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Running My Second Marathon

I’ll start the post about the marathon from October 28, when I left at 5:30 PM to pick up my race kit, giving up on the idea of taking the UPS to be serviced, the whole part about the UPS issues being a matter for another post. Before leaving, however, I noticed they had changed the route, removing that entire part I didn’t know. That made most of the first walk, of a part of the route, pointless, but the change was definitely for the better, that part being replaced with the route coming this way again, and adding a small bit on Burebista. So I started by walking this part, first going in the opposite direction on Basarabia. Used the opportunity to also quickly check that new bakery and considered grabbing a bread, but decided against it, and saw that they increased the price of cakes by a third, so after considering trying some at first, at that low price they had shortly after opening, now it’s pretty much out of the question. Either way, also quickly checked that Mega Image, then turned around where the route did and made my way to Constitution Square.
Things were a bit tricky at that point, since I was getting there just before 7 PM and I guess I should have just crossed the road, but saw a police car there and didn’t even look to see whether crossing was an option, assuming it was there just to prevent people from crossing in that spot, though in fact the reason was probably just the opposite. So I turned right, to go around to the crossing… Only to see a fence on the other side, and others who also meant to cross ahead of me turning back. So I did the same at first, but turned back again after a few steps, after seeing first a woman crossing and continuing ahead, around the fence, on the street, and then four more people meaning to cross. So I crossed with them and we all continued ahead, along the fence, on the road, ending up going all around, since the entrance was just on the other side of Unirii Boulevard, where I hadn’t crossed when I got there.
When I did finally reach the entrance, I found a bit of a mess, several volunteers scanning certificates and confirmation letters and no organized queue, a guard occasionally telling one person or another to go to a certain volunteer. But things were moving, so I was given the bracelet I again had to keep on my arm until the race and was entering the truly pitiful Sport Expo area at 7:10 PM, seeing just two tents set up besides the areas for picking up the race kits and not finding the energy bar I was considering buying. And none of the NGOs had anything set up either, so I just went through the motions in order to get the kit, then stopped at a table to check what I received and stuff the bag in my backpack, and left a bit after 7:25 PM.
Then I went to the Carrefour from Unirii, finding the mushrooms I wanted and a few more bio (organic) eggs in the pile of cheap ones, and also bought some whole wheat pasta of their brand, even if they’re imported, since I couldn’t find some of that kind from here. Used a 5 RON voucher I had while paying, then went to that Mega Image as well, since the green onions were slightly less expensive there than in Carrefour and they were small and wilted in both places… And, as I was putting my things in a cabinet, somehow the bag with the eggs struck the cabinets and one cracked, though at least it didn’t actually break. And I had no 0.50 RON coin, so I left the cabinet door unlocked and looked through the green onions, ending up thinking that they were even worse than in Carrefour and maybe it’d have been more cost-effective to get them from there after all. But I found a somewhat acceptable bundle and bought it, using a self-checkout and paying by card, the employee needing to come to override the error, since for some reason it wouldn’t accept the green onions when I placed them on the scales. Then I wondered how to leave, since you need to use another exit if you use the self-checkouts, and was still confused after asking, not knowing which door the employee referred to and taking a few steps in the opposite direction at first. Eventually turned around and hesitantly stepped in the correct direction, but still had no idea what to do next until another customer showed me that I was supposed to use what’s labeled as the emergency exit. So I did that and then went back to the entrance, to retrieve my things from the cabinet, then on the way back also walked that part of the route that was going to be on Burebista.
After getting back here, at 9:50 PM, I put the things I had brought in their place, grated some apples, adding sugar and eating them after dad left, then quickly checked a few things on-line, took a shower that was longer than I thought, and only got back in the kitchen at 12:40 AM. There were still things to wash, however, and then I made mamaliga, in part because I couldn’t find any bread I’d have wanted to get, so I only had the whole wheat one from Auchan, and only enough of that for two days, which I wanted to be the next two. Either way, started eating dinner at 3:35 AM, and that was without having had lunch earlier. Got in bed at 5:25 AM.

Spent the evening of October 29 in the kitchen, making the pasta, which I then had as a late lunch. Started to eat dinner at 3:30 AM, and while eating I wrote what I posted that night, which meant I hardly did anything else on-line that night, yet still only got in bed at 5:35 AM.

