The run went well. I am very pleased with my effort. The weather was supposed to be windy and rainy and I prepared for that by bringing my winter running jersey and a long sleeve running shirt. However, the sun came out and it was warm and not at all windy and I was roasting in my jersey. I didn't bring a short sleeve running shirt so I put on a quick dry shirt that I got at the Yoichi Marathon and pinned my big number to that. I was number 165. That is a bit misleading though because there were only 18 men in the open division (18 and over).
The Pisukari Half Marathon is two laps of an out and back course held at AERU in Urakawa, Hokkaido Japan. AERU is a facility for recreation and more importantly for raising and training race horses. I haven't researched this though so don't take my word for it. We think it is a national facility. The course is run on the roads that go through the area which are usually off limits to the public ( to protect the horses). It's fall here and the trees lining the road were beautiful oranges and yellows and dirty greens. There were two water points, with water only, but the staff made effort to make sure you could get water coming and going as we passed them at the 2.5km and 5km points. Since it's two laps of an out and back course you get to go past the water points 8 times.
The course is out and up hill for 5km to the turn around point and then down 5km to the next turn around and repeat. I remember being totally trashed last year the second time going up that 5km hill. This time it wasn't so bad. I don't know if it was the extra hills that I've done this year or if it was because I was mentally prepared for it but I was able to get up and over the hills both times without getting too fatigued. I concentrate on keeping my foot pace the same when going up hills and not on powering up or keeping the same speed. So I'm pretty sure I slow down going up the hills but I'm kicking out the same rhythm with my feet. The top four athletes blew out of the gate and soon were so far ahead of me that I couldn't even see them. But I had company anyway.
There were three of us and we kept changing position throughout the race. Only the top 3 spots get awarded so we weren't battling for a trophy so much as just battling. On the second lap I was able to pull away about 100m going up the hill. The last time we went down the hill both the other guys hit the gas and I had a hard time keeping up with them. I figured they would do the same thing this time to so after the turn around I picked up the pace, determined to keep away from them. However, I soon heard foot steps behind me and the voice of one who kept calling out to his mates and everyone on the side of the road to encourage and to answer calls of "way to go". He was getting closer. Eventually he was right behind me and I could swear the other guy was there too, but this was just relying on my ears because I wasn't going to look back. At this point, with the foot steps and heavy breathing on my heels, it is as much a psychological race as a physical one.
We are running as fast as we think we can last for 21km and it is a sort of a gamble. I never practice running 21km at this pace so I'm only hoping that I'll be able to keep up the pace till the end, and have enough left in the tank to shake this bugger of my tail. I don't know if he's holding back, waiting for the sprint to the finish, or if it is all he can do just to keep up. I had the feeling though that he was running close to 100% because with 3km left to go he was having a hard time keeping up his back and forth with the other runners who were still working their way up the hill as we came down. He just didn't have the breath for it. I wasn't wasting my breath. I didn't have that many people to cheer on anyway and when I did, I waved. Waving is not so easy at this point either. I can barely reach up to wipe the sweat of my brow. I start thinking too much. I think about his breathing. I think about not slowing down even though I got a bug in my left eye. I think about slowing down and letting this guy pass. It really is mental. Your body actually can keep up the pace and can go faster, go farther, but way before your body breaks down, your mind is telling you that you are tired. It tells you to stop this nonsense and go find a nice comfy mattress to lay down on.
Just 100m before the goal, I see a guy walking. He was in first place the first 10k and 3rd the last time I saw him. Is he cooling down? Did he stop running? Thinking that this may be my chance to get 3rd place I was now even more determined not to let this guy beat me in the last 100m. They guy I'm battling with says as we round the last corner, "almost there". ?? Is he running with me or against me? An altogether positive and bright sportsman. We sprint to the finish and I am triumphant!
This is only the second time that I have had a battle in a race and it was exhilarating. I'm sure I would not have had such a great time if this guy wouldn't have been there to push me to the end. It turns out the third guy in our group couldn't keep up the pace. He came in a bit later.
This is probably my 2nd or third best time in the half marathon and with very little training done this year. What does that mean? Does that mean that I am getting stronger mentally? Does that mean that I was training too much in previous years? Is it just a product of time? This is my 5th year running. My full marathon time this year was terrible (3:52). I've had two half marathons at the beginning of the year that were pretty bad too (1:45). I am writing this on the Monday after the race. Since last week I have had a sore left hip, again and my hip and legs, back and abs are all sore today from the race. I have one more half marathon this weekend and it is a bugger. I don't think I have the heart left to put into that race. At any rare, I'll take it easy this week and maybe run once or twice before the race then we'll see what happens.
Place: 5th out of 18
For running the race everyone got a technical T-shirt and a 500ml bottle of sports drink. The winners got Trophies, medals AND a large certificate! A little overboard I think. Just a medal and a certificate would be sufficient. The rest of us got blank certificates printed on construction paper so I dutifully wrote my name and time down on my certificate and put it in my race folder at home. ;-) In the goodies bags were also tickets for a discounted dip in the local onsen and a ticket for a free bowl of pork soup. It was salty and delicious after the run. Just what a body needs after a hard race.