yes I stuffed a cold sponge in my top not to make it look like I have boobies but to cool off!LOL
Well for starters, I thought I'd be reporting on my run in Riga. After a crappy half 2 weeks ago, things were not looking good. After about a week though, things picked up again and I could feel my legs were good. Workouts were good and the weather forecase for Riga was ideal- cool 8.30 start and not supposed to be above 15C that day. At bare bones minimum I was prepared to run no worse than I did in 09 and right about 3 hours. I pretty much know when I have good legs and when I don't and as I was heading into a long needed in coming taper, I could feel the strength coming up in my legs. A week before the marathon, I really wanted to run the Moscow Intnl Half. It was cold, wet, and about +5-7C- PERFECT! After looking at the results I was depressed-really depressed-winning time was a paltry 1:31 and change in awesome conditions( I'm a polar bear I thrive in the C O L D always have always will ). Yeah I could have won the thing and the prize package for top3 was good too-bloody hell I sat out to be fresh for Riga. Well, just before that half, I got a call from a long time friend of mine -Tamara. She asked me to consider running Luzhniki this year. I knew she needed a woman so our club would win in team scoring. 2 men and 1 woman score and we had lots of boys but one of the women who usually runs this was a no go.
OK how to say NO without offending was the next task. I just said I'd already long since signed up for Riga, tickets were bought, and I've gone there to run for the last 3 yrs. Prior to making Riga my annual spring marathon, I had done Luzhniki here in 06 and in 07. In 06 lightning srtuck and it was a semi overcast cool day-I put down a 3:05- best performance I've ever had inside Russia and finished 6th. A year later- i was in my infamous Hole that lastet about 18 months where all I could do was put down sh!tty perforamce after sh!tty perforamce and nearly retired from the depression that ensued as a result. I returned to run Luzhniki again only this time it was HELL and I DO MEAN PURE HELLFIRE AND BRIMSTONE! Temps soared to record highs above 30C that day (not a cloud in the sky and this course runs along the river entirely in the S U N). My girlfriend Olga was crewing for me crossing the bridge in the middle of the course to give me my drinks 8 times. Despite all that help, I still nearly passed out in the final 3km. I to this day remember Sasha Elkonin standing out there in the heat w/ about 2k to go helping out. My head was spinning by then and my task was not to pass out because all I had to do was get my ass to the finish for the win. I crawled in posting one of my all time career worst performances. I never thought I could run a marathon in worse conditions...well then I went to CHICAGO that fall (the year they shut the course because of the heat some 4 hours or so into the race) and ran slightly worse than I did at Luzhniki- un effing believable! That was it- never running this $%$#^&*(*( marathon again even with crew it's a bitch on a hot day because they only have FIVE aid stations on the ENTIRE COURSE and the pickings are slim- a LITTLE bit of water, maybe bread and salt and sometimes but don't count on it -tea. That was it- I started going out in the spring once to Chicago for the 50k (which I won) then in May for Riga. Spring and fall marathons needed to be done outside Russia where I could perform in normal civilized conditions. I've run many marathons in Russia and abroad and even when I'm peaked and in good shape, I run AT LEAST 10-20 minutes WORSE in Russia than outside.
Why does one do better outside Russia? There are loads of factors. Let's start with the stuff the organizers can't control:
Moscow is an ecological disaster-the air sucks
The asphalt- can be good, bad. sh!tty, and everything in between
The weather- I have done Russian marathons in the May-later August range=hotass hell almost every time
Did I mention the air sucks?
Now the stuff organizers could theoretically control-
ADD MORE WATER STATIONS this is an issue at pretty much every marathon here so not fair to single out just one or 2 it's an across the board issue-some do better than others but they all fail on the principle of not putting water out til 10k into the race
Water stations need to start from 5K and be positioned at minimum every 5K thereafter none of the typical crap of first station somewhere at 10k
Sports drinks gels etc- it's YOUR problem and strictly BYO here I have never ever seen or heard of a marathon here that offers what we take for granted in the US and Europe.
This is not a pretty picture-in Russia forget about running a PR. For my own personal performance discrepancy to be 10-20 min on average that speaks volumes. Summers here I'd run marathons for fun but never faster than about 3:15-25 ish. A couple few weeks later I'd show up in Anchorage or Chicago and suddenly 20 minutes- GONE! No I didn't mysteriously get fitter overnight, I don't have to worry about lack of basics on the course and I have air to breathe.
