Kaunas Marathon Podium 111? (Lithuania)

Kaunas Marathon was never meant to be what I expected, so expect the unexpected from this entry.

This marathon was chosen after looking for an AIMS certified marathon at the end of 2017 when I was thinking of going for a goal of a 2:45 marathon, something I thought I wanted to achieve over 2 years which would get me into the US Olympic Marathon Trials. After analyzing this goal I decided, this…was…not…what I wanted, for me there was no reason behind the goal so I quickly shifted goals, needless to say I would continue to shift my goal over the months leading up to this marathon.

I also choose this marathon because it fit into my time frame for training, it was in a new country for me and one I wanted to go to, it is a flat and fast course and photos I found of it from last year seemed like it was a good race.

This time I found a coach to train. Having a coach is rare for me, I usually just train myself since I know what I am doing in general but I decided different and went with a local coach, Santiago.

It was the first time in a long time I trained 6 months for a race. Although my coach never trained me 6 months for the marathon as I had a race nearly every month so he trained me for each one and then finally the marathon. My new goal was do the marathon in 3 hours, a great challenge. During those 6 months, I trained for a few triathlons and 21k races too, so I was always swimming, biking and running somewhere between 1.5-2 hours daily. I spent a lot of time at the gym as many plans were on treadmill, something I had to get used to as I hate running on treadmill. Turns out if you run on treadmill it is boring but if you train on it, no way (mix up intervals, hills, etc). In the end nearly all workouts in all sports were intervals in some form or another.

In the beginning I really struggled with plans, not because they were demanding, more so I wanted to do something else. It took a while for me to commit, I wanted to ride my bike for days on tour through Cuba or from Bogota to Villa de Leyva instead of what my coach scheduled in my plan. That was fine, it was early in my training, but next came a real lack of motivation. I was doing what was planned but I was only doing it because it was planned. I was not wanting to do it, I was not enjoying it, I was not meeting times, I was suffering and it was hard to find time. At this point I nearly just gave up on the goal, life was too chaotic for this to work out. Everything was too much for me between work, training, personal life and travel so I said no more time goals and spoke to my coach who welcomed the need for flexibility.

Yeah, no more three hour plan, it was impossible at this time to even think about doing it because I was not happy with anything going on in my life. I completely wiped time from the agenda because otherwise I was upset about not being able to do the work for it. Once I got rid of this element I actually started to enjoy runs again, I started meeting times and was happy to just go with the flow. I also learned with my job it was difficult to even achieve this plan because it consumed my day and energy, often leaving me with night long runs where I finished near 9 or 10 pm (I did enjoy night runs in Bogota though because no one was around and I could take the streets running and the air was crisp).

Turns out I was still well prepared and crushed every race time I had on the agenda even if I didn’t give a shit about it.

Races you know about and others you don’t, all PR, some with podium.
Havana Sprint Tri. – 1:19:51 (1st age group – 8 female)
San Andres Island Olympic Tri –  2:32:47 (2nd age group – 10 female)
Lima 21k – 1:30:26 (9th age group – 12 female)

In the end Kaunas was just going to be ran, finished and with no care in the world for time.

I arrived to Europe a week before the race, to Tallinn, Estonia and made my way down stopping at several cities along the way until Riga, Latvia where I had to take a bus direct to Kaunas because I had a marathon the next day! The whole week before the temperature was kind of cold but finally it began warming up in Riga.

The am bus from Riga was about 4 hours so I arrived early afternoon to Kaunas. Approaching the city I noticed the river, the old city towers and thought “looks like an awesome place” (I didn’t research much before…). The bus terminal is very modern there and with lots of shops so I was impressed. From there I walked to the mall (also modern) to pick up my kit. I noticed the race had some kind of Nike Sponsorship and also saw the mall had a Nike store so I knew I wasn’t in the middle of nowhere, the city was legit ha ha and race too. Returning back to the bus station I pick up my bag and I jumped on a local bus toward my airbnb…a bus with electric cables that reminded me of home :).

