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Not Even a Real Time Under 1:45 at the 2019 Bucharest Half Marathon

Did get in bed at 3 AM, but it was well after 4 AM, probably even after 4:30 AM, when I managed to fall asleep… Only to wake up at 5:10 AM to pee. I think I briefly drifted off again at some point after that, but for mere minutes if so, since I was already awake when I heard the sound the HDD makes at 11 minutes past the hour and knew the alarm, which I had to set to 6:15 AM since the start time was moved half an hour earlier this year, will soon ring. So I just waited for that to happen, then got up, ate what I meant to eat… And found that I had no Internet access. There was a message from my UPS stating that power had been restored, but nothing was logged, so any outage was too brief to be logged, but I guess it meant that the power had actually failed nearby and something had to be restarted, the symptoms being those I experience when something like this happens at night, being able to ping IPs but nothing resolving and getting no traffic otherwise. So I used dad’s computer, with the mobile Internet, to check the weather one more time, but couldn’t check whether I had a reply to a message I had sent the organizers, though there was little chance of that and I did indeed see later that they only replied quite some time after the race. Didn’t lose too much time trying to take a shit, since it was obvious that nothing was happening, and I hadn’t managed it when I tried before going to bed either.
Dad said he’ll drive me to the metro station again and the plan was to leave at 7:45 AM, but with nothing left to do, we were actually out the door a few minutes earlier, and I recall seeing 7:52 AM when I looked to see when the next train will arrive, after getting there, and it was 7:55 AM when it did. A guy who got on at Unirii and sat next to me asked me about the race, where the start was and the price of registration, asking again about the price if you register close to the start date after I first told him how much I paid to register as early as possible and seeming to think that even this highest price that had to be paid by those registering during the last two days was quite low.

Can’t quite recall when I reached Constitution Square, but quite sure it was before 8:20 AM, likely around, perhaps even a bit before, 8:15 AM. Since I knew where those offering these things used to be and found them in the same places, went straight to get a cup of water and an apple and used a part of the water to wash the apple before eating it, then wandered around some more while also eating that cereal bar with magnesium that I still had. Was specifically looking for the place where before and after pictures were to be taken, but didn’t realize where it really was, and didn’t spot anything else interesting either, so I dropped off my bag and at 8:40 AM got in line to pee, which required some five minutes of waiting.
After that, I slowly made my way to the start area, but I remembered the entrances being on the right, and many others thought so as well, or at least thought they’d be on both sides, so I walked to the spot where the entrance to sector C was supposed to be and saw that the fence just continued, the entrance actually only being on the other side. At that point, it was already 8:57 AM, and since I had to get all the way to the back of the start area in order to go around it, then make my way to the same spot on the other side, I ran, others doing the same while yet others were only then starting to look for the entrances on that wrong side. I think I didn’t quite make it to the front of the sector, the entrances being at the back, before the start, which I actually think was given some 30 seconds before 9 AM, which may explain the slightly worse start time compared to last year, and running that short distance might have had a tiny negative effect on my performance in the end. But these little things definitely weren’t what caused me not only to fail to have an official time under 1:45, which was the goal, but even to end up with more than 1:45 as real time.

