Stadtlauf Nürnberg: A Half Marathon in Bavaria
Here it is: my belated race recap. Cut me some slack: two weeks on the road with limited wifi and a huge workload kind of puts a crimp in the blogging.
As you may recall, just a few short weeks ago I was concerned that I wasn’t even going to come close to meeting the 3:00 cutoff for my half marathon in Nürnberg, Germany. I was pretty upset about it. I mean, nobody likes to suffer from IT band problems, even under the best of circumstances. But when you’re looking at possibly being pulled from the race course by a German sag wagon… well, it’s depressing. But I went ahead and did it anyway because honestly, I knew that my training partner, Marilyn, just wouldn’t let me quit.
What It’s Like To Run Elsewhere
You don’t get bib numbers for this race. Everyone has to wear the orange and blue race tee to show that you’re a participant. So there are thousands of people, dressed in orange shirts, crowding in front of the Opernhaus while the announcer speaks very loudly and animatedly in German. I understood nothing until the countdown. Fortunately, I can count backwards from 10 as well as your average German preschooler.
It was a double loop course, around a park with a lake, back through the pedestrian streets of the city and around again. There was a course limit of 3:00, and based on my times just a few weeks ago, I wasn’t even close to hitting that (I was looking at 3:14). I was very stressed out about being pulled from the course by someone shouting at me in German. I decided that if things looked really bad, I would bail at the end of the first loop and gracefully disappear.
By the end of lap 1 I had already been lapped by three leaders coming in for the finish. Totally demoralizing. But as I looked back there were still at least 20 people that I could see behind me so I kept going. Besides, if Marilyn had been there, she wouldn’t have let me bail out and head into the hotel for a Coke and some German TV.
Things that are helpful when running a destination race: 1) Nürnberg is a beautiful city, which makes the event feel more like a scenic city tour than a race, and 2) while miles may feel like they take forever to get through, kilometers pass quickly. It’s amazing how much progress I felt like I was making, even though the race is exactly the same length. Perception is weird.
The second loop was a lot of walking. It turned out to be much hotter than I had planned for. When I packed a week earlier, the forecast was mid-40s and drizzle, and it was low 70s and mostly sunny. I was hot, tired, stressed and anxious. Sounds like a great combination, don’t you think?
I was really afraid of getting pulled. I couldn’t see anyone behind me anymore, and I didn’t know if I was pulling away from them or if they got yanked from the course. I didn’t want to find out Fear is a very powerful motivator.
The Germans along the course were hilariously encouraging. I may not know much German, but I did know when the old guy was offering me a ride on his motorized scooter, or when the little kids wanted high fives, or when people were trying to motivate me by reminding me that they have “freibier” at the finish line. But my best was the guy who crouched into a show-me-your-muscles pose and shouted “Frau Power!”
My official finish was 5th from last, and I have no idea what happened to the others who were behind me at the end of lap 1. I wonder if they quit, if they were pulled, or if they just didn’t wear their timing chips. There was no sign of any of them in my finisher photo (sponsored by BMW, naturally).
I crossed the finish line and looked for the medals tent — supposedly there were medals, though I saw no signs of them — and then staggered back to the hotel where I spent the next two hours splayed out, trying not to vomit and wishing that I had the energy to shower. In all seriousness, I have never felt this way at the end of a race before. Coach Tim tells me that it was low blood sugar, which I can believe because I left everything I had on the course. I had zero appetite for about 36 hours afterward. The entire experience was unprecedented.
The next day, I checked my finish time: 2:44, a PR. Yes, in spite of my pain, my lack of blood sugar and my jet lag, I had staggered through my fastest race ever. No wonder I felt like hell afterward!
Have you ever felt like that after a race?
I’ve done 10 half-marathons, all in San Francisco, and I’ve felt 100% spent after pretty much everyone, meaning I couldn’t run another step past 13.1 miles, or, actually, anywhere from 13.2 to 13.35, depending on how much zig zagging and not running the tangents I did. Maybe a change of nine time zones did you good.