Wednesday, May 29, 2013

corriendo madrid: part 2 | "hola, hills!!!

Oh, those hills of beautiful Madrid. 

There were quite a few of them in the first half of the 2013 Rock 'n' Roll Madrid Marathon. From flagoff, it was up and down and up again and down again for us. Since these were in the earlier KM’s, I didn’t really mind going up but my problematic right ankle gave way little by little while running down the steep hills.  

Thankfully, towards the middle of the marathon our route became somewhat flat, and this allowed me to bask in the glorious splendour that is Madrid better. It was also around here when I started feeling the love from the Madrileños who came out on that chilly Spring morning to give us constant screams of "¡Animo!" and "¡Venga, venga!" Gotta love the Spanish  :)

All smiles at the Palacio Real de Madrid

No peace signs from me this time. Rock 'n' roll, bebeh!

And then, at KM 25 the crowd thinned out as we approached Casa De Campo. The largest urban park in the city, it was formerly a royal hunting estate and, as I found out the hard way, was basically a huge hill. Those seven-or-so kilometres were absolutely mental; so lonely and never-ending. It was at this juncture when my glutes and lower back started screaming. Great, I thought, just what I needed on top of a wonky right ankle!

By this time, I started taking more breaks for stretching and walking than I’d planned. When we finally exited the park, the cheer squads started to reappear and I got a second wind of energy. I remember thinking that I was still on course for a comfortable sub-5 finish, as my timing at 35K was faster than my New York City Marathon timing back in 2011 (4hrs 06mins vs 4hrs 09mins) where I clocked in my very first sub-5.

So, I tried pushing aside all the pain, fatigue and negative thoughts in my head and just kept going. I was hi-fiveing kids in the streets, posing for the cameras, running with a smile on my face… until I approached KM 37.

Tackling one of the many hills of Madrid

Now, I will not lie: I did do some research on the Madrid route and thus was aware of the uphill climb in the final miles. What I was totally unprepared for, however, was how loooooong those last 6K’s felt at this stage of the race. I mean, joder, it was absolutamente loco! We were forced to go up, up and up, and just when I thought it was over, I turned a corner and it’s more uphill. We’re talking about climbing 100 metres of elevations at KM’s 35 to 42 of a full marathon here. I swear whoever designed this course is a sadist!  =P

Anyway, I tried to run (jog) as much as I could but got demotivated as more and more runners started walking around me. Cold, wet, tired and mentally drained, I was cursing to myself and at one point was even on the verge of tears. 

While drowning in self-pity, suddenly I saw a familiar white top and blue skirt about 300m in front of me. Oh my gosh, it’s Nana! You can’t imagine how happy I was to have spotted her! Forced myself to pick up my pace so that I could catch up with her near the 40K mark. Broken (motivation down the drain) and bruised (me with my diva right ankle, Nana with the stress fracture that she picked up a week before the marathon), we decided to just tread on slowly. 

As we entered the Buen Retiro park, Nana cued for us to run the last few hundred metres towards the finishing gantry. I almost couldn’t make it, for serious, because both my calves were so cramped up that each step I ran made it feel like I was going to fall flat on my face. 

Nonetheless, I pushed myself as hard as I could and when I got my Jalur Gemilang out, a little surge of energy—whatever little I had left—came over me and helped me to finish the race by running instead of hobbling. With a smile on my face to boot  ;)

We started together, and for the first time ever we finished a Full Marathon together  :) 

Just when we thought the drama was over, Nana and I approached the medal area only to be given ones meant for the 10K finishers. Eh? They. Ran. Out. Of. 42K. Medals. WHAT. Didn’t we all pay in advance and hence they’d know exactly how many runners to cater to? ¡Qué tontería! (Nivin informed us later that she was handed a 21K medal after completing her 10K. Disorganised much?)

As if that wasn’t disappointing enough, we weren’t given anything to keep ourselves warm after finishing. Mind you, it was still drizzling and the wind was still blowing hard and we still had plenty of walking to do to take official photos, get refreshments, go to bag pick-up…

And that, ladies and gents, took the cake. The bagdrop, which caused an incredulous amount of drama before flagoff, ended up also giving us grievances after running 42+ kilometres. It took the organisers ten minutes to locate my bag, and another fifteen to find Nana’s! And all the while, we were freezing our behinds off; poor Nana had to be kept warm with my trackbottoms and her Malaysian flag only. Seriously!

Since we’re on the topic, I have two more disapprovals of the folks from the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series, the biggest running circuit in the world. Numero uno: toilets were way lacking. And numero dos: the major no-no, to me, was the fact that they gave out 600ml bottles at the hydration stations along the course. Not only was it a huge waste as most runners only took a few sips before chucking the drinks, it was also dangerous as bottles were everywhere and someone could have seriously injured themselves by stepping on one. 