The airbnb was up a hill in a run down house but looks are very deceiving from the outside because the inside was super modern and even had a washing machine!  I got settled, looked for lunch then returned to rest before running.

Leaving the house I didn’t have to go far before I was on the main pedestrian street with tons of options for food, bars, etc. I did have to go down a long flight of stairs that had me worried for post race…eh. Immediately I fell in love with the honey suckle tree smell all over the city. I said to myself if all fails tomorrow at least I can distract myself with amazing smelling trees (I don’t recall the smell of trees from the race though…so great thought ha ha)

I wandered quite a bit that evening as days were really long and Kaunas wasn’t huge…later I found it was bigger than it appeared. I also checked out some street art in the city loving that the map had the good ones listed and show on the map. The city was giving me a very good vibe, that and my bib number was 111.

My shakeout run I kept short but not all was flat…hum and I tried to explore while avoiding what I thought was the race route. I did pass by the finish area and noticed a Nike pop up store so I checked it out and was happy to find the current campaign branding ¨GO KAUNAS¨for the new Nike Epic React shoes….made me happy to see this and the local bit. The rest of the night was, pasta, calling my dad for his birthday, preparing race day stuff and rest.

Race day was expected to be warm…turns out it was 30C+ degrees outside (high 80s) for the race, yeah!

Race Day Start

I walked into the old town from the house, loving the early am views. They had a nice but simple setup for the race. Bag check with changing rooms, toilets and showers, massage area, inscriptions last minute, stage, trophies displayed (unique, they are feet) and a cool finish/start line bridge. I spent my time taking in the old town views and stretching.

The 21km and 42km participants lined up together to start first then about 1 hour later the 10km participants would start. I lined up toward the front but not all the way as I wasn´t interested in time and well it wasn´t a huge group of us so I felt almost forced up front but I let the serious people slide past. There was a countdown and we were off to do the first loop. About a km out I realized I forgot my salt pills and thought bummer the route doesn´t pass the house…lol…I am gonna need something…I guess I will have to take a bet with the local Isotonic drink that I have never heard of before.  Luckily my thoughts didn´t remain on this detail as we continued along the main road, passing the basketball stadium (a little island), then out to nowhere land for a long chunk. Out here I met a local guy, in a dress and sombrero, who was also running the 42km and liked my pace. He asked what time I was going for, I let him decide and said yeah sure somewhere around there. I passed him and entered the bike path along the river…ahh shade and some breeze…the day was young but it was warm already. The bike path ended and we continued back onto the main road, basketball island ha ha etc (which I loved because it was a small hill with a roof (aka parking garage) so it was nice and cool here. Wrapping into old town I saw the 10km race lining up on the main road just outside of old town as we entered the cobble stone streets for a bit, passing the start line and through to the other side which was bike path again until the turn around on the road. This was a loop course so I noticed about 5 women out ahead and was thinking…how many are 21km…? Not important really, but kind of…lol. As I looped through old town and the start line again I tried to see if any women had finish…not a soul it appeared. Any who onward we went because well we had another loop…lol

This second loop was pretty solo, I could only see a few runners up ahead, everyone was spread out because only the last of the 10km runners were still out running and the rest was 42km crazies like me. This loop along the main road I saw a digital read of the temperature at 31C degrees and was like, hot! I found myself passing a female and was like now don´t let her pass you…lol..I was feeling good about my pace though so that worry left calmly. Headed back to the bike path around km 28/29 I took a small sip of the isotonic drink because well I was testing it, it was new, it was needed but I later found myself drinking it all down….later to be a pain in my side…. Passing old town again….I knew I was happy to know I was on the final part of the loop, yeah!!! but that new substance caught up with me around 32km, right after old town, and I couldn´t get rid of the side pain by slowing down so I walked a bit (after passing a group cheering because I mean…uh). I picked back up after a bit but again was hit with the side stitch and knew I had to get rid of it so I could finish at least the last few kms strong. After the turn around (36km maybe) I walked it off and I was back up to speed again and charging to the finish! Yeah!

