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Taipei Standard Chartered 12.5k - Run

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Taipei, T'ai-pei
85F / 29C
Total Time = 48m 18s
Overall Rank = 51/9000
Age Group = M40-49
Age Group Rank = 7/
Pre-race routine:

Two things to start with.
#1: I now have increased respect for people who regularly run in the tropics. Wow, running in the Taiwanese summer humidity this week was quite the experience.
#2: This was the first time in my life that I've won money for sport. Woot!

I was in Taiwan for a few days for work, and I did a little on-line searching to see if there were any races on my one free day before going home. By coincidence, it turned out that my visit was perfectly timed for a big new race in downtown Taipei. I was able to get myself entered online with the help of one of my Chinese students, without whom I wouldn't have been able to read the entry form. And I was able to get my race number with the help of my Taiwanese hosts, who chaperoned me to the packet pickup, right next to the Taipei 101 skyscraper. So that was how I managed to find myself lining up with 10,000 or so Taiwanese waiting for the 5:30am race start, in front of the Presidential Palace. The race announcers seemed very excited as we counted down the minutes to the start, but of course I couldn't understand a word of what they were saying.
Event warmup:

The term "warm up" seemed a bit out of place. I ran around a little as it started to get light over Taipei, but I already felt plenty warm, and was sweating just standing still. It was no accident that the race started at 5:30am. The humidity is there all the time, but once the sun comes up things get even harder. I had been trying to acclimate with morning runs the past few days, but it would be more accurate to say that I had learned to respect the heat/humidity, rather than get used to it. It didn't help that I had been a little sick, thanks to something that I must have picked up on the 22 hours of flights that got me here.
  • 48m 18s
  • 12.5 kms
  • 03m 54s  min/km

One benefit of starting so damn early on a Sunday morning is that it's possible to use some big roads. The race was a simple out-and-back. For the first mile it headed down a wide boulevard, away from the Presidential Palace and towards Taipei 101, and then the rest of the route went along either side of an elevated expressway - less inspiring scenery at that point. I had no idea about local standards, so I started a little way back on the start line. That was probably a mistake. I was only stumbling over people for a short while after the gun, but it turned out that the 13 seconds that it took me to reach the line cost me in final placing (and in prize money!).

After weaving in and out of slower runners for a few hundred yards, I settled into what felt like a pretty comfortable pace. I had decided that with the heat/humidity and being sick the past few days, I should take things out somewhat conservatively, and to forget any comparisons with times run in better conditions. Goal time was to go under 50 mins for the 12.5k, i.e., 40-minute 10k pace. I was pleasantly surprised that the first mile took 6:00, and I wasn't feeling stretched at all. (Also good to see that it was possible to run at that pace in my new Hokas -- the Krusty the Clown shoes can go quick, too.) But not long after the first mile, I started to warm up, and the race was already feeling like it was going to be a long way.

Miles 2-4 were only a little slower, though with a few extra seconds added in the miles when I stopped to take a drink. I seemed to be on course for a time well under my target. 24:04 at the turn-around, which was just over half way. Approaching the turn-around I was also able to see how many people were ahead of me, and there were fewer than I had expected. I was interested in the age group situation, but I quickly figured that I'm hopeless at guessing the ages of the local middle-aged guys.

The second half of the race seemed really, really long. I was getting quite hot, and feeling weaker and weaker, although the pace that I was running didn't feel like too much of a stretch. I longed for water stops, and there were fewer than I would have liked. And when I got to them I took plenty of time to take in fluids. I also tried to douse myself with a cup of water, but missed entirely. That sums up how well I was doing. After steadily picking off runners through the first half of the race, I was starting to lose some places in the second half. I would hold my place ok while running, but then lose places when I stopped to drink. I didn't care at that point. Some of the miles were getting slower. Turning back onto the tree-lined boulevard at around 1 mile to go, I stopped to walk for a couple of seconds. And then again about a half mile from the finish. That cost me, literally. I somehow managed to get myself to the finish, and by the time I got there I was not in the best of shape. Almost fell over in the finishing chute. My time of 48:18 was pretty close to my stretch target, so that was quite pleasing. But I'm skeptical that it was really a full 12.5k, as my Garmin measured it perhaps a minute shorter than that. It tends to be fairly accurate on straight courses.
What would you do differently?:

Not sure what I could have done differently. Once I started heating up, I was on a downward spiral. I'm just not built for this kind of weather.
Post race
Warm down:

It took me an unusually long while to get cooler and more clear-headed, and my heart-rate remained high for a surprisingly long time. Drinking (a lot) helped. As did the free fans that they were distributing. I went over to pick up my stuff from the gear drop -- the organizers did this part really well. To use the gear drop you have to buy (for around $3) a large, holdall sized zippered canvas bag, and insert a large printed slip corresponding to your number into a pouch on the outside. This bag can be reused at any of the events that these organizers put on, and it makes for an amazingly uniform and uncluttered bag drop area. Race results started to appear after about 45 minutes (... oh my - an earthquake is happening as I type this sentence. This is, ahem, interesting. Fortunately, seems like it's not too bad.) In among the long list of names in Chinese characters, it was pretty easy to pick myself out. I was 51st overall, and 7th in 40-49. Way behind the winners, but just a few seconds behind 5th and 6th. A Canadian guy who I had been chatting with while waiting came up to me and said "Are you Colin? You know, you win a prize for coming in 7th, and you'll probably get some money for that." Well, that was totally unexpected. I was a little skeptical, but headed over to the area where they were getting ready for the awards.

The awards process was chaotic, but also fun. We were in the middle of a busy crowd of runners who were being taken through their post-race warm-down exercises by some local celebrity who was singing along to American pop tunes while guiding the masses. The 10 award winners in each division were slowly lined up in order, just like in elementary school, then left waiting in the sun behind the big stage to wait to be called up. Then we were called up before the crowd one by one, and lined up with the rest of our division winners and presented with a big board that (apparently - of course I couldn't read it) explained our placing and how much we had each won. Then we were led off to pick up the real awards, and to fill out documents that dedeclared our tax situation and took out a chunk of the winnings on the spot. My prize was 2,000 dollars -- woot -- but since those are New Taiwan dollars, after the tax and the currency conversion at the airport, I'll probably be left with around $50 USD. Still, it felt pretty cool. A big shout out at this point to a Taiwanese guy who came in just ahead of me and who said his name is "Bruce" (he assumed I wouldn't be able to handle his Chinese name), and who spoke a little English. I would have been utterly lost through this whole process if he hadn't taken me under his wing, and guided me through all that was happening, including negotiating for me to get the prize money despite my foolish mistake of not bringing my passport along to the race.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

Heat, humidity, illness.

Event comments:

Very well organized overall. It was a real stroke of luck that I was able to participate in this race while I was in Taiwan.

Last updated: 2013-06-02 12:00 AM
00:48:18 | 12.5 kms | 03m 54s  min/km
Age Group: 7/
Overall: 51/9000
Performance: Average
Course: Out-and-back along a wide boulevard and an elevated expressway in downtown Taipei.
Keeping cool Bad Drinking Not enough
Post race
Weight change: %
Mental exertion [1-5]
Physical exertion [1-5]
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? No
Post race activities: Good
Race evaluation [1-5] 4

2013-06-02 1:08 AM

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University Park, MD
Subject: Taipei Standard Chartered 12.5k
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