On October 30, started preparing to make the large salad well before dad left, but took it slowly and it was a few minutes before midnight when I started eating the pasta and part of said salad, I guess sort of as lunch, since I sliced the bread after I finished that, the slices, with peanut butter, and the rest of the salad being dinner, finished at 1:55 AM. But then I somehow forgot past experience even though I had tried to make a mental note to not repeat that, so if the intention was to do something so I won’t have to worry about those intermittent UPS issues, which remain a matter for another post, the result was that my computer got turned off, so I then had to lose time I didn’t have to turn it back on and check a few things. If I’d have turned the monitor back on, I’d have noticed the problem, but after turning it and the UPS off, since the computer wasn’t plugged into it anymore, I unplugged the UPS and, while I did plug the monitor in the power strip, I left it off, since I was going to shave. But the UPS was still connected to the computer, so it appeared as if it had lost power and then communication, and I guess it’s a good thing I was still in my room, searching for something, when it turned the computer off. And at least that made me crap one more time, though I had done so in the evening as well. Then I shaved, placed the number on the t-shirt, changed the time on the clocks, got the bag ready and was in bed at 3:45 AM. So, even though the practice needs to go away in general, it’s a good thing the time went back that particular night, as otherwise it’d have been pointless to go to bed at all. Even so, a little after 4:30 AM, after napping just a little, I was awake again, and after a few minutes decided to get up and pee, just in case, which proved a good choice, since I really had to go again when alarm rang.

To finally get to the race day, October 31, I got up when the alarm rang, at 5:45 AM, and quickly went to try to crap yet again, actually managing something. It was mostly gas, however, and I unfortunately had a lot of that, the impression I got being that it was mostly caused by that large salad, and for some reason by the one fibber I had put in it in particular. Either way, I then had both a banana and an apple, and also baked pumpkin, and put almonds as well as peanuts in dark chocolate in the yogurt and cereals. Again forgot to finish those nicer biscuits expired long ago, however. But at least I didn’t forget to also take the pills before leaving, and left with dad a bit before 7:25 AM, and since he drove me there and the roads weren’t yet closed, it wasn’t even 7:40 AM when I was there. Did have one issue, however, the backpack’s straps being so flimsy that one tore after it got caught in something as I was getting out of the car.
After walking in, I went straight to the Sport Expo area… Only to find the same two manned tents, neither selling the energy bar I was looking for. Did have a closer look at some of those that were sold and asked about the price of one, but since it wasn’t what I actually wanted and I had also taken the second protein bar I had left with me just for this situation, I decided against buying anything. And, seeing as I think only two NGOs had manned tents, the one I had again picked not being among them, and the tent of that sponsor I had grabbed protein milk bottles from before and after the half marathon was also closed and unmanned, in fact nothing seeming to be offered to participants anywhere, and I didn’t care to take part in the warm-up, I hardly had anything to do. But at least I wasn’t cold, so I quickly removed the shirt I had under the jacket, then sort of stood around for a while, made a few lazy moves of my own choosing at the edge of the group taking part in the warm-up and eventually took the bag, with the jacket also stuffed in it, to the wardrobe, stood in line to pee, also seeing three people I recognized from the Dream Treks walk by during that time, though I hadn’t seen them gathering earlier, as it had happened before the half marathon, and then made my way to the start area.
Once there, since there were no start sectors again, I squeezed through until I was just in front of the 4:00 pacemakers, and the 2:00 ones for the half marathon, since the idea was to stay ahead of them as long as possible, ideally reaching the halfway point in less than two hours and staying ahead of the 4:00 pacemakers for 25 km. The start time was approaching when I reached that spot, but I still wanted to eat one of the protein bars, so I rushed to do so, staying next to the fence surrounding the start area and facing it, so I won’t face the other participants with my mask down, especially since there were repeated calls to keep our masks on until just after the start… Not that there weren’t plenty who were ignoring those calls, without the excuse of eating or drinking, but I wanted to do what I could. Either way, I’d have had to rush to finish that bar while making my way to the start line if the start would have been at exactly 8:30 AM, but since it was a little late, I managed to finish it in time and pull my mask back up, then got going.

