Suzhou Jinji Lake Half Marathon, 2012

April 10, 2012 § 3 Comments

I didn’t have time to warm up, needed 30 seconds to get to the starting line after the gun and then another 30 to get through the crowd and into a decent stride. Then, I found out I had accidentally turned off the GPS function of my watch and that the kilometer markers were placed not according to distance, but rather convenience. But that’s road racing in China, so I just pushed my pace a little beyond comfortable and ran tangents. After about 3k, I passed a Chinese guy I know and then was alone with the twisting road, landscaped foliage, sparse spectators and thimble-sized water cups.

After 10k the course straightened out and I got a sense of where I was in the race. The female leaders were in the distance, probably a kilometer out, with a pace car at their side. There were two figures trailing them, a red one and a black one. I figured that my shot to break 1:15 was with that pace car.

On the first long straight after half way, I didn’t feel like I was making up ground, but when we swung into some lakeside roads I saw the guy in black’s form falling apart. We went over a succession of steep, stone bridges and after I ground up each one and pounded down the back, he was closer and closer. I could see the pace car too, sneaking around the corners every now and again and make out the women’s male pacer, the two women’s leaders, and the small guy in red behind them.

The chase had me accelerating and with around 5k to go I was pulling with my shoulders, as we squirted out onto the main roads again. I caught the guy in black and he fell raggedly in behind me. We turned a corner onto the long straight leading to the finish and I started pouring all I had into my pace, figuring if I could just get close I could use the crowd to fuel my last kick after we turned the final corner into the home stretch.

I could see the numbers on the pace car now and the Mohawk of the male pacer. I wondered if one of the women was the girl who beat me in the Changshu Half last November. The guy in black disappeared. I was gaining and opened up my stride. I was sure that if I could catch them I could break 1:15. Turns out I was right about that.

I was creeping up on the final turn into the home stretch of 400 meters or so, cursing myself, thinking I could just clip it, when I realized it wasn’t the final turn. The real turn wasn’t far down the road and I got angry and ground even harder, but a part of me knew I wasn’t going to make it even before I made the final turn.

I didn’t catch the car, or the guy in red, but I got close, hauling my legs down the home stretch, feeding myself with cheers and finishing about 200 meters behind the car and 50 behind the guy in red (who turned out to be a very friendly med-student from Guangxi, about 5’ nothing who seemed not to train very seriously). Unlike in the past when I would finish races of this length on the verge of collapse, I never really lost my form and when I crossed the finish line, I could have kept running, just not any faster. I’d like to think that is because I train more than I used to, but I can’t help but wonder if I’m not pushing myself hard enough.

Suzhou Jinji Lake Half Marathon

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