I read a review some time ago by a local Madrileño which said 
the elevation profile provided by the organizers have been played down 
to attract tourists. The bottom chart was extracted from my Garmin. 
The difference is just downright insane. ¡JODER!

I did, however, love the support crew on rollerblades offering sprays and vaselina (vaseline) throughout the route. They made me perasan during the first few KM’s because I thought they were saying “¡Va Selina!” which means “Go, Selina!” in Spanish. Hahaha!

All in all, I’m glad that I got through my seventh Full Marathon in a considerably okay timing of 5hrs 09mins, crazy hills and all. And, even though it was the most challenging course out of all my marathons to date, I wouldn't have missed the opportunity to run the streets of beautiful Madrid for the world. 

Because if I did give it a miss, then I would not have experienced the other awesome adventures that came with this trip… But that is a whole other story.

My 7th Full Marathon done & dusted

Señorita G & the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu

Watch out for my posting on the uh-maze-balls football adventures
thanks to me signing up for this year's Madrid Marathon  ;)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

corriendo madrid: part 1 | "¡hola madrid!"

Chances are you already know that I am part of the Kuala Lumpur running gang known as The G’s. Within this tight-knit group each of us has our own unique nicknames, and mine is Señorita G because I speak Spanish and love all things español.

So, it was just a matter of time before I started dreaming of conquering the streets of Spain in my running shoes. Since I’d already run my very first overseas race in the trails of Barcelona back in 2011, I thought why not head to the Spanish capital for my first 42.2K in Europe? And the fact that the Madrid Marathon became a part of the funky Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series last year only fueled my desire further. 

I signed up back in December before embarking on a full-on 18-week marathon training. Besides a short nine-day ban from running by my sports doctor no thanks to a little sprain to my already problematic ankle, things went rather smoothly. I even ran a strong Half Marathon three weeks before Madrid Marathon 2013 and got a PB!

Note that I said “rather” smoothly, because ten days before the marathon my ankle started acting up a little. But not enough to deter me from running my race.

Some of the stuff in the racepack
Snuck in a couple of headstands in the middle of my solo 
acclimatisation run through the gorgeous Parque Juan Carlos I


On race day, I made plans to meet my fellow G sisters, Nana and Shanaz, as well as the latter’s cousin, Nivin, near their hotel so that we could walk to the start line together. 

We made our way to the bagdrop area and queued up. After crawling slowly for a while, the line became a complete standstill. Irritated and cold (the weather at this time was 3 degress Celcius), racers all around us started getting aggressive and screamed out their discontenments towards the organisers. Can’t blame them—it took the organisers so long to collect our bags that a lot of us actually missed the flagoff! It was a royal mess, and the main reason is having all the three categories (10K, 42K and the brand-new 21K category) starting at the same place and time but not allocating separate bagdrop areas for each.

Anyway, once that was settled, us four chicas gave each other good-luck hugs and off we went. I started the race with Nana, and we chit-chatted for a kilometre or two before she went on ahead.

The calm before the storm...
(photo courtesy of Shanaz)

Madrid, as you can imagine, is a charming city and the urban marathon took us runners on a journey through the breathtaking autumn scenery and majestic landmarks that the city prides itself on. Being a football fanatic, I was especially excited to pass by the homes of their two world-famous football teams; we had Real Madrid’s Estadio Santiago Bernabeu and Atletico Madrid’s Estadio Vicente Calderon as our views at KM’s 3 and 34 respectively. How awesome is that!

But, as beautiful as it was this year’s Madrid Marathon presented many challenges. Firstly, parts of the route had us run on cobblestone streets—these were pretty to the eyes but pretty tough on the feet! Also, being the highest capital in Europe (Madrid sits at 667m / 2,188ft above sea level) I found it a little hard to regulate my breath in the beginning. 

It also did not help that the weather was very unkind to us that day. Even though set on the last Sunday in April, when typically the average temperature in the late morning/early afternoon is between 15 to 20 degrees, what we got instead was a super-chilly 3 to 6 degrees throughout our race. As if that wasn’t bad enough, we had to endure sporadic drizzles, and worse still, were forced to battle insanely strong winds that were blowing at 29km/h! As a comparison, the average speed at the airport of the world’s wind capital Wellington is also 29km/h, while the windy city Chicago’s is 18km/hr. 

The strong winds made it really tough to run on flat ground, but joder how they kept pushing me back while trying to tackle the uphills.


Coming up: