04 March 2011

Malta 1/2 Marathon mishaps and adventures

Malta 1/2 Marathon aka what NOT to do when preparing for a race.......I think I did nearly everything wrong when it came to getting ready for this particular event.  And yes, I've enough races under my belt to know better, go figure.

Packet pickup was a bit odd, there were only 2 days that you could do so with strange times for both. Since I flew into Malta on Saturday morning I only had the option of that evening which was from 1900 to 2130 at the Urban Jungle sporting goods store on Sliema. Yup, arrive there to find a HUGE line and not very many middle of the pack looking runners like me.......and no one was chatting with anyone else!!!!!!! Curious as to whether that was due to the cultural differences or the more serious competitive nature of this race. Perhaps a combination of both I would suppose.

Bib and t-shirt collected, it was then off to find some food......No I don't carbo-load although I think I might have been the only one, lol. A local restaurant I ate at was packed with competitors chowing down on the pasta and pizza, I just opted for a surprisingly filling and delicious risotto funghi dish. Yeah, I voluntarily ate mushrooms, that's gonna shock a few people......Oh and had a yummy cider with my meal followed up with a 1/2 pint of some beer that I was only so-so about........that MIGHT have been one of my mistakes ;-), along with the full day of walking around sightseeing the previous day in London.

Race morning and I'm laying in bed feeling all smug about being able to sleep in since the shuttle didn't leave the hotel until 0800 for the 10am half marathon start when I get this phone call asking if I still needed the shuttle and they were waiting on me in the lobby.......I'd assumed my phone's clock had auto-adjusted itself to Malta time like it had in the UK, hadn't double-checked the time to make sure I was in the correct time zone and hadn't set a secondary alarm. OOPS. Talk about a mad dash to get my contacts in, pee, change into my running gear, grab the bib plus a GIANT bottle of water and literally run down the hall and stairs. I was getting some serious glares from the other 2 runners who were taking the shuttle to race start, yikes.

So empty stomach, no jacket or throwaway shirt (and it was VERY chilly!!!) and.........no bus pass to get from finish line pickup to start line and oh yeah, no room key!!!!!!!!!!!!! Talk about running around ragged before I even got to the starting line. I had to sweet-talk my way onto the bus, lol. It helped that when the driver asked how did he know for sure I'd actually paid for the pass that I offered to bring it back by afterwards and even offered to pay cash--I did remember to grab some money before heading out the door thankfully...

At the start line finally, first stop is (of course) the queue for the toilets......I'm standing there freezing in my short sleeve shirt and shorts while everyone is looking at me like I'm insane for not being bundled up and I'm looking at them thinking they were soooo gonna regret being swathed up like a baby in wintertime, lol. Second stop was the snack stand for coffee and a donut. Yep, my pre-race fuel was a sugary concoction of fluffy dough and fruit filling.  Chalk this one up to another of the what not to dos :D.  

The very same storm that brought us the chill and winds also created a couple of flooded areas on the race course........the first of which was within 1-2 miles on a very narrow section.....this particular section wasn't too bad but it was quite funny and frustrating that you rounded a corner and the entire field of runners was at a dead stop. I literally had to reach out and grab the guy's shoulders in front of me to keep from plowing into him, lotsa momentum there--sorry about the overly personal contact, whoever you were, lol.  Very few people wanted to run through the water so they were all walking on either side single file, hence the human logjam.  Needless to say I went through the middle of it along with a few other hardy souls.....Our feet were gonna get wet anyways so why not :)

The next flooded section........yeah, not as shallow, the majority of us had to get up on this rock wall to get around the pond that had formed on the road, this was closer to calf deep on me so no way was I wading through this section. Problem was that there were people too scared to get back down off the rock wall at the end so we were just standing there waiting, complete with several guys yelling behind me for them to just go, sigh........I completely lost my rhythm here, that was all she wrote as far as getting back going properly. It was a run/walk slogfest the last 6-7 mile but I already had decided my only goal was to just finish anyways so I didn't stress about the walking (too much).

Oh, and the half marathon is billed as mostly downhill..............don't f'ing believe it!!! There were quite a few wicked uphills, one of which was within a half mile of the race start. The elevation chart on the website is completely skewed.  I wasn't the only one grumbling about how the course was mis-labeled as predominantly downhill, approximately 3 miles from the finish line, I overheard a girl telling her companion as we chugged up a hill that this was NOT the race she signed up for, lol.

Up sides........some great scenery, an awesome medal--while it's not the largest race medal I have, I think it's the heaviest--and the satisfaction of having completed an international race.  Loved the cold wet sponge stations......the oranges at the fruit station were also refreshingly chilled.  Did I mention the scenery? Gorgeous!

Down sides....the 1st powerade station ran out before I reached it, which considering that I was nowhere near the last means that somebody failed on estimating how much would be needed. Not a bunch of crowd support so those who prefer constant cheering might not like this event.  The course is also very uneven, several brick/cobblestone sections that would reach out and grab a toe if you weren't paying any attention.  I also had the worst calf cramp EVAH afterwards, my left calf is still sore from where it seized up.

Unofficial Results from the website has me at 2:10:44 chip time, not too terribly bad considering the amount of powerwalking I had to do (oh there might have been a bit of shuffling too).  Would I do this race again? Possibly but only if there was a group of people I knew running it (MizzRun, Middlepackgirl???)


Jen Blalock said...

Nice race report and LOVE that pic of you! I guess you have to figure this one as a trip to Europe with a 1/2 marathon thrown in for good measure. Works for me when I travel. Very interesting!

The Wondering Brit said...

Wow, you actually did it, you're first international!!
AND in a place which is technically in both Europe and the Middle East.
Within 200 miles of Tripoli, while surrounded by half of the British SAS and SBS running rescue missions out of Libya!!

I think it's about time someone gave you sponsorship!!
You're an Ambassador to the sport of running and always have been, because you're basically what the sport is all about: Fun, hardwork, achievement and finishing with a smile - and being a sweaty mess :o)

gabsatrucker said...

Jen, thanks!!!! that's a great way to look at it, a trip with a race thrown in :).

TWB, a geography lesson again (?) lol. thanks for glowing words :). Wouldn't mind a sponsorship at all, you got any ideas on how to get one?

Susan said...

A-ma-zing! What a story. You go girl!