Marine Corps Marathon: The Orphans Shall Be Fed
After loosing three of my favorite testicles at Ironman Germany in July this year, not to mention having the 4th and 5th ones freeze on me during the bike portion, I became quite distraught and depressed. Sure, good testicles come and go, but bad performances linger forever. I didn't want my season to end with that bad taste in my mouth. The only way that I could think of to wash that bad taste out was to go back to my roots ... the marathon.
You see, orphans in Vietnam need to be fed and the only way that that would happen was if I was happy. My performance at the MCM had far and wide ramifications. It's not really about me, the humanitarian, the lover, and the all around good guy. It's really about the children ... the orphans.
For those who have not read any of my previous race reports, but are aware of the flavor that I put in my writings, please visit the entire series to understand why domesticated animals pee at the sight of me.
Chapter 1: Making Love to Buoys at the Luray Sprint
Chapter 2: Vietnamese Saigon Tango with a Naked Anna Kournikova at the IM Longhorn 70.3
Chapter 3: Plight of a Vertical Swimmer at the IM California 70.3
Chapter 4: Confessions of a Bike Pee-er at the IM Eagleman 70.3
Chapter 5: Ironman Florida - I Hear Voices (2009)
Chapter 6: Ironman Florida - Spirit of the Bricklayers (2010)
Chapter 7: Ironman Germany - What Happens When A Man's Nut Freezes?
Chapter 8: Marine Corps Marathon: The Orphans Shall Be Fed
If this race report seems long to you, it is not. You're just an orphan hater.
I ran my first marathon 10 years ago. I was so fast (4:43) that even Oprah chicked me. It took me another 3 marathons before I could crack the 4 hour barrier. I shed as much tears after that sub 4 hour day as the first, second, and third time that Britney Spears stated that she was a virgin.
I am what you would call a weekend warrior. I run for fun and I whine for entertainment. Now, I don't whine as much as a Redskins' fan, but I will give you that I do whine. I am after all, an esteemed member of the Vietnamese Royal family. Sure, I'm better than everyone else, but as I've said previously ... it's not about me, it's about the children ... the orphans.
I've always believed, with good reasons, that the dudes in my age group who qualify for Boston are those who's parents are first cousins. Ain't no way in hell anyone can run that fast and not have some kind of mutated genes. AIN'T NO FREAKEN WAY!!!!
My standalone marathon PR, when I was solely concentrating on running marathons for 5 straight months, was about 30 minutes slower than BQ. Yet somehow I'd convinced myself that I could BQ this year on 10 weeks of marathon specific training. You see, if Vietnamese thinking had logic, it wouldn't be Vietnamese thinking. Sure, being three testicles lighter obviously does help. How could it not? However, what really drove me was that lingering bad taste in my mouth from IM Germany.
I made it my goal for this MCM to BQ. A month after I publicly stated that goal on Facebook, the bastards at BAA changed the Boston Qualification standards to be 5 minutes faster. It's kind of like putting your relationship status on Facebook as "In a relationship" only to have to change it back to "single" a month later. Nobody wants that shame! Nobody deserves that shame!!!!!
My goal then changed to just hitting the old BQ standard this year. Perhaps hit the new standard next year?
In years past, I've always showed up at the start line like a Republican ... cold and heartless with no warm ups. The theory behind that was that I didn't want to waste any energy doing anything. The marathon is tough enough as is without having to waste energy doing silly stuff beforehand. The side effect of that was not really being able to hit my stride from mile 0.
I wanted to change that this year. You know ... je ne sais quoi it up a little bit. I consulted a few running friends who are a lot faster than I am. I inquired about their warm up routines. Their recommendation was to do a light 15 minutes jog before the start to warm up the muscles and body, so that's what I did. I arrived early and did a light jog from the Pentagon Metro station to the drop off tents, chilled with my DSG running group for a bit, and then did a light jog from the tents to my corral. The result was that I was quite loose and relaxed. I felt like I could execute my race plan from mile 0 instead of waiting for mile 5-6 like I usually do
I placed myself right behind all of the running Nazis and inbreds. I was right behind the 3:15 pacers and 10 yards from the 3:05 pacers. The goal was to let the 3:15 guys create a pocket of running room by moving the slower runners out of the way for me. Royalty after all, does not do manual labor. This was my plan for all of my previous marathons ... let the pacers do the work of moving the crowd at the beginning and run my race 5-6 miles later.
This was a great plan if you were in the back of the pack like I usually was. However, at the front of the line, there weren't much of a crowd to push away. They were all fast and they all knew the etiquette of not putting themselves in faster corrals. Except for a few assholes who thought that putting themselves in front of 3:05 - 3:15 runners even though they could only handle a 10 min mile was the proper thing to do, there weren't much issues with running real-estates. This was probably the first time that that has happened to me at any race.