Soo back to Luzhniki-again Tamara and now Coach are suggesting I should just run here. Oh for FU$K'S sake what the hell did I spend the winter training for???? Weather forecast for Riga-perfect Moscow- HOTASS HELL after days of nice cool temps. Tamara said I'd not be sorry and the prize package was good. Ummm yeah whatever that I could believe when I see. OTOH, in the summer series also put on by Luzhniki, prizes have always been good and if you place top 3 in the series at the end of the summer -the package is nice so can't say I could complain there. On a more serious note- Coach and I were looking at the lineup for Riga this yr and it was stacked. Going top 3 was unlikely and eeking top 10 even on a good performance would be a project. Riga pays just top 3 now and, no I'm not in the position to just go up there for the hell of it and come home empty handed. I have to lose work time, pay for train tickets so if I can't break even and have some left thereafter then, no it's not worth it. Marathon tourism is for the rich brats. When I go somewhere it's to perform and finish in the prize category.
VERY DIFFICULT DECISION-
Will put down a solid performance (barring last minute illness like last yr)
Will not have to run in hotass spartan conditions
BUT will come home empty handed
16 hour train ride which also does take some of it out of me as I usually arrive 2 days before the race to sleep the train ride off
I can sleep in my own bed and prepare my own food at home before the race
Less than an hour ride to the start from home as opposed to 16
Realistic chance to go top 3
BUT- will run through hellfire and brimstone and sh!tty air
Weather forecast- hideous
Will likely put down a terrible time that will pe published on an international site-not good
So here I stand I'm 36(also not good) and have good legs( also smthg I don't always get). This may be one of the last chances I get to think about a PR and there will likely be no possibility of running a marathon for time til 2nd half of next season at best because of my ultra racing committments. What the hell do I do. I mulled it over for several days. Late Monday I called tamara to give her the OK to add me to the list and hold me a number. On Tuesday, 2 days before I was supposed to leave for Riga, I very sadly moseyed down to the station and sold my tickets back(you can do that here for near full face value til 8 hours prior to departure) and then just rebought tickets to Daugavpils for the 50K in July. I walked out of the station just wanting to cry. I'm 36, not getting any younger, run every season anymore like it's my last and had just sold my spring marathon, and perhaps MY LAST OPPORTUNITY to run a respectable marathon, downriver, literally. I could live with this if I were 26 and I knew there'd be lots of more fast marathons but getting old sucks there is nothing glamourous or sexy or attractive about it and I dread the old fart slow down. Americans like to purpotrate that propaganda of growing old gracefully. Well guess what, in Russia we are frank and say things how they are- that propaganda is pure bullocks! I hope to be able to hold on til I'm 40 performance wise but who knows.
So, race day, I'm up at 6 for my oatmeal and caffeine. I was out the door about 7:45 and at the start about 50 min later. The thermometer already read 21C in the shade at just before 9am-not good:-( I found Tamara and got my number and lots of familiar faces were surprised to see me. Most knew I was heading for Riga again. Many thought I was just going to run the 10K. Actually, a lot of people who had planned on the marathon ran the 10 because of the heat. Plus, after running Solnechnogorsk in 09 Coach had pretty much put a moratorium on my running Russian marathons for the reasons mentioned above.