The official results list my start time as 1:05.04, but my stopwatch showed 1:04.93 and I used 1:04 to calculate the time for the first kilometer. Not that all the times per kilometer weren’t somewhat rough, since the start was the only intermediate time I marked on my stopwatch, otherwise just looking at it when I was passing the signs, but I’d say I can trust them well enough, seeing as I was so close to both the actual start time and the finish time, my stopwatch saying 1:46:42 while the official time is 1:46:41.92. It’s my memory I’m not so sure about, but as far as I recall, those times per kilometer for the first 19 were 4:43, 4:48, 4:43, 4:41, 4:43, 4:54, 4:41, 4:49, 4:54, 5:00, 5:01, 4:57, 5:08, 5:21, 5:11, 5:10, 5:02, 5:08 and 5:27, followed by either 5:13 or 5:22 for the 20th and either 6:04 or 5:55 for the last 1.1 km, or I guess 6:03 or 5:54, if I take the official time and round down, as I usually do. Seeing just where the sponge and refreshment points were would help to some extent, but those aren’t displayed on the map on the site and I didn’t take a picture of the map that was in Constitution Square.
Even though the 10 km race and the half marathon started at the same time this year and I feared it’ll be extremely crowded, that was apparently only the case for those starting farther back, as I heard it took as much as 20 minutes for the last ones to get to the start line, while I didn’t have nearly as much trouble as I feared, being able to obtain that great time for the first kilometer. The second kilometer was slower due to the first short but steep climb, and the effect of the second such climb can be seen on the ninth kilometer. The fifth kilometer ended just before the first refreshment point, which led to that worse time on the sixth. That first refreshment point was also the only one where I took a piece of apple, as otherwise I got pieces of bananas, which went well except with the last one, as I actually kept that in my hand for a while and when I did eventually eat it I had some trouble keeping it down. Whether that was the one I took at the refreshment point just before the 14 km sign or that just before the 19 km one, I’m not entirely certain anymore. It was probably at that last one, but there’s also a chance I didn’t get fruit there, my mind no longer working too well at that point. Either way, I believe the sponge points were on kilometers eight, 13 and 18, but they also had water and the other drink, just no fruit, and I got both drinks every time, at each refreshment and sponge point, and never used my sponge, so I carried that in my pocket for no reason, which was also the case for the garlic. As for that gel, can say I got no actual use out of it, but did eat it on the 19th kilometer, so on that one I lost time due to both that and the refreshment point.
To get back a little, I’m quite sure of the times for the first 15 km, and was very pleased with those on the first nine. However, when I was just 30 seconds ahead of the target requiring me to maintain a pace of five minutes per kilometer from then on after ten and had already needed exactly five minutes for that tenth kilometer, things suddenly didn’t look good anymore in the least. Admittedly, there had been a refreshment point there, but when the next kilometer was even slower, albeit by a mere second, despite having no such reason to lose time, my liver had started hurting as well and I knew I’ll have to keep running against the wind until the route turned, at about 15.5 km, I knew I was in trouble. Still, with just those of us running the half marathon being left after ten kilometers and quite a large group which had been ahead of me suddenly no longer being there as a result, I had some trouble finding the right pace again and hoped things would get better after a while. Yet the 12th kilometer was only slightly faster, and that was despite really pushing and my liver getting better, and while the sponge and refreshment points were good reasons to lose time on the next two, the fact was that I had just three seconds left to lose after 14 km… And lost 11 on the 15th.
After that it was pretty much a matter of damage limitation. I did try to push again, which makes me be uncertain about the order of the next three times, since on the one hand I’m tempted to believe I started pushing right away and on the other I think I first turned, saw how close the 1:45 pacemakers were and then pushed on the 17th kilometer. If I also think of where I seem to remember being when I saw that last somewhat better time, this second scenario seems more likely, so I ordered the times according to it, but it remains an educated guess, and either way it wasn’t good enough. Do know that I was on that 17th kilometer when a guy who was just in front of me, and had been just a bit in front of me for a long time, suddenly fell, screaming and holding his ankle as we were running over the train tracks, moving from Basarabiei to Decebal. It was only after I learned what had actually happened that I realized how lucky I was not to have the same thing happen to me, since I barely avoided tripping over him and was therefore looking at him when I likely stepped over that piece of track, which I didn’t notice at all.
Getting back a bit once again, it was again just about when I reached 15 km that the fact that I can’t take a shit in the morning became more of a problem than the mere added weight. It was nothing like it was back in October, but there was some pressure and more gas to deal with and I decided against eating any of the garlic, since I wasn’t sure it’d be worth the loss of time, especially after I saw how close those pacemakers were. I quite clearly should have eaten that gel then though, losing that bit of time then instead of on the 19th kilometer and perhaps actually getting some benefit from it, while eating it so late, when those pacemakers were right on my heels and it was clear I didn’t have the slightest chance of even staying in front of them, pretty much meant I wasted it. I mean, I still had a somewhat reasonable time when I pushed, if that was indeed on the 17th kilometer, and it’s possible that the actual time on the 18th was even better, considering the loss caused by that sponge point, while having two reasons to lose time on the 19th means that the time wasn’t perhaps quite as bad as it seems, but it was just as I slowed for that refreshment point that was just before the 19 km sign that the 1:45 pacemakers passed me and when I tried to push again to catch up, thinking that I might just still have a chance to stay under 1:45 as real time, I found that I simply had nothing left, and any energy boost from that gel which I had just eaten probably only came after I had already finished.
I was so exhausted that, as I stated before, I can’t even recall whether I got fruit from that last refreshment point, and then I’m quite confused about the time on the 20th kilometer, as I remember that it was 5:22 but also that I saw 1:40:38 at the end of it, which would imply that it actually was 5:13, since I’m sure I saw 1:35:25 at 19 km. Then I obviously know the time at the end, but can’t know the time for the final 1.1 km, that possible difference of nine seconds carrying over. Either way, I was feeling like I did the first time, legs burning, mind not really working anymore, people passing me on all sides and clearing away easily, sprinting for the finish line while I just fought to reach it. And I guess I looked just about as I felt too, since someone from the first aid squad stopped me for a moment just after I crossed the line, grabbing my arms and asking whether I was all right.

