Friday, March 30, 2007

Prague Trip & Half-Marathon Report

Somewhere along the line, I must have annoyed the race weather gods, because although I had perfect weather for my first half back in 2004, every race that I've run since then has either been: 1. extremely hot and humid (dangerously so), 2. very smoggy with poor air quality or 3. extremely windy.

The race in Prague fell into category 3. :meh:

Thank goodness this wasn't a goal race. My husband and I are in the middle of training for the Hamburg Marathon on April 29th, so this was just a race to practice pacing and it was an excuse to visit Prague. Plus hubby had 4 days of leave he had to burn before year end (new leave year starts April 1st) so we decided to head to Prague to run the half.

The race organization was top-notch. The expo was well organized, but very small (compared to the expos I've been to in Canada.) The race shirts were short-sleeve Adidas Climalite, so technical tees, and they are really nice.

Prague is a beautiful city. :hug: Globalization has definitely come to the city since the Iron Curtain fell. There are American, British, German and other European chains (both restaurants, stores and department stores) throughout the city. A lot of work has been done to restore the old buildings. It is really lovely and full of history.

Thursday, hubby and I drove to Prague, checked into our hotel, and headed for the expo. Picked up our kits, and wandered through some of Prague Old Town on the way back to our hotel. Ate dinner at a wonderful restaurant that had amazing service and incredible food. :hug: Very pricey, though, but we definitely got what we paid for.

Friday, in order to rest up for the race, we took a lunch-time cruise along the Vlatava River that runs through Prague, and saw many of the city's landmarks from the river. Also had a chance to scout out some of the race course, since a lot of it would be run along the river.

Saturday, the race didn't start until noon, so we had time to have breakfast, and slowly get ready. Our hotel was right next to the Charles Bridge along the Vlatava River, and the race starting line was just on the opposite side of the river at the Charles Bridge.

Left the hotel around 11:15, crossed over the bridge, and found our corral to line up. It was not too warm out (8°C), but overcast, and windy, around 20 km/hr. It would get windier as the race progressed. :meh:

The race started at noon, and it took us about 8 minutes to reach the starting line. Started running, crossed the chip mat, and we were off. Our first stretch of cobblestone was here along the Charles Bridge, and right after we had crossed over, before we managed to get onto asphalt.

After crossing the bridge, the first kilometre was directly into the wind. We crossed another bridge, ran along the other side of the river, again, directly into the wind. Since we were running right along the river bank, there were no buildings to shield us from the wind. So up until about the fifth kilometre we were running into a headwind.

After crossing another bridge, we change direction so we were finally running with the wind at our backs. Unfortunately, we were in a mixed industrial and residential area, so there were a lot of buildings, which meant we didn't have the wind pushing us along, except in a few places.

At the ninth kilometre, we turned and headed into Prague Old Town. From here until the 11th kilometre was the most scenic part of the route, running through Old Town and past many of the beautiful historical buildings in the city. This is also one of the busiest tourist areas, so there were lots of people along the route, whereas from the 2nd to 9th km there had been no spectators. Unfortunately, we were running on cobblestones through this area, so I had to cut my pace a bit, to keep my footing.

An hour into the race, the winds had picked up to 30 km/hr. They were mostly at right angles to us as we headed back along the river for the 11th and 12th km. Around the 12th km marker, we passed the first of three "beer refreshment points." Yes, they were serving beer on course, non-alcoholic, but still beer! Midway between kilometres 12 and 13, we headed into a residential area, and straight into a headwind. The winds were really messing with us, because when we turned around, at km 14, we were heading back into a headwind, this time with gusts of up to 40 km/hr. Not fun.

