In my last post I mentioned that I was suffering from a strained hamstring. I mentioned that I might not be able to run in Macau or that I might not be able to run as quickly as I had hoped. But a weird thing happened. Three days before the marathon I had to do a fair bit of walking around work and by the end of the day I noticed that my left knee was sore. No big deal, I thought, but then I woke up during the night with some fairly noticeable pain! A day later, two days before the marathon, I could not walk without feeling sharp pains coming from my inner knee area. WTF??? How did that happen? After running 70 mile weeks, how did I get injured from just walking around? I searched the internet and figured that I was suffering from an inflamed bursa (I still don’t know what it was for sure). My theory is that after I injured my hamstring, my muscles tightened up considerably and that put some strain on the knee (you can read about the chain reaction effect of hamstring and knee injuries if you check around). So I iced it like crazy and that seemed to help, but as time ticked by I was fairly certain that I was not going to be running on Sunday.
Nevertheless, I packed my shoes and my running gear, just in case. On Saturday morning it felt a bit better, but I was still pretty sure it would not be good enough to run on. I posted on Facebook that I would be sitting this one out. I didn’t want to mess around and risk injuring myself seriously.At dinner, the night before the marathon, I ordered a beer and consoled myself. No big deal, I thought. I should probably not focus on running so much anyways… But when I got back to the hotel room I figured maybe I could go out for a short run to see how it feels. I ran around the block a few times and, well, it felt fine. A little sore when I palpated right on the tender spot, but otherwise there was no pain running. The Macau Marathon course loops back to the start at about 12 km so…. I figured I would give it a try and then quit at the 12 km mark if the knee (or the hamstring for that matter) starting to give me trouble.
We stayed at the Asia Boutique Inn – not a place I would normally recommend because it was a bit noisy, but ideal for the race because it’s only 10 min walking to the start (which is in a big stadium). I got to the start line about 20 minutes early and had no trouble getting to the front. Everything was really well organized. There are only about 5000 people in the full and half marathon but it felt like a lot more. After the gun went off, I set out a bit slower than my projected pace. I was not even thinking about my finish time and was just happy to be running. It was actually a relief since the only thing I needed to think about was not getting injured.
I probably don’t need to bore you with a blow by blow description of the race itself, but I will say that the course turned out to be quite a bit harder than I expected. In retrospect, I should not have focused on Macau quite so much. This is a good race to do if you are looking for a training run or if you are just doing it for the experience. It’s definitely not the race you should do if you are looking for a fast time. I figured that the new course would be faster than the old one because runners do not need to pass over the San Van bridge four times and instead only go over the bridge twice. But what I did not know is that the new course gives runners the wonderful experience of passing through a long tunnel four times. So in total there are six fairly decent hills, the last one coming in around mile 25. The tunnel is marked on the map, but I failed to realize just how much up and down is actually involved! You lose time on hills, but even worse is the way the can kick you in the ass and sap your energy. Each time I passed a hill, I felt my energy depleting. The last climb was particularly brutal (what kind of sadist designed that course! a hill at mile 25, sheeesh!).
I think I was smart with my pacing although I may have run a few miles too fast and would have been better off conserving my energy. I remember at one point stupidly pushing the pace to catch a group of runners so that I could stay out of the wind (yes, it was windy in places). But I realized soon after that it would be foolish to try to stay with them because they were going too fast, so I just dropped back. It was probably a wasted effort.
My halfway split was 1:28:30 and I remember feeling pretty much indifferent. I was feeling the burn already so I just concentrated on keeping good running form. There were some faster stretches in the second part of the race and I ran most of those miles in the 6:30-6:40 range. I had some bursts of energy and felt really good at times. But as you can see, the tunnels were slowing me down. I probably lost about a minute every time.
In the end, I am very happy with the way it played out. Coming in the last few miles I didn’t even think about my time. It wasn’t until there was less than a mile to go that I realized I would be close to a PR. I pushed harder but it was already too late and I missed my PR by around 30 seconds. I didn’t mind at all. My finish time was 2:57:01. It was great to run sub-3 for second time in my life!One nice thing about Macau Marathon is that they recognize the age group runners and provide awards for the top runners in each category. I ended up 4th in my group M40-44 and got to stand on a podium in front of a the cameras while I received a trophy. So overall I would say it was a great success and a lot of fun. Now, two days after the race, my legs are super sore, but the good news is that my knee and hamstring feel fine. So I made the right decision. My wife had a great experience too and ran her second half marathon (she even mentioned that she might want to run a full marathon one day… good god, she’s become
infected!). It was good that they didn’t enforce the cut off time of 2:30 and all finishers got a nice medal and a towel. So now I’m looking forward to a few weeks of easy recovery runs and then time to gear up for Tokyo in late Feb!