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Sunday, January 1, 2012

Eilat Desert Half Marathon

It has been a long time since I wrote anything here about my running experiences and thoughts. I assure you that in the interim I have been running a lot. At the same time I have not been running nearly enough. It seems I have been running close to the minimum necessary to make it through the marathon sort of respectably. My running has been at an average of about twice a week - including usually a medium run of about 12-14km and a long run. The past couple of weeks, as we finished the bulk of the training regimen and began to move into taper mode, I actually ramped it up a bit to 3 times a week.

In the interim I also ran the Bet Shean half marathon. I came in with better results than I expected at 1:52. I was 11 seconds off my half marathon record. I give credit to an army trainer who I discovered in the middle of a marathon leading a running group form the army. I tagged along with them at the same pace and pushed hard. At about 19km they lost me and pulled ahead. i think I finished about 1 minute behind them, but it was this trainers solid running and encouragement to those in hsi group that kept me running at a hard enough pace to finish that well.

Most of the running has been pretty boring. While I enjoy the running, I get the feeling of "been there done that" for a lot of the training. I was out looking for some new experiences. I found one in the First International Eilat Desert Half Marathon. I signed up for it with another friend and made plans to go down.

The trip would be daunting - a drive down to Eilat in the middle of the night, running a half marathon on nearly no sleep, running a half marathon on a trail with a difficult course, in my Vibrams (trails are always more difficult in Vibrams) and then getting back home in time for the Shabbat. Now this was definitely going to be a challenge!

So, here is what happened. We left at 1 AM, giving ourselves ample time in case we would meet unexpected problems on the road, if we would need to look for the meeting point, and this would allow us to possibly catch a few winks before the race.

Josh drove us down and did a great job of getting us there in one piece in exactly the amount of time the GPS had said it would take and that we had planned on in the best scenario. After settling down upon arrival, we stretched out for a short nap. After we got up at about 6 we got our race kits and davened. The forecast had been for warm and sunny weather, but at this point it was still pretty cold. We warmed up and stretched and got ready to run.

The race began at 7 am. We began at the edge of Eilat in the parking lot of the BIG shopping center. From there we ran out, crossing the street and entering the trails through the canyons. The trail led us mostly uphill, though not steep, through the first 9 kilometers of the race. For some reason I kept thinking to myself that these seemed like the longest kilometers I had ever run.

The race was fun, but difficult. the trails were an unusual surface - very soft rock mixed with some sort of sandy surface. A lot of the trails were very soft and good for my feet. The bigger problem was that often the soft sand was deep and gave little resistance. sinking in to that made the running slower. As well, there were some rockier sections, though none were so big or long that they were too difficult to deal with.

The canyons were amazingly beautiful to run through, and it was definitely a change of pace and scenery from the regular running and training.

I was running it pretty slow, probably for a variety of reasons. The trails are always slower for me because of the Vibrams, the lack of sleep, the amount of uphill in this course, and more. During the run I felt my hamstring start to hurt a bit and I took it easy because of that as well.

As we were coming close to the finish, I started to speed up. I ran the last kilometer pretty fast, spotting targets along the way - runners ahead of me - and deciding I was going to pass him or her. As I passed, i would eye the next runner as my target. I was really zipping along, and my hamstring was starting to hurt more. I had to keep remembering to shorten my strides, each time I would feel the sharp flare of my hamstring.

I kept passing runners on my way to the finish lines, and in the last 300 meters I really poured it on, going full speed ahead, and ignored the hamstring. i passed everyone along the way and powered through the finish line. the final time was my worst half marathon ever, finishing at 2:29, but I was there just looking for a different experience, not really trying to run a specific time, so it was a great experience.

And then Josh drove us back, after we rested up a bit, cooled down, and had a bite to eat, and we made great time getting home for Shabbos!

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