The Brutal Run

Gearing up for my Run

At the final transition, I met my photographer friend who gave me a quick interview on my impressions of the race.

This took up valuable time but it was invaluable to capture these reflections on the run and in real time. After all what was the downside of losing several minutes when I could savor and appreciate these indelible thoughts indefinitely.

At transition, as I did throughout my bike ride, I debated on what shoes to wear -- my fast Brooks flats or my reliable Brooks Axioms. But since the soles of my feet were hurting at the exact spot where I had clipped, I decided on the Axioms. At least there was plenty of cushion to keep my soles from getting blisters, not something I wanted to endure during a Half Marathon.

Then I took off at a shuffle, a very slow pace at first to work out the painful kinks in my quads and calves. Gradually, I started picking up speed until I was at my regular marathon pace.

I was glad to be off the bike and even gladder to not be choking in water, but I did not appreciate the fact that it was hot, sticky, sweaty humid, but lucky for me the sky soon started turning gray then ominously dark before it pumped out a dragon-like roar and I as well as many of the struggling runners around me all welcomed that roar with glee.

The run took us over Kululcan Boulevard, the thin strip of land between the Caribbean Sea and the Nichupte Lagoon (where we did our swim).

The run, also was nice and flat and provided us with pleasant views of the waterfront, condos, high-rise hotels and golf courses. Unlike the bike, it was a nice chance to get a different scenery and to see people cheering for us along the course.

There were water stops at each KM and I took ample advantage of them by dousing myself with agua frio.

But I stayed away from the Gatorade and Power bars. During the bike, my stomach had taken a beating and could not handle anything sweet or chewy for now.

It seemed forever but soon I was at the turnaround point. I was satisfied with the fact that I was heading back towards the Finish Line, though this would just be the end of the first loop.

This is where something seemed wrong -- the last mile seemed to take eternity -- Longer than 10 mins. I knew I wasn't running that slow.

The First (Wrong) Finish

And then at the turnaround point, the appropriate signage was lacking or missing. Or maybe I was in such a daze, I didn't notice it at all. I asked a fellow runner where the turnaround point was, but he just avoided me. It could be the language problem or perhaps he was just too deeply focused on finishing.

So I kept on running at a decent speed, running until someone or something would stand in my way to interrupt my progress. Run until I passed the VIP Grandstand and crossed the Finish Line with exhilaration and composure.

I ran towards the Mariachi Band and volunteers handing out medals.

That's when I realized that I had indeed run too far, too wrong.

My first crossing of the Finish Line

I was frantic. As much as I wanted the race to end now and start my celebrations, I needed desperately to get back on the course and finish the remaining 6.6 miles, in the rain and in style.

But oh no, since I was out of bounds, would I be disqualified? The thought of coming this far this long and not complete because of a technicality strained my mind.

So after speaking with an official, I quickly hurdled over the barricade and after running through a maze of barriers, I finally found my way back to the course where I continued to hit my stride.

And that's when things started to get interesting.

The Second Swim

The overcast clouds had darkened to a menacing shade of black. Now I started feeling drops of rain softly striking my face which was welcomed at first.

But then the storm rolled in not like a Wet N Wild water slide but like a giant roller coaster.

So strong that it almost blew my sun visor off. So strong that I had zip my Trisuit completely up to avoid it becoming a jibsail on a catamaran on a running tact.

So strong that I could now start whispering the lyrics of the old Bob Seger favorite: "Against the Wind" as I tucked down and pushed through this thick blanket that wanted to wrap me up and tie me down.

And it didn't just rain, it poured the entire Caribbean Sea on me and my fellow runners to the point that my shoes squished at every stride and I could just drink the rain drops coming off my visor to quench my thirst -- with the fog of the run and the fog of the rain, visibility had taken a toll.

The roadway was not ready to take on this drenching downpour to the point that parts of the course was flooded with ankle high water. Still I pushed through, more likely waded through.

It was insane -- the rain, the headwinds. But now it didn't matter. I was in such a state of pain and I just wanted it all to tame.

With 1 mile remain, I glanced quickly at my watch. Then it occurred to me, I had 7 minutes left to make it in by 7 hours.

No, this was impossible. I started picking up my pace, but I knew that I couldn't run this fast even on a good day, even if I was being chased for dear life.

But still I pushed, passing runners upon runners who wondered what's the fuss. Perhaps there was a mistake, there was still a chance to go under 7.

As I turned the corner past the signs, past the crowds and the canopies, I unwittingly glanced up at the clock and came face to face with the truth.

The clock read over 7 hours. While passing the Grandstand and raising my hands in V-signs, I quickly did the math in my head. Even adjusting for my chip start it would be close -- a couple minute close to make it in under the Magic Seven.

The Extra Mile

And the Verdict: I did not make it under Seven.

But by now, I felt victorious just to finish.

When I rode back to the hotel, I found out that the race organizers had seriously miscalculated the run course. We had all run 24 Kms instead of 21 -- nearly 1.5 extra miles.

I was upset to hear this bit of news at first. How could they put us through this unnecessary pain and mental torture.

My official crossing of the Finish Line

But then I rejoiced. I immediately realized that if I factored in the extra 1.5 miles, I would have completed my first half Iron in just under 7 hours.

6 hours, 31 minutes and 32 seconds to be exact.

Would I do this again, you're darn straight. Would I one day tackle a full Ironman -- ask me this next week when I'm all recovered.

But yes, that is my goal, one day, but who's setting goals?

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