At km 16, we crossed yet another bridge, and headed into an industrial area of the city. This was the worst part of the entire course. Kilometres 16 to 19 were through and industrial area, past the Staropramen brewery (race sponsor and provider of the non-alcoholic beer on course, and the real beer at the finish) and these kilometres seemed to go on FOREVER. It didn't help that for km 16 and 17 we were running into winds of 30-40 km/hr and then for 18 and 19 we were running into winds that were gusting up to 80 km/hr! If I could change any part of the course, it would be here. Ugly, boring, and seemed to go on forever, with absolutely no crowd support. There was a beer refreshment point just before the 17th km marker and another at the 19th. Hubby had a few sips of beer at the 19 km point, just to say that he'd drank beer during a race. : pbbt:

At kilometre 20 we crossed another bridge, and I was feeling strong, so I picked up the pace. We ran along the river on the other side, and passed the Charles Bridge. The finish line was just before another one of the many bridges crossing the river.

Crossed the finish nice and strong, received my medal and my foil blanket, and headed across the river to the "technical area" to get out chip deposits refunded and to have a massage.

Was a little disappointed to find that by the time we finished, there was no food or sports drink left :mutmad:, although there was a lot of water. Fortunately, the refreshment points along the course (every 5 kilometres) had been well-stocked and didn't run out of water or sports drink (along they were serving Isostar which I've never had, so hubby carried two bottles of Powerade for us to drink in addition to the bottled water on course.)

Otherwise the race was very well-organized, and it was fairly flat, as advertised. There were only a few slight inclines leading up to the various bridges we crossed, and slight declines on the other side of the bridges. Otherwise, definitely flat. The race advertises there is only about a kilometre of cobblestone, but I would say there was a little more than that. Maybe 2 to 2.5 km of cobblestone, in total.

Now, I'm a little confused about my chip time, because hubby started his watch when we crossed the start line, and stopped it when we crossed the finish line, and it took us at least 8 minutes to cross the start line when the race started. So I have three different times for the race. Clock time: 2.48.07 Chip time: 2.44.02 Watch time: 2:40:55 (My half PR is 2:35:45 set in 2004 on a day that was perfect for me weather-wise, along on a hilly course, so not a typical PR course.) Since I know it took us at least 8 minutes to cross the start line (it was the only time I looked at my watch - hubby wore the Garmin to keep track of our pace) I'm inclined to think the watch time is correct, but have no idea why the chip time would be so off. :wtf:

I'm very happy with my watch time, and with my race, despite the fact that it wasn't a PR. Given the conditions, I ran a really strong, evenly paced race (except for the kilometres running into the 80 km/hr winds for km 18 and 19) and I was able to kick it into high gear for the last kilometre and a half, after crossing the last bridge and heading to the finish line. I was never sore or tired during the race, and felt good and strong the entire way.

I also wasn't very sore after the race. My right quad and glute were a little sore on Sunday, but not sore enough to keep me from taking a tour of Prague and walking for most of the day. I'm feeling good today - went for an easy 3 mile run and the legs felt fine. So I'm confident that when I have a half as a goal race on a day with decent weather, provided I'm healthy, I will get that half PR.

So I'm of mixed feelings about the race. On the one hand, although I wasn't aiming for a PR, I was hoping to get close to it if the weather conditions had cooperated, so I'm disappointed that it was so windy and that I didn't run as fast as I could have. On the other hand, I wasn't really racing from the start, so I can't really be disappointed that I didn't PR, since that wasn't my goal. At any rate, I feel confident about Hamburg, provided the weather cooperates and I stay healthy.

No official photos yet, and I haven't uploaded my trip photos yet, but I do have a few photos of us after the race:


bunnygirl said...

It sounds like you've been having a great vacation, so I wouldn't worry about your race time. Just have fun! :-)

Congrats on finishing under such windy conditions!

Michelle said...

Yowza. Wind. You and DH were very brave!

Is it tough running on all that cobblestone? Prague especially is very cobblestoney... after a few miles that might hurt a bit.

Good job on toughing it out!

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Michael said...

Very interesting article. You remind me my trip to Czech Republic last year.
Prague has to be one of the leading contenders for the title of most beautiful city in the world.
I spent one week there, which was long enough to see all of the tourist attractions, but I still want to go back and see them again. I liked my accommodation. Prague hotels are very good and no expensive.
There are so many beautiful buildings, streets and monuments here.