November 20, 2010

(Fake) Race Report: Celebrity Century Half-Marathon

In the spirit of yesterday’s “changing the rules” post, the title of this says it all. Half marathon report coming up!

After another night with my new best friend Marty the bartender at the martini bar (yeah, I lost count of how many I had somewhere between the cucumber-and-basil “Eurekatini” and the watermelon-flavored “Flirtini”) and then exploring the onboard nightclub until 1am, you could say that I wasn’t really prepared for a marathon. Nonetheless, I crashed into bed with good intentions.

When my alarm went off at 5:45am, however, it was harder to convince myself that this was a good thing. I snoozed my alarm, but when I tried to catch a few more winks, realized that I was already now wide awake – might as well go knock this marathon out, especially since half the ship had heard about it and I didn’t want to be embarrassed by not doing it. However, I realized I hadn’t put my Garmin on to charge… and furthermore, that I hadn’t even brought my Garmin charger. Oops! The Cardiotrainer app on my phone would have to suffice.

I dressed quickly and headed up to the top deck to start by 6:15am – just before dawn. This was going to make for a gorgeous “race!” I set up my gear on a towel right at the front of the ship: some Gus, some Sports Beans, a water bottle (still hadn’t figured out how I was going to refill, but hopefully some steward would come by while I was running), and most importantly, a pen and paper to tally my laps.

A sign on the track indicated that it was 14 laps per mile, so by my calculations, I needed to run 366.8 laps in order to do a full marathon. Yikes! I decided that rather than counting to 367 (yes, of course I can count that high… but the odds were great that I’d get distracted and lose track), I’d simply count to 14 and then track how many miles I did. My original plan was to create rows numbered 1-26, tallying up to 14 next to each of them, but while running, I found that it wasn’t too hard to count to 14 without writing anything down, so I simply put a check mark next to each mile I completed. Stopping to mark the check on the paper also would be when I’d change directions and go the other way around the tiny 0.07 mile loop, to prevent muscle problems.

With little fanfare, I turned on my Cardiotrainer app and started moving. Glancing down at the GPS, I thought at first that it was working, as it was registering some kind of distance as I went. However, it seemed to be sporadic, as when I finished what by my count was 13.1 miles, it showed me as having run about 3.7 miles. Nope, I was DEFINITELY not going at a 30 minute per mile pace! πŸ™‚ After looking at the map of my run, I saw that my little loop wasn’t registering on the map at all; the picture just shows a 3.7 mile straight line in the middle of the Caribbean, midway between Cuba and Cancun. So good job, Cardiotrainer – you tracked the movement of the ship instead of the movement of me on the ship!

Anyway, despite the abysmal 29:44 pace that Cardiotrainer told me I ran, I was actually pretty speedy. Running on the ship was a really interesting experience. I was really concerned about muscle fatigue, since it was a completely flat track and I was doing the same loop over and over. However, the rocking of the ship (we were going across the Caribbean at this point, from Key West to Cozumel) actually made the track a bit “hilly,” with the twist that until my foot landed, I didn’t know if it was going to be an “uphill” or a “downhill,” depending on where in the motion I caught the ship deck. It was definitely a cool challenge – I would assume that it must be kind of like what blind runners experience, except that real terrain usually has some sort of trend to it instead of being totally random (one step up, the next step down).

What made the experience really amazing, though, was getting to watch the sunrise as I ran. With ocean all around me, it was a glorious experience to run amidst all that blue sea and pink sky. I took a few pictures in the early miles – looking back, it’s neat to see how the “course” changed from nighttime (with all the cruise ship party lights on) to daytime, and all in a very short period (I only stopped to take pics for about the first half hour or so and then I focused on running).

When I first started running (around 5:30am, ship time) there was no one around – even the crew hadn’t yet come out to start hosing down the deck and rearranging the chairs, and all the lights were on.

Within a half hour, it started getting a bit light, and a few people started venturing out.

I was surprised not to have anyone join me in laps around the track, but realized that most on the ship were walkers instead of runners, and they were opting to walk around the much larger pool deck instead of the teeny track. Unfortunately for me, since my Garmin wasn’t working, the only measure of distance I had was the sign saying that the track was 14 laps per mile – so if I wanted to do my run anywhere else on board, I’d have no way to measure it.

Around 6:45am, a few people started coming up on deck to watch the sunrise.

They didn’t really get in the way of my running, but they did get in the way of my picture taking! πŸ™‚ All seemed to be very surprised to see me up and running, which in turn surprised me. When I had been at the gym during peak times, there seemed to be a good number of fitness-minded people on the ship, so I was very surprised that more weren’t taking advantage of the track to be outside while getting in a workout.

It was actually a very good thing that there weren’t more people out on the track – it got pretty narrow in parts, particularly when it ran by the staircases down to the deck below. In the third mile, the cord of my headphones actually got caught on a grab bar, clotheslining me as my headphones came off. Unlike a real race, though, I didn’t care much about my time, and there was no one slowing me down and getting in my way, especially at my “water station” (which is often a slowdown point for a race). What a treat to be able to just grab the bottle and run with it, tossing it back on the towel at the end of that lap!

My system of counting to 14 and then marking a tally was pretty good (though I made it a point to crazily say the number of the lap out loud every go around – it helped me remember better where I was and not lose count). However, after a few miles I was pretty bored… so I started coming up with rationale for why I should quit early instead of doing the full 26.2. For example, while I am writing a race report and pretending it’s a real marathon, it really isn’t one, and I’d be sad not to be able to count it in my tally of marathons run (60 and counting!). Another good reason I came up with to stop early was that if I only did 13.1, I wouldn’t be as sore, and could finish my “race” on the side of the track overlooking the pool bar – perhaps garnering some cheers from other passengers when I threw my arms into the victory V as I am wont to do. Finally, if I finished in just two hours instead of four, that would be more free time in the day to go lounge around and have a leisurely breakfast before getting off at Cozumel. All good reasons, to be sure.

So that’s how it happened that I ended up running only 13.1 miles instead of the 26.2 I was planning. Still, I’m pretty thrilled with how I did. Despite the monotonous “course” and the wind and motion of the ship continually blowing me off, I was proud to finish well under two hours – 1:50:47. If I’m not mistaken that’s actually a half-marathon PR for me… too bad it’s not a real course!

Overall, I was really glad that I ran a half marathon – it meant that I was less sore and less tired for all of Saturday’s activities, but it still gave me a neat story to tell and burned a lot of calories. And how cool is it that I got to run in the middle of the Caribbean?? Yay for cruising πŸ™‚

Race stats:
Distance: 13.1 miles (I think; what I know for sure is that I did 183.5 laps)
Time: 1:50:47
Pace: 8:27/mile


4 thoughts on “(Fake) Race Report: Celebrity Century Half-Marathon”

  1. This is such a great idea! I was surprised that your GPS didn’t pick up your movement vs the ship’s movement. Well, and probably more surprised that there weren’t more people out and about early in the morning. Crazy that people would rather run on a treadmill vs outside!

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