Monday, January 26, 2015

Rock 'n' Roll New Orleans Marathon 2015 - My Own Experience

Rock 'n' Roll New Orleans Marathon 2015 - My Own Experience

Post-Mortem of Chicago Marathon 2014
Ashley and I had earlier planned to register ourselves in the Rock 'n' Roll New Orleans Marathon 2015 on 25th Jan 2015. It would have been good for Ashley to do a good time for the race and for me to go for a long run and experience the marathon.

Ashley and I were excited when a personal best time of 2hr 35min 39sec was achieved (by Ashley) in Chicago Marathon 2014. Both of us celebrated our night by going out for dinner. We also discussed our future plans.

With marathons having earlier closing dates, we decided to choose the New Orleans Marathon 2015, prior to SEA Games selection. Ashley thoroughly went through many possible future marathons and he suggested to me on running the Rock 'n' Roll New Orleans Marathon 2015. After some discussion between ourselves, we decided to focus on this race. Ashley registered himself and myself in the race. I have to thank Ashley for taking the effort to register me as well.

I  have to thank my wife Sumathy for allowing me to run this as it fell on my wedding anniversary day. Without her support, it may not have been possible to come here to run.It is with her permission that I could come over here.

Rock 'n' Roll New Orleans Marathon 2015

Ashley, during holidays, went to Kenya to train for a short training stint of 3 weeks during his December holidays. After arriving here in Spartanburg, and while having his holidays still, he trained hard in Spartanburg all alone, and did wonderful times in 10km and half-marathon steady state running. 

At first, he did a half-marathon steady run alone and did 1hr 11min 57sec, using his GPS. It was his personal best time by more than a minute. I knew that Ashley was moving forward from here when he did this time. Whether valid or not, I just believed it to be valid time as I know that Ashley is a man of integrity. Also, GPS, nowadays has precision in measuring the distance to 100% or near 100%.

He also did a 10km steady state run later in the week ahead of New Orleans marathon, doing a time of in 33min 14sec. It was nearly a minute faster than his season best time. I felt that in a 10km race situation he could do a time of between 32min 20sec and 32min 40sec. In the past, he was doing some sub- 34min 10secs. For me, I felt, earlier on, that if he does several sub - 34min 10sec, he will one day do 33min plus, using my experience.

Hence, on 21st Jan, 2015, when I took the flight to Spartanburg, where Ashley is residing currently, I know, more or less, that Ashley wouold do a new personal best time.

Preparation for New Orleans
On 22nd Jan, on Friday, we flew over from Spartanburg to New Orleans via Atlanta. Ashley made extra effort to book all the arrangements for me, from flight, transportation and accommodation. I was amazed by Ashley's energy and discipline in going the extra mile to get many things done here.

After our arrival at the Atlanta airport, I was wondering why Ashley was asking me to quickly do a brisk walk to take the next plane to New Orleans. In fact, it was faster than brisk walk, it was like speed walking. It took us about 10min and we took our flight such that if we were late by 5min, we would not be able to fly to New Orleans.

In New Orleans
We took a shuttle bus service from New Orleans airport to the our hotel, which was called Omni Riverfront Hotel. Our room was found to be spacious and comfortable. The room was nice, clean and tidy.

Once reaching our hotel. we decided to wash up and get our number tag and goodie bag. The New Orleans Convention Center, where the race expo was held, was just across the road from the hotel.  The moment we went in, the volunteers of the race gave us our goodie bag and number tag. We looked through the expo that was going on in the hall and later went back to our hotel to rest.

The next day we watched some movies in the room and did some stretching and at the same time did mental training. I had my bath in the bath tub and immersed myself in warm water which loosened my muscles.

The next day, I had to tell Ashley to do his best and told him that my knees were giving some sensation for few days. It was continuing for 3 days, just before the competion. I remember running two weeks back doing a steady state run and I stopped at the 8.5km mark of the 15km steady run. I had painful sensation at my calf muscles then.

Anyway, I told Ashley that if things don't go well, I will see him at the 12/13mile of the race, as it was very close to the finish point of the race. Ashley told me that I need to reach by 12noon, as we needed to check out of the hotel room. James, the front desk receptionist at the Omni Riverfront Hotel gave us a grace period of 1pm to check out of the hotel room.

The next day Ashley and I did our light stretching in our room before proceeding to the start line. We were stretching very close to the toilet area, in case we needed to go to toilet urgently. The weather was predicted to be between 7 to 15 degrees centigrade on the race day. The race time for the 10km was at 7am while the half-marathon and marathon races were fixed at 730am. About 20mins to start of the race, we entered corral 1 of the various corrals. Ashley and I saw that we could easily move to the front of the running pack at Coral 1.

After the US national anthem was played, the race started according to the planned race schedule. The race was organised very well such that I was also hoping that the race organisers of Standard Chartered Marathon of Singapore 2015 could learn something from. The race was organised very well such that everyone could do their best and get their good time.

While I was running, I did not see the 1km mark. At the 1mile point, I realised that I reached in 7min 00sec, according to my watch. It was a bit fast for me although my wish was to go slow during the race. I just wanted to do at best 3hr 20min, if I could.