Crossing the finish line I received a hug and they took a photo and I was like cool…then continued for my medal, water, etc. I got my bag, changed, wandered around taking photos then lined up for a massage. I was there about 30 minutes when I hear my name and was like what??? My day of Lithuanian caught nothing they said! I asked a guy in line what they were saying as I heard my name called. He said, ¨you won something, you got to go get your medal¨; me ¨ok, but where?¨, he stands up and points to the other side of the finish, ¨the stage!¨. I look at him like he is crazy, I just finished a marathon and you want be to go up and down the stairs of the start/finish line!!! Finally I make my way over the bridge, to my delight, not a single stair hurt!!!! Impressed, this has never happened, stairs have always hurt after 42km! What? Awesomenesss!!!!

Anyway, when I get to the stage I see the men winners on podium. They come down and a band jump on stage. I tell the staff I heard my name called. They give me a form to fill out with my information and then hand me a trophy. I am like super distracted by the trophy that I instantly go take photos with it ja ja because it is so unexpected and well I just won a trophy for 3rd place!!!!

I come to my senses a bit and am like wait, is this all I won? I return to the staff and ask if there is anything else and they hand me a bunch of bags! I am like ok, cool! Again distracted but I return because I had seen the men with checks and ask again, ¨did I win money?¨They say ¨yes, they will send it to you after. Did you fill out the form?¨, ¨Yes.¨ They let me double check and I basically frollic away.  LOL with out stopping from taking photos of the trophy. It is just too cool!

I return happily to the massage line. They tell me they are closing for lunch and they won´t make it to me before 😦 ….but….luckily someone recognizes that I had actually been in line before and they get me in for that last 30 minute massage :D! Excited about the whole ordeal and laughing that I finished 3rd and missed the podium photo I keep wandering the old town taking silly photos of the trophy and well old town. Many people see me doing this and come congratulate me and talk to me about it. I just couldn´t get over the trophy, it made my day a whole new world.

Was my bib number, 111, telling me something all along?

Eventually I do leave the finish area and old town but I spent a great deal of the day there. I didn´t make it far from there before I found lunch on the cute street I had walked in on in the morning as now everything was open and the atmosphere was exciting, filled with runners and people walking by tempting me with their ice cream!  I find a place to eat, grab my celebratory beer and decide to try some Escargot (snails) for the first time because, hum, why not! (…they were good by the way) After lunch I pass the donut shop (this town had quite a few…to me this abroad is rare that it is well baked or it´s not dunkin donuts) I´d seen the day before and promised myself I would return, so yeah, donuts!

Finally back at home I shower, rest, try to think about what I will do the next day, pack a bit, then eventually look for food again. At home I also look at what I won and get excited every time I translate a prize and understand what it is…lol…the best was the massage! I was like oh, yes, that I need! I write the place to see if tomorrow there is a time because well that is all I get before I move onto the next city…no response so I decide tomorrow I will go visit and ask as it is up the street (far up the street it turns out). I also am contacted by a local who sends me an article about the race and some link to photos where I appear, very nice people :D!

The race turns out to be the best plan possible and I expected nothing out of it. Not only did I finish 3rd overall female but I also improve my PR by nearly 2 minutes….imagine if I had not had side stitches…my time would have felt even more so deserved of 3rd place…ha ha. The winner was Russian, runner up was Ukranian, then me numbers behind but whatever. Makes me look forward to that 2nd place spot and the podium photo I am missing (still nothing about time pictured)…I would have made the photo so much better…all that happiness would have probably been too much for the photo. (I´ll share it so you imagine as well).

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This was my 7th marathon and I repeat, every race is a new experience different from any other. This was not the exception and again it leaves me knowing I have more in me still.

My next marathon will be early January, Cadbury Marathon. Look it up and just guess why I choose it…

Thoughts:

I live in Bogota, Colombia, at an elevation of 2600m (8530 ft) which helps for training for sure.

Something else about living in Latin America is the mindset. Most Runners run a local marathon, then those who travel want to go for Chicago, Berlin, NYC, Miami ,etc it is rare that someone thinks to do one elsewhere let alone Lithuania, so you can imagine what people thought when I told them this.

Maybe everyone thinks this. LOL

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