That great plan to let the pacers lead kind of back fired a little bit. The 3:15 pacers that I was trying to draft off of averaged an 8:15 mile for the first two miles. That's a lot of time to be giving up when you are trying to average between 7:14-7:26 for 26.2. I didn't trust myself enough to give up that much time at the beginning and then having to make it up in the later miles, so I dropped them and forged ahead after the second mile marker. I have no idea why they were running that slow, but I supposed if my parents were brothers and sisters I would probably be doing the same thing ... but I'm not here to judge. I'm just here to run.
Most of my miles for the first 20 were in the 7-7:10 range. That was my plan. Run that pace and take my sweet little time by walking through all of the water stations to properly hydrate myself. Take time to take a gel every 4 miles, salt tablet every hour, and hydrate properly ... that was the plan and that plan was pretty well executed throughout the race.
At around mile 10, I saw my friend "the Suzuki." I know ... what kind of chick walks around calling herself "the Suzuki?" I mean, if I were to come up with a nickname for her, it sure as hell wouldn't be "the Suzuki." I'm telling you, that chick looked like she was having an orgasm cheering and yelling out my name. I didn't know Asian people behave like that out in public. Back in 'Nam they'd lashed your ass with a bamboo stick for stuff like that. She's probably the black sheep in her family anyway ... but again, I'm not here to judge. I'm just here to run.
At around mile 11 I saw a couple of folks from my DSG running group. I shaw Shell and her pink balloons, so I knew it was her. Isaac was also there with his camera. I decided to slow down/stop to do the do-si-do, a couple of twirls, run backwards a bit, and pose for pics. Not sure how much time I gave up doing that, but I would have peed on their doorsteps had that been the difference between BQing and not BQing. Why would anyone distract me and endanger my BQ goal like that? Freaken Vietnamese haters!
Coming out of the mall and onto the 14th Street bridge, I was still on pace. Well, of course I was ... I'm Royalty. The base of that bridge was the spot were the folks in my running group were gathering to support all of the DSG runners. I was so looking forward to that. For those of you who ran the race and saw the sign "The Bridge - Don't Pee On It!" ... yep that was from the DSG crew. We're classy, not trashy.
When I got there ... nada. Well, I did see Mel, but does that really count? I mean, her dog thinks that it's a squirrel. Seriously, if you are a dog and you squeak like a squirrel ... you're not doing yourself any favors in the presence of a Vietnamese. I'm just saying.
Anyway, I didn't see the DSG sign or Karin. She was tasked with being there with the sign, but I didn't see her. She was probably busy bailing her boyfriend out of jail, AGAIN!! At some point, she's got to stop dating felons. WOMEN, if your baby daddy is a felon, you've picked the wrong baby daddy. Again, I'm not here to judge ... I'm just saying!
Emotionally, I was distraught ... but not in the "my nuts are frozen" kind of way. The DSG crew weren't there when I was there in my times of need. However, I will say that they did look pretty darn happy on Facebook. Apparently, I came by the bridge a bit too early for them. WTF!?! Next year, I'm replacing Vietnamese Gatorade with Cambodian Gatorade for our group runs ... freaken bunch of Vietnamese haters!
I had a backup plan. One of the DSG runners, Pam, told me beforehand that my wickedly fast former running buddy, Jen, would be at the exit of the 14th Street Bridge. Jen was going to run with Pam to the end. I figured since I would get there earlier than Pam that I would steal Jen for a few minutes and get her to pace me for a mile or two. Needless to say, Jen too is a Vietnamese hater. She wasn't there when I got there. Again, emotionally distraught, I persevered. One does not inherit a throne. One earns it and that's what I proceeded to do.
Coming out of Crystal City and toward the finish line, I was spent ... physically, emotionally, and sexually. That stretch from the Pentagon to the finish line just sucks the Vietnamese out of you. I don't know how the Cambodians do it. Then again, they are Cambodians for a reason.
After Crystal City, it was desperate time. I resorted to what I do best. I found a chick who was running by and as we say in the cycling world ... I sucked the living daylights out of her wheels and hung on for dear life. A few times she looked like she wanted to drop back and let me do some of the pulling, but hell no! Vietnamese #1 doesn't pull. Poor girl didn't know that she had a world class wheel sucker on her tail. I sucked on her wheels all the way to the end.
Afterward, I walked up to her and said "thank you for pulling me to the finish." She gave me that incredulous look like she wanted to bitch slap the shit out of me. However, I knew and she knew that after pulling me for 4 miles that there was no way in hell that she had any strengths left to do that. Yep, I win!