What I was most of all was disappointed, and kept wondering what I could have done better, and also kept thinking that my calculations did keep getting to 1:45 as real, not official, time in “race” conditions, and that I was saying that I’ll need to squeeze every last tiny bit of energy if I’m to have a chance to get under 1:45 as official time, as I meant to, the only way likely being to just make it by mere seconds and then collapse right after crossing the finish line, which I obviously didn’t do since I was still walking and breathing well enough. Did get some cramps, the first pretty bad one after taking one more of those yogurts that supposedly have a high protein content from those offering them to runners, though at the time I hadn’t even touched the one which had been included in the race kit.
Sure, if you add the time lost at refreshment points, it can get up to 1:30 or so, which would still be just shy of what’d have been needed to get under 1:45 as official time but more than enough to get there as real time, but I rather doubt I’d have maintained even this pace if I’d have ignored them. Considering how I felt at the end, I doubt they helped me too much, so there was probably a net loss of time due to making use of them, but would it have been enough to turn even that 1:45:36.88 real time into something below 1:45? I don’t know… And it wouldn’t have exactly mattered anyway, since the sector you start from is determined by the best recent official time.

Either way, I did get everything that was offered in that area for finishers, and also stood around and listened to others talking while I did so, hearing many say that it had been a particularly difficult race due to the heat. That seemed somewhat strange to me at the time, as it didn’t feel that hot, and the reported temperature was probably not even 20°C when I finished, but of course that’s measured in the shade and the Sun had obviously been quite harsh. Didn’t even notice it until I showered, quite some time after getting back, but I was quite sunburned on my arms, nose, ears and the back of my neck… And as of yesterday some of those areas actually itch a fair bit, which is rather annoying.

After finally making my way out of that area, I found the place where pictures were to be taken, but got told that I needed to have taken the “before” picture as well, they won’t just make the “after” one, so I had to give up on that. Then took that yogurt I already mentioned, got my bag, took the camera out and started wandering around, trying to get myself to ask someone to take a picture. Eventually ended up leaning on the fence, looking at those still arriving, between a couple and two guys, sort of intending to ask the woman from the couple to take that picture if and when she’ll turn, since she seemed to occasionally take pictures of the runners but was losing interest. However, when one of the guys on my other side left, I ended up talking to the other after we saw someone being taken to an ambulance, apparently after having finished, and he said that the person in question had collapsed and was full of blood on his knees, which I hadn’t noticed. That prompted me to also mention the guy who had collapsed in front of me during the race and he said he had been there as well, telling me that he had tripped over a raised piece of the tram track, which I hadn’t noticed at the time but later confirmed after my mother told me she had seen something on the news about a runner breaking his ankle in that manner. Then we pretty much confirmed that we had been pretty much in the same place then, since he said that after that point he pushed harder, managing some fast final kilometers on the way to an official time of 1:44, while I obviously slowed down. However, despite chatting like that for a little while, I still couldn’t get myself to ask him to take that picture, and then another guy came and they left together, leaving me to look around again… Until a couple fortunately asked me to take their picture, prompting me to ask them to return the favor, so that was finally done and I could leave.


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