My start time could have been better, since I mostly walked to the line, but I was pretty close to it and those pacemakers stayed behind me, and 53 seconds was good enough, trying to squeeze through the crowd seeming like too much effort for too little gain. Plus that I was going to slow almost immediately anyway, at the first turn, to remove my mask and put it in the little paper bag I had for that purpose and then in the pocket of my tights. Plenty were just throwing theirs away, of course, though I don’t recall seeing any more of those marked bins in that area, but a fair number were also placing them on their arms, so I guess it wasn’t quite as bad as it could have been. Either way, between the time lost with that and the crowd, I covered the first kilometer in 5:46, which I was actually very pleased with, the target being six minutes for that one, then staying under 5:30 for as long as possible starting from the second.
Well, I was actually rather too fast early on, the third kilometer being the fastest, with 4:57, since by then I had room to pretty much run at my own pace. I continued to have surprisingly good times even when I had to deal with the bad slope towards Stirbei Voda, at seven kilometers, though my right knee started giving me some warnings at that point and that was something I had to manage on and off from then on. And refreshment points didn’t make me go over 5:30 either at first, even though I took two cups each time, with the exception of the next to last one, and I probably lost a few seconds more at first, optimizing a little better after that. Either way, the first time I did go over 5:30 again was on the 11th kilometer, when I got to 5:37, though I still safely covered 11 km in under one hour. There had been another refreshment point during that kilometer, but I had already been gradually getting slower, closer to 5:30, so it was no surprise… What was a surprise being that I saw someone from the Dream Trek group stopped there, and since I didn’t see her number to make sure and didn’t check later either, but the first relay change was also in that area, I wonder whether some of them formed a relay team, or maybe more than one, which would explain not seeing more of them before the start.
Did get back under 5:30 on the next two kilometers, and again caught up to the woman in light blue, taking part in the half marathon, who had sort of been my target for most of that first part, but seeing as there’s also a slope going down in that area, that clearly wasn’t going to be the case for much longer. And it obviously wasn’t going to be the case on kilometers 14 and 15, seeing as the route climbed that short but steep slope pretty much at the 14 km marker… Which marker I actually missed. It was the only one I missed over the course of the race, and that was probably because it was more or less in the spot where I briefly stopped to tighten a shoelace I wrongly thought was coming loose. Then I basically just walked up that bad slope while digging the second protein bar out of the running belt, but the loss of time over the 15th kilometer was much greater, since my hands were frozen and I kept struggling and failing to open the wrapping, only finally managing to do so after reaching Cismigiu Park, where there was another refreshment point as well. I think I covered kilometers 14 and 15 in 12:18, and while that might be off by a few seconds, it’s clear that I lost about a minute and a half in that area.
Memories become less clear after that point, and my notes no longer include times as a result, but I think I got back to slightly below 5:30 on kilometers 16 and, maybe even more likely, 17, but if so then I’m pretty sure that was the last time that happened. Of course, with the much less steep but also much longer slope to climb on Elisabeta on the way back, the 18th kilometer was clearly going to be slower, and after that I was just tiring and had to settle into a pace I could maintain. I still had some moments, around the halfway point, on kilometers 20 to 22, when I dared to calculate the pace needed to finish in four hours, but trying to maintain one that would allow me to slow later made me feel that something was not all right as I was getting to the 22 km marker, so I just made sure that I reached it in less than two hours, I think with no more than a few seconds to spare, took out and had the first gel, and reassessed the situation.
I still tried to push while running the numbers through my mind, but minutes later, as I was reaching the 23 km marker, a certain pressing need suddenly appeared and I had to give up on any remaining thoughts of maintaining anything like that sort of pace… And started seriously thinking of looking for a proper toilet to go to. The first place I briefly considered was a restaurant on Mircea Voda, and then I more seriously considered a gas station I saw on the other side after reaching the river again. That was some way away from the bridge, however, adding a few hundred meters if I was to get there and then return to the route in the same spot, so I kept going… Until I saw another gas station, again on the other side but right at a bridge, just where the 26 km marker also was. So, with the experience from this summer’s Dream Trek proving that gas stations can be very valid options under these circumstances, I turned off the route and went there, fortunately catching the light while it was still green as well, and the toilet unoccupied. When the light turned off, I thought there had been a power failure, but since it happened twice while I was on the toilet and then it turned itself back on again, and the time it stayed on and off seemed very similar, it was probably a system meant to urge people to not keep the toilet occupied for too long. But it wasn’t like I wanted it to take any longer than it had to, getting up before really getting everything out and certainly without really wiping well enough, just getting enough of a relief to feel much better, then washing my hands and rushing back out, catching the light green yet again. The exact time that passed between turning off the route and returning to it was 8:50, but I lost a little more since I walked while putting my mask, which I had obviously worn inside the gas station, back in its place.