At the 10mile, my time stood at 1hr 13min plus, according to my watch. However, from 11mile onwards I felt the pain increasing at my calf area. Hence, I slowed down my pace a lot and was observing the course.

I realised that the route was generally flat, except for the last few miles where there were some gentle up hills and down hills. The are parts where there was strong wind at the beach side. The route was very long especially from 18mile to 22mile, approximately.

According to the weather forecast, the temperature of the day was supposed to be between 7 degrees and 15 degrees centigrade. During the race, at the start, the temperature was about 7 degrees centigrade at first. I had my head gear on and other gears to protect me. However, during the run, after 10mile onwards, the weather was getting more warm. 

Hence, while running at the beach side area between miles 17 to 22, there was practically no cloud to prevent the sun from shining its rays on us. It was getting hotter as I was targeting a 4hr kind of run. I told Ashley earlier before the race, that most probably I will reach about 3hr 15min to 3hr 20min. However, if I don't, it is possible that I will reach in 4hr around there. However, during the run the calf some sensation that I told myself to reach at 4hr 10min. 

At the finish, I realised that I reached in 4hr 08min. Actually, I was going through some mild pain from half-marthon mark all the way till the finish. 

For me to share on the details on the race, I suggest the runners to be ready for the hills. Especially, when you are tired, going up the hill can be very difficult and exhausting. It is also a good idea to be ready for the cold and as well as for the heat. 

At the start of the race, I threw away a t-shirt that I was having and the scarf around my neck, just a minute before the race. At the last 10mile, around there, I threw away my headgear so that it would not hot for me, as the weather was turning hotter. 

As the last 10miles was approaching, I slowed down a lot and told myself to keep doing a very light jog throughout the run and not to stop during the run. I was very happy that eventually, like in Chicago Marathon 2014, I did not stop. The only problem was that the heat was affecting me. 

As for Ashley, he reached the finish point at 2hr 32min 12sec. I felt that the heat did not bother him that much. When I asked him about the weather, he told me that the weather was fine, although something slightly cooler would have been preferred. This is good to hear as I feel that Ashley can tolerate the cold and heat well. 

While I was running to the finish point, I also told myself that there were a few kilometres left. There was feeling of exuberance and happiness as my first 10km was about  45min 12sec. I told myself that it would be good not to stop and to take the other half of the marathon distance as a training run, and not to push. My first half-marathon distance time was 1hr 38min plus. I was elated to see myself cross at this time.

At the last 1mile, I was happy that I was about the get a finisher jacket for completing the race. As I finished the race, I walked straight to Ashley to hear his time. As I was reaching him, I felt that he has done about 2hr 32min plus. In fact, this was going through in mind during the race. I felt that plus minus the weather, he would have done a 2hr 32min, instead of 2hr 30min. If the weather had been cold, I believe that Ashley would have done a 2hr 25min to 2hr 28min, judging from his recent half- marathon and 10km steady state running. 

As soon as I reached the meeting place where I had to meet Ashley, he told me that he has done a 2hr 32min. It came as no surprise for me. Later on, he told me that he was overall second. I thought he meant second for the SEA Games criteria. He told me again about this and I understood what he meant. Only when I knew that he was second overall for Rock 'n' Roll New Orleans Marathon 2015, I was feeling 'On Top Of the World'. I forgot about taking my belonging from the locker service volunteers and headed to the plaque that he had won. The plaque stated that he was second overall in the Men Open category of the Rock 'n' Roll New Orleans Marathon 2015. We took some photos there.

Ashley showed me that Singapore flag given by the organisers of the event. I felt that it was a very kind gesture of the organisers to do this. We took a photo together to celebrate the victory. We also felt that this good result, as a team, would cheer up Thow Wee, to give him encouragement to spur him to  greater heights the next time.

After the event, we travelled back in a free shuttle bus service to our nearby hotel. We earnestly requested the hotel's front desk to grant us some allowance to stay another 30min longer before we checked out, on top of our 1hr extension time that was already given earlier to us. 

We felt that we were going to rate the Omni Riverfront Hotel in our blogpost so that many people out there are aware of this service-oriented hotel and staff, so they may consider coming to stay in this hotel.

Later on, we took a shuttle and left New Orleans Airport to Greenville-Spartanburg via Atlanta Airport. As Ashley had done well, I told him that I was going to giving him a treat tonight, for doing more than 3min improvement and for achieving the second best time currently for the SEA Games under the criteria given by C Kunalan (SAA Training and Selection manager) for the SEA Games spots. Only time will tell. According to Mr C Kunalan, as he mentioned in a meeting to coaches and athletes, he said that 28th-29th March is the deadline for all athletes to qualify.

As a coach, I feel that Ashley could have done a 2hr 25min to 2hr 28min if the weather was the same as forecasted. 

After a discussion after the race and doing a reflection as a coach and athlete, we felt that so long as the time done is still the second best for the SEA Games criteria, Ashley would be glad to represent the country.