A fairy tale race, such as Brocken Marathon on Saturday, deserves a better protagonist than me. Actually, my husband, is probably the perfect protagonist. But, alas, this is my blog.
Brocken mountain is the highest mountain in the Northern half of Germany and is fabled by Goethe among others because of the mist that often covers the peak. And the peak has the microclimate of a real high altitude moutain depite being just over 1200 meters.
But what about the race? How did it go?
I will start out by saying, I never realized how much SR and I exemplify the idea of yin yang until this race. I'll take yin, thanks.
Neither of us has previous experience with running a mountain marathon. We ran the Trans Alpine stage race. But a stand-alone marathon is obviuosly a lot different.
It's a big race, which is nice, because it allows one to focus more on running the best race one can rather than thinking of placement. There were around 800 marathoners. I can't find the actual number, but I have based this on previous years. The only other large marathon I have raced was the Copenhagen Marathon in 2009 (which didn't go so well).
Here is the start. Yes, I know it does appear as if I stole this photo from Team Müller without paying.
There would be over 1000 meters/3280 feet of climbing to get to the top. See the altitude profile in my previous post. I have to say thanks for all of the strategy suggestions as to how to run this race. As usual, rather than taking one and "running", I basically tried to incoporate all of the strategies (yes, I do realize how stupid that is). I started out at a 7:45 per mile pace, but much quicker going downhill. My goal was to have an overall time of less than 4 hours. I figured if I made it through the half marathon in approximately 2, I could just coast down and easily come in under 4. But I really had no idea of this was realistic.
For the entire first half up the mountain, I battled with a few women for the 5-7th place spots. I knew this because spectators were shouting out our places. Despite my toddler-like German, I did manage to get into some fights with German women. It was great. German women are really hard boiled (this is a nice Danish saying). I mean this in a good way. They are tough. When they thought I was doing something wrong, they let me know. "What are you doing? Think of the whole race!" was at least my interpretation of what one woman said as I barelled down a hill past her. She rolled her eyes and then in turn sprinted past me (I, of course, wondered if she was thinking of the whole race at that moment).
Meanwhile SR was chumming with a long-time veteran of Brocken Marathon. They enjoyed the scenery and eachother's company.
My first 10k was in 49, SR's in 41.
Then the hills started for real. I employed a technique of walking for 20 seconds, running for a minute. Or something like that. I'm not the type to really calculate these things. It brought me ahead of a few women and many men. I was pleased and feeling good. And then there were rivers such as this to enjoy.
I was glad I ran with my Camelbak. At the aid stations, such as this one, they served tea, Weiss Bier, bubbling water and soup. Perhaps drinking Weiss Bier throughout race would have made things go a lot better. Or at least seem better. Actually there was one aid station with really good sports drink. At the others, I settled for the bubbling water, which actually went down fine. They did have some really tasty german chocolate treats and cookies.
The last approximately 4km of the ascent was basically unrunnable. It looked like this. You get the idea of how this light could create a Brocken spectre, if there was more mist. And if this surface looks difficult to walk or run on, it is. But I powerhiked like never before, passing men and women alike. I've realized a absolutely love the feeling of being at my VO2 max. Plus view like this do tend to make things more enjoyable.
I made it to the top in 1:49 and felt awesome. Someone shouted out that I was 5th woman and as I floated over the top of the mountain. I could tell I was gaining on the woman ahead of me. I felt amazing. I listened to the running song of the day (see below) over and over. I felt like I could actually win the whole race, well, for the women. If a marathon is about constant effort as Steve Q said, this felt nearly effortless, and thus ironically too easy. I ran about 6:30 miles down the hill for about 3 miles and then slowed when the descent was't so steep. I had made it through the half marathon in 2:02.
Meanwhile, SR was uncertain what time he made it though the half marathon, but he was feeling strong, yet not taking any risky moves.
People were cheering and male runners were telling me I looked strong. It all went to my head, of course. I made it through 16 miles (where I usually hit the wall in marathons) still feeling strong. I remained close to passing the woman in 4th place. But then she gradually pulled ahead. Run your own race, I said to myself again and again. But then I got passed by one woman. And another. This went to my head, too. In a bad way. I ate a gel, drank from my pack and tried to regroup.
Here was the view as I contemplated the fact that I was completely out of energy and my legs were hurting (a lot). My left hip was really in trouble. It was mile 19 and 7 more miles sounded impossible. But giving up sounded a lot worse. It was my old friend, the wall. Had it not been mostly downhill, I would have been forced to walk to the finish. I felt like if I put real effort into running, I would start to throw up. I jogged downhill and walked the flats and minor uphills. Woman after woman passed me and I thought the only thing I could think - well, at least it's a beautiful run. And I'm happy to be here. Who wouldn't be happy to run in a place like this?
Meanwhile, SR hit 19 miles and had a sudden burst of energy. He described going from approximately 16th place to 6th place over the last 7 miles. When he finished, he felt he could run much longer and regretted it wasn't a 50k. He finished in 3:04!, taking 6th place and winning a spot on the podium and a blanket (!?).
There is a fun game, similar to Where's Waldo, called iDentify the Dane, which can be played with the above picture.
I had one burst of energy about 1.5 miles from the finish when I saw SR's brother finishing the half marathon. I thought we would have a sprint finish. I sprinted all out and then realized near the finish line, he had opted not to sprint. Here is a video of me crossing the finish line. http://result.davengo.com/dp/dgo/results/details/32497/6089130 As SR said, "Wow, you look terrible." Ahhh, yes, well that's at least something I've gotten good at. My finishing time was 4:08, 17th female. You thought a positive split on such a course was impossible, but you were wrong.
Running song of the day: My Heart is a Drummer by Allo Darlin'