Then again, I wouldn’t consider that time as lost. I probably didn’t recover all those nine minutes by the end, compared to what I’d have managed while desperately squeezing my butt, like the first time, but I’m sure I recovered most of that, and definitely felt a whole lot better. And if even so, after a very long time without this happening, I again started bleeding badly since then, usually after runs, I don’t want to think about what’d have happened if I’d have held it in all that time… Though, considering how things seem now, it’s possible it wouldn’t have been significantly worse, at least after the first day or two…
Getting back to the marathon, on top of feeling somewhat content with the fact that I hadn’t just managed to stay ahead of the 4:00 pacemakers for more than the initial target of 25 km, but they hadn’t even overtaken me “on track”, seeing as they got ahead during my “pit stop”, the relief made the next few kilometers seem quite easy, the only notable moment being at the end of that section, where the cones marking where we were supposed to turn were placed in a confusing way and I might have also turned too early if the guy ahead of me wouldn’t have done so, which made me pay closer attention and spot the timing area a few steps farther. There was a referee there as well, of course, and I gestured to him and said that the guy ahead had turned early, but he told me, in English, that he had no number, which did seem to be the case when I finally overtook him, so maybe he wasn’t actually competing.
Catching up to that guy to have a look took me a while, and required pushing, but I could do that at that point, so I kept it up… Until I got to 30 km. I was fine when I reached that refreshment point, slowed, took and drank the first cup, then the second, then started running again, but as I meant to return to the pace I had before, my body just refused and I started experiencing the symptoms of hitting the wall. Nothing surprising, of course, 30 km being the latest that happened, the time spent basically resting on the toilet likely having much to do with why it happened two kilometers later than during the long practice run. And a bit of a slope was coming as well, so as I was approaching 31 km I slowed again and had the last bar, that being the one which had been in the race kit… Which was really sweet and made things much worse for a while, adding nausea and a little later cramps and a burning feeling from my stomach on top of the burning legs. I’m still quite sure I reached 31 km in just under three hours, and then it wasn’t like I hadn’t been in that situation before, so I knew what to do, got my head down and started working through it, taking it step by step. As a result, by 33 km I was starting to recover and at 34 km I was in, shall we say, a new normal.
From then on, it seemed easy, relatively speaking. There was also a nice moment soon after that, when a gendarme stationed around 34.5 km congratulated me, and around or likely a bit after 35 km an older woman shouted that just a little was left, to which I replied that said “little” meant seven kilometers. But otherwise I kept running the numbers through my mind, what times I needed to be faster than the first time. And I stayed well within them even when I had the last two refreshment points to deal with. Admittedly, the slowest kilometer was one which had been “affected” by a refreshment point, and I believe it was the next to last one, when I also had the last gel, but I covered even that one in less than seven minutes, albeit just by a matter of seconds. And said next to last refreshment point was managed by those organizing Rosia Montana Marathon, with a guy I knew from protests being there, but while we recognized each other I could barely nod in reply to his greeting, since I was having that gel at the time, which was also part of the reason why it was the only time I took a single cup, the other part being that it was an unusually full one. As for the last refreshment point, it was managed by the NGO I had chosen to support again, and the woman I had talked to before and after the half marathon was also there and again we recognized each other.
For quite a few kilometers, starting at least soon after we reached Basarabia, if not even a little earlier, a guy who kept varying his pace tended to stay just ahead of me, slowing until I overtook him, then speeding up again until he ended up a small distance ahead, then slowing again, this repeating several times until I finally pulled ahead, well after we were back on Decebal. But that was before that last refreshment point and now I’m getting to what happened after it, the next marker being for 40 km, and I’m again quite sure I got there in less than four hours, and I clearly realized it was possible to finish in less than 4:15 even as official time, so I started calculating what I needed for that and really pushed on those last two kilometers. And I also stopped trying to hold in all the gas I had when others were close, so I think it was also during those final two kilometers when letting one rip made a woman and a child waiting for an opening to cross laugh out loud.