10AM start -why on Earth don't they move the start to 8am it wouldn't be so bad at all then because many would finish beofre the heat of the day??? I'd rather drag my ass up in the morning despite being a night owl than run in the heat of the day! I decided to sleeve-white Moeben sleeve and then just wet them along the way to provide air conditioning for the arms and the white would help keep that damn sun off. White hat was also obligatory. There was ot a cloud in the sky and the temps just kept climbing and it was just baking in the sun along the course. At one point near the Kremlin wall, they had just put doen new tar and asphalt -it was still sticky and boy did it just R E E K! Awesome black asphalt on a hot day! All the while I'm running and remembeing that when I checked just before I left the house I saw it was 6C in Riga at 7am yet I was running in this God forsaken sauna! Oh for F%CK's sake! I parked out at no faster than 4.30/km pace on purpose-that was even ambitious in this heat (3:10). In Riga I'd have gone out at 4.20-22 and just parked that was the plan but no way was I attempting that in these conditions. One girl passed me at 6k and I thought -ambitious she's going to try for 3 hr pace. I sat back and just played my cards as wisely as possible. Ok Coach was under the bridge in the strategic spots at planned to feed and water me 8 times along the way. This allowed me to maintain even pace. I had the gels and salt tabs he had the drinks. All was fine til I hit the dreaded Dead Zone. This would mean not much for fluids from roughly 17ktil 27k because of the positioning of the aid stations and my lack of a person to cover this critical spot. ! The organizers did have a table just past 20k, but I just spotted water and sponges-there were reported banana sightings here but I missed them though I spotted bread and salt at another station. Had gel and salt tabs but very little to wash it down w/ at this spot. I was still holding pace and further up I see that 2nd woman who had blown past me at 6k inching closer and closer. I picked it up to pass her and leave a gap so as to hopefully prevent her from getting me back later- she was done. I never saw her again after that. 26K my mouth is dry and I'm friggin' parched. I'm beginning to really fell like sh!t. Coach was just a bit further up but by the time I got to him it was really too late- I was already mega thirsty(not good) and despite drinking like a fish, couldn't make up for the loss in the Dead Zone. By the time I hit 37k my pace was pathetic- down to 4.50/km and I figured it was probably hot enough to fry an egg on that smelly new tar spot I had to cover 4 times over the 2 loop course. I just gutted it out to the end and finished 2nd-no one wins this twice! Lots of folks ran 1 loop and dropped out from the heat. 26 in the shade according to Tamara by finish time and I was home just after 3pm and saw 28 in the shade. TOO DAMN HOT! For the Fareinheit minded that's low 80s but way hotter in the sun.
Now I can't imagine how anyone runs this w/o crew. Putting a couple more tables on the loop would make a big difference. It's just dangerous to be out there running w/ so little water! There were just 3 tables on the loop the one on the 20k turnaround you hit just once.
I finished and proceeded to drink like a fish. They had cola and oranges at the finish. The cola went down really nice I was so damn thirsty! Off to shower as I had time before the awards.
The awards- this was not what I expected and was actually shocked. Top 6 got something; top 3 got a REALLY NICE PACKAGE. Tamara had said Adidas was going to give shoes and gear and then I figured just small things if anything else. Coach had watched this marathon the past few years while I was up in Riga and said prizes were not crazy great. Hell, they used to give cars to the winners but that was long ago! So, as they rounded the 6 of us up, I saw a bunch of stuff by the podium and figured probably some for us some for the age groupers -no way that was all for us. I kind have run many a race here and got some nice things, but they usually don't give piles.
They did! In addition to the package from Adidas-shoes and a backpack top 3 got
A NEW GARMIN
a juicer- not the cheap kind but the nice quaity ones
a monster sized basket of assotred teas and the dishes,cups, and teapot to boot(I'm quite the fan of green tea esp when it's hot)
massage oils, recovery oils, and warming ones for tired muscles
fresh kolbaski-they always have that at the summer series too-YUM!
Ok the kit was nothing to sneeze at and absolutely nothing to complain about. This would be very good by Western standards and you would be hard pressed to find a race in the US that would offer a package that good. In fact, it was worth more than I got for my 3rd place finish in Riga in 09 when I busted my ass and just missed a PR!I think the only other marathons I can think of in Russia that even come close to giving that good a package are Moscow International in the fall and Siberian International in Omsk. White Nights in St. Pete I've heard good some yrs ok in others. Back in February, they were advertising that Luzhniki this yr would offer one of the best prize packages in Russia and were supposed to announce prize money or whatever in April. My thoughts were like-whatever- in Russia -yeah right because not following through happens here. Plus, I was not even considering coming back to this race after a 4 yr hiatus. In Riga, I'd have likely finished 7th at best. So, I guess despite having to run through hellfire and brimstone, I may have made the right decision.
After Coach helped me haul the load home, I treated him to pizza. We were both starving and he deserved it for crewing all day. he was red as a beet too from the sun! Despite drinking like a fish- I still lost 3.5kg too- not good!
If anyone is interested, this is the course that will be used for the 2013 World Championships.