If we really want to get rid of suffering, completely and totally, then clinging has to go. The spiritual path is never one of achievement; it is always one of letting go. The more we let go, the more there is empty and open space for us to see reality. Because what we let go of is no longer there, there is the possibility of just moving without clinging to the results of the movement. As long as we cling to the results of what we do, as long as we cling to the results of what we think, we are bound, we are hemmed in. Meditating on No-Self: A Dhamma Talk (Edited for Bodhi Leaves), by Sister Khema(1994)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Definitely Not Fun

I think I will start with the positives.  Again, I learned a great deal about pacing, confidence, training, eating, conditions and how you have to take them as they come.  I also learned that I am overweight, out of shape, need nutritional guidance and a lot more miles in the bank before I can just roll out of one race and in to another.  I also saw the other side of blood sugar issues, this time high blood sugar. 
Unfortunately, these are things I will need to work with and think hard about over the next few months until I try something of long distance again.  Right now I am actually really disappointed in Kyiv.
We started on time at 10:00 a.m.  The race was two races at the same time, a 15k and the marathon starting from the same place.  All in all, about 1,000 people I think.
The course was a loop of 14.2 km that we would run 3 times, and later I would learn we would go past the finish line 6 times plus go past it and come back for the finish of the marathon.  The 15k had to do the same thing.  That is of course something everyone had to do, but it just wasn’t something I was very interested in, but more on that later.
I had intended to try and run about 3:45.  By the way, I just didn’t have that today, that is for sure. The 3:45 pacer ran away from me in the first kilometer which was weird.  I actually felt I was running nicely in the first loop.  Having run the loop twice already I knew what it would be like and I knew that there would be cobblestones, and the hills, etc.  all of that I knew was coming.
We ran into the park area first which was quite nice, quiet, relaxed, trying to get my bearings, I had warmed up about a km and felt myself starting to get a rhythm and I was making sure I wasn’t running very hard and letting people just run away from me knowing that it would be difficult later.  There was water, but it was in cups, the first time I went through at about 2 km I got water all over myself, that required an adjustment, actually I just stopped and drank, the water cups were very small and they were only filled half way so by ½ way you had to drink about 5 cups to get 8 oz of water.
We eventually make the first turn and head back, out of the park and in to the sun.  it ended up being very hot today with not much wind, the temperature by the end was about 78 F.  That is the hottest it has been all year.  This was another disappointing area because of course there hadn’t been time for acclimation of that sort.  Watching the weather all week I figured it would be about 70 at worst based on predictions.  It rained the night before, instead we woke to hot and humid and humid is rare for Kyiv.
I quickly figured out that my practice with cobblestones did not prepare me for the leg turnover of 8:30 per mile and going through uneven roads was really quite difficult and to protect the ongoing foot issues I have running here, not on trails, I modified my stride for both sets of cobblestones on the course.  This came back as a problem later, the total amount of cobblestone on each loop is about 3 km.  I ended up running modified steps for 7km of this run, resulting in  left hip pain and right foot pain that was really extraordinary.  Even compared to the fun cramping I had at Conemarra. 
Out in to the heat we went and headed back the other way, we went through the start finish line for the first time, and headed up Khryshchatyk Street toward Red Army st.   And from here it was just a bizarre 2 ½ hours of running.  Kyryshchatyk is closed on weekends so there are always a lot of people on this street on the weekends.  Since it was warm there were even more than usual.  I estimate that there were about 3,000 people in this area of the course.  Not one of these people was in the least bit interested in a race with 1,000 people coming through.  More bizarre is that they were in the way and didn’t care that we were running.  There were people screaming at runners that they were in their way of moving back and forth across this closed street.  This happened every time we went through this are and we had to go through it 7 times.  On my second loop I came to a complete stop three times as people just walked right in front of me.  It was the rudest, ignorant, unwelcoming thing I have ever seen.
Keep in mind, this country is hosting the world’s second largest Football tournament Euro 2012 in 33 days.  But it gets better friends.
As we headed toward Red Army Street I went up a hill, not bad, running nicely, but I started to hear all these cars honking their horns.  Maybe they are cheering us on?  Nope.  This is a big road we are on it is 4 lanes wide and we are two of them.  However, there are large cross streets as well, and there were 10 different cross streets, large and small on this part of the course.
The cars were honking at us all right, but it was because they wanted to cross the streets.  The police were at each intersection on the first loop and they were working hard to make people stop, some people wouldn’t.  On the first loop I saw several cars full of people screaming at runners, me included and giving us the sign of international brotherhood (the finger) out their car windows.  This went on the whole section of Red Army at every intersection. 
Since it was an out and back set of loops it turned in to going out the gauntlet and coming back this gauntlet.  At least there was water at the end of the rather long cobblestone festival.  At this point I started putting cold water sponges on my thighs, this really helped and is something that I took from this run. 
I went through the first 15k in about 81 minutes.  Once again, right where I wanted to be.  And we headed back out toward the park again.  It too was nice again, but the cobblestones really were a pain in the ass.  And back out into the heat.  At this point I’m taking as many of those little cups of water as possible. 
But of course now there are even more people on this closed street and they are really starting to be obnoxious about walking across.  I watched a runner in front of me try to get around a line of 10 people who had made a line across the road.  These idiots didn’t care at all. 
An unsophisticated demographic.
I got through the gauntlet only to have the fun of Red Army.  Out and back again, but this time, the police had stopped even trying in some places.  I was almost hit at a major intersection as the guy tried to go between me and a guy who was 10m in front of me on the road.  He screamed at me like it was my fault that he couldn’t do whatever the hell he wanted in this lovely welcoming city of his.
This was a complete downer and it all fell apart from there.  I battled the cars, I got turned around and headed back and went through the same thing, taking water, sponges, etc.  But I was starting to crash and burn.  I had taken a GU at 50 minutes and I took a banana at about 1:50 minutes and lots of water, no cramping, just my legs seemed to not have any turnover.  At this point 28km in, I was also starting to have some serious pain in various areas from these cobblestones (of course I didn’t figure that out till later).
I run the gauntlet again.  This time coming to a complete stop a couple of times and just shaking my head.  And again, 1,000 of people, not one of even the least bit interested in the marathon, nothing, really amazing that that many people can’t even generate a passing interest or a minimal amount of respect for other people.
I have lived in this country for 5 years.  I have known the whole time that Ukrainians are a breed apart, self centered, greedy, uninterested in doing things the right way, and at the same time, some are, but more often than not, most are not. 
This was really getting me.  Down.  I started to think about DNF.  I headed toward the park again, I ran on the cobblestones.  I got up in to the shade and had some salt, water, and GU at the aid station and started running, I felt pretty good actually, but I was not running quickly.  The 4 hour balloon pacer passed me and I knew I was in a bad way.  What I was not was in a good spot mentally.  I was very angry with the place I lived and how these folks were treating people who came from many different countries to run this marathon.
I got back to the start finish again.  I quit.  Walked off the course after about 33 km.
It was no fun.  But I learned a lot.

Epitaph:  blood sugar when I got home was over 400.  At the start of the day it was 112.  An opposite effect that requires a lot of thinking.  But might explain, though probably not, the leg turnover shut down.

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