My first target on the last kilometer was a guy who was just ahead of me and seemed stronger than his pace indicated, so I knew that if I’ll overtake him too early I’ll paint a target on my back, he’ll start pushing and after he’ll get back ahead I won’t be able to keep up, but he was a bit too slow, so I did end up overtaking him, and the result was exactly what I thought it’d be. But then I fixed the next two who were ahead as my next targets, closed in gradually, managing a great 5:43 on that 42nd kilometer, and overtook both over the space of 100 meters, between the marker for 42 km and that for 21 km, the finish line being the same for the half marathon and the marathon. And the woman was in a relay team and had such a disheartened look when I went past her at that pace… And I covered that last bit, from 42 km to the end, in exactly or even just under one minute, with quite a sprint on the final straight, even though there was nobody else I could catch.
The real time was 4:11:28, with an official time of 4:12:21. And I still felt fine at the end, so it could have been even better. But it was better than expected anyway, and 8:12 better than the first time, and if you add those nine minutes lost with the toilet break, the minute and a half lost with the wrapping of that first bar, and the seconds lost with each refreshment point, the other bars and the gels, and tightening that shoelace, you end up with an actual running time below four hours. But I obviously wouldn’t have maintained that pace without that “pit stop” and the refreshment points, and either way I’d have been rather disappointed to end up with a real time below 4:09, wondering whether I could have managed to get under four hours by squeezing my butt all that time yet again, however unlikely that’d have been. But as it was, it was just what was needed to be content… And still have the motivation to try again, hoping to eventually get under four hours, which is the last running goal I can think of for the moment.

The above is the bare minimum that had to be included in this post, but the original plan called for it to include the rest of the day as well, which would mean quite a lot more. But the above was already added in three parts, with the first, actually added rather early Sunday evening, ending as I got to the start area, the second, added before I went to bed Monday morning, at which point I also changed the time to 11:59 PM, getting as far as the “pit stop” and the mention of bleeding, and the third only being added before I went to bed Tuesday morning, which was actually even later than usual just because I wanted to at least get that far. And on top of clearly making it my longest post yet, adding all the rest would likely take quite a while longer, and I can’t just keep editing a post in this manner, this fourth part already being added in the early hours of Wednesday, making it even worse than the previous personal one, so I’ll just get as far as leaving that area and leave the rest for some other time. The problem is that I just have one line of notes, and even that’s about the time after I got back, only the receipts reminding me of what I did before that, so delaying even more will make it even harder to remember, and more likely that errors will slip through… But it doesn’t matter anyway.

Returning to the marathon, after receiving the medal I made my way to the area where the finishers could grab more cups of that drink, bottles of water, apples and bananas and got a bottle of water and two of each of the others, drinking that drink, eating one banana and holding on to the rest. While I was there, a guy complained about the lack of any fruits at refreshment points and I said it was the same at the half marathon, and one of the volunteers working with the fruits said that he heard there had been fewer refreshment points then too, so I said the number had been the same, just that there had been nothing to eat. That guy continued by saying that it’s different for a half marathon, might just be acceptable, but for a full marathon it can’t be and it was the worst organized one he ever saw, but I found myself saying that, under those circumstances, I’m content that it took place at all. After all, with the explosion in the number of cases and deaths having finally forced our authorities to enact some new restrictions just as of that week, that had been in doubt pretty much until the last moment. I did raise an eyebrow at the small number of apples that seemed to be left though, not spotting any others behind the tables. But maybe I just missed them.
Either way, after leaving that area, with that sponsor’s tent still closed and unmanned, that NGO unsurprisingly still not having one and nothing else catching my interest, I retrieved my bag from the wardrobe, dug out the camera and, since nobody else was asking for their bag at that moment, asked the wardrobe volunteers whether they could take a picture of me, and one of them did. Still wanted one next to the final straight though, so I then made my way there and after trying to work up the courage for a couple of minutes managed to ask a woman to take a picture of me as well, and she did. Then I took off the number and medal, put everything in the other backpack I had fortunately taken with me, went to the toilet, put on my jacket and headphones and finally left that area a bit after 1:30 PM. Even though I had felt fine while wandering around in that area for close to one hour with just the t-shirt on, moments after leaving I felt cold even with the jacket, stopping again to put that shirt on as well.

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