a couple Koreans.  I hit halfway at about 1:38, funny because the fastest I’ve ever run an open half marathon is a 1:36 (from August of last year), with my fastest half ironman run at 1:38 back in May.  I realized that one of the runners still in front of me was a woman with short boy hair, so I picked up the pace as planned and officially took the lead around 22 or 23k.  I dropped the pace to about 4:30/km and was holding that pretty steady, yep that’s a 1:35 half marathon pace (I made sure to study the pace chart since I am so used to thinking in minutes per miles pace, not km’s).

I was pretty much alone for awhile, and like a moron I went off course with about 15km to go.  There was one area with two turns in a row, and the volunteers probably got bored as they were all clustered around the first turn, which I followed before blowing by the second turn.  Luckily I was not running with my ipod as I heard some faint shouting behind me…some 200 meters later.  @#$&!  When I got back on course and passed the next km marker I realized I had lost over a minute.  MOTHEREFFER!  I wondered if I lost the lead, but there had been no one around me, in front or behind, when I went off course.

I started catching some straggling males and figured I was still leading the women (I was).  I was able to keep holding the pace and pushing, and I knew I wasn’t going to hit “THE WALL.”  The wall is a myth, I told myself.  People like you who train hard don’t hit the wall.  There is no wall.  My wall might be at 50k or 100k, but not before 42k.

I wasn’t too concerned about my nutrition/hydration.  I only had 1.5 liters of Gatorade in the Camelbak, no refill at halfway like our frou-frou special needs aid stations in ironman.  Meaning no iced coffee rocket fuel either, bummer.  And I wasn’t about to run the first half with caffeine and not have any for the second half!  I ended up slowing down at a few of the aid stations that had Gatorade, but the amount I tossed back wasn’t much, I probably took in less than 2 liters of Gatorade for the whole marathon.  What’s that, like 500 calories?  It wasn’t very hot at all, so I was ok, though sweating buckets as usual–my socks were soaked from sweat by halfway.  No gels or any of that silliness, but I had a good solid breakfast: a couple bananas, some Korean oats (well I think they are oats; I ran out of Hungarian oats and I can’t read the label on these things that look like oats), and a couple sweet potatoes.  Plenty of energy to run a marathon by itself.  I wasn’t starting the marathon in a calorie deficit like in an ironman.

And I learned the glorious truth: the faster you go, the less time you are out there, and therefore the less nutrition and hydration you need!  I kept myself moving by picking off guys up ahead who had gone out too fast and blew up.  Soon enough I saw the flags of the track stadium in the distance, where the start/finish line was.  Ok let’s go win this marathon!  I saw the seconds on the finish clock tick towards 3:15 and put in a desperate final sprint to duck under 3:15, but alas my official time was 3:15:02.  I’m mad at myself for going off course, I may have gone as fast as 3:13!  Still I am really happy, as hello…I only broke 4 hours for the first time just six months ago, and now I have gone 3:15 and am the Jeju marathon champion!  In addition to being the reigning Jeju ironman champion?!?!  I am not sure what universe I am in any more because never in my life would I have thought I would win an open marathon!  or an ironman for that matter, what a trip!

#1 in Jeju!

#1 in Jeju!

So I ticked a couple more things off my list of “30 things to do before I turn 30″ which I wrote down in February:
a) Break a record–I set a new course record for this event.
b) Break 3:15 in a marathon–ok so maybe not officially, but I ran more than a marathon, so I consider that breaking 3:15! ;)

I don’t know why I picked the arbitrary time of 3:15, it sounded like a pretty fast time to me back in February.  At this rate I will do the previously unimaginable and break 3 hours before my 30th birthday…which is not for over 2 years!

Other things I’ve already crossed off the list are getting my pro license and winning a triathlon!  My list is top secret but as I cross things off I am happy to tell you what they are.  ;)

In conclusion I have decided that the marathon in an Ironman is harder than doing a marathon by itself.  I was walking around quite normally immediately after the run and able to walk down stairs perfectly fine.  The next day I went running twice.  And no, I didn’t get any ice baths or massages.  So I don’t know why people say it is harder doing an open marathon, but maybe I didn’t run fast enough?  HMMM!!  The fun part will be to see how fast I go in the next ironman marathon in 4 weeks, off of a hard 180k bike.  What will my :yy be?  HMMM…

Ariel caught me at the finish line and took a bunch of photos of us too.  Thanks Ariel!!  She did the 5k and had plenty of time to freshen up and put on a cute outfit!

this is why I feel so tall in Asia

this is why I feel so tall in Asia

 

hanging out with the local triathletes pre-race

hanging out with the local triathletes pre-race

 

fulfilling superstar duties post-race

fulfilling superstar duties post-race

 

autograph for ultramarathoner and photographer Ahn--he took the photos of me at the Jeju ironman!

autograph for ultramarathoner and photographer Ahn--he took the photos of me at the Jeju ironman!

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