Coming into the last few miles of the race, I was fearful of being caught by the pacers. Every time that I looked down at my Garmin, instead of telling me my pace, it said "hurry the fuck up!" and "pee on yourself. Don't stop at a port-a-john!" They sure as hell don't build Garmin 305s like they used to.
I got to the bottom of the Iwo Jima hill and looked up. In 5 prior MCMs, I had never been able to run up that hill. I was determined to do it this year. I went up about 5 yards and the engine just stalled. I knew the pacers were coming, but the VMW (Vietnamese BMW) engine wouldn't start. I knew that I was close to BQ time, but was afraid to find out how close. It didn't help that the damn freaken Garmin kept telling me to go pee on myself. I had nothing left in the tank. My mind was weak. For that one brief moment, I finally knew what it was like to be a Democrat.
I walked up the hill and began the slow jog to the end. As I approached the finish line, I took a quick peak at the clock time to my right and I kid you not ... it said 3:14:59. I stopped my Garmin. I showed it one of the Marines and asked him what it said. He said "3:14:47 sir." I told him ... "nope, read it again please. I believe it says BQ ;)". The Marine politely replied, "no sir, it says go pee on yourself."
[my official time was 3:14:31. I started my Garmin early and stopped it late]
I finished in 469th place out of 21,250 starters. My Ironman finish had a 13 in it. This one has a 69 in it. Somebody is trying to screw with Vietnamese #1. Well, the joke is on them. I'm a Vietnamese male. I'm like a cat ... I have 9 testicles. I'm unbreakable baby. American women may think that Vietnamese men are freaks, but we like to call it for what it is ... agent Orange.
I knew that my time was good enough to meet the old BQ standard, but not the new one. After the race a friend of mine sent me a link to the BAA's web page with the qualifications standard. I read it. You'd think I would read the entire thing ahead of time, but your thoughts would be wrong. It was the first time that I had actually read that page in its entirety. I read the fine prints. It said,
"The qualifying times below are based upon each athlete's age on the date of the Boston Marathon in which they are participating."
That quote may mean absolutely nothing to you ingrates, but that fine print was like a message from the heaven. It was like waking up to a naked Anna Kournikova all over again. It just so happens that I age up the next time that I'm able to register for Boston. Even with the new standard, I BQed by 29 seconds or -5:29 from the old standard. The MAN tried to screw me, but Vietnamese #1 had the last laugh. The balls have been set in motion. Yep, cousin Quang in Saigon is sending me an updated version of my birth certificate as we speak. Being born in Saigon is like a gift that keeps on giving.
It has taken me 10 years, 13 marathons, and 3 Ironmans to get to this point. It seems so unreal. When the season began, it was never my goal to BQ. BQ was for real runners and real athletes, not for a weekend warrior smuck like myself. Looking back, I am now so glad that I laid that egg at IM Germany. Without it, I wouldn't have had the motivations to go all fung shui on my marathon training. There would never have been this BQ. It's amazing sometimes how the journey of life takes you to a place where you least expect it.
Tuan Nguyen, Boston Qualifier ... so surreal, so unreal.
I didn't know that I had that kind of speed in me. Now that I do, a new world just opened up. I plan to go sub 3:10 next year. I'm now content. Yep, for Buddhist Christmas this year, the orphans in Hanoi shall be fed.
The orphans ... shall be fed.
Real Men BQ while running backward
Awesome accomplishment Tuan! I'm looking forward to toeing the starting line in Hopkinton with your 2013!
Started reading but then too much about testicles and balls, so I skipped to the end to read about your final time. Congrats on the PR and the BQ. I was right there with you in finishing in the DMZ that is the difference between the old and the new BQ times. Sadly, I just aged up last year so I have years to go before I can age up again, but that is definitely a useful piece of information to have.
Congratulations, Tuan on qualifying for Beantown. I am a bit offended in that I wasn't consulted as a running buddy who is a bit faster than you. Maybe I'll be able to toe the line with you in 2013.
Great report, Tuan. Unlike Bryan, I saw all of the writing about testicles and balls and was encouraged to read the whole thing. Twice.
You give some inspiration to me... My first marathong was also ~4:40 (though I didn't get chicked by Oprah, for the record) and I'm still a good ways away from BQ. I guess I need to follow your lead and start running faster.
Do you have any tips on how to run a BQ next weekend? Because I have 8 days to figure it out.
Advice? For the first ten miles run 10 seconds slower per mile than your goal pace. For miles 11-20 run on goal pace. Then, the last 10k just turn on the after burners and blow it away. This strategy worked for me several times and one instance I was able to whip off a sub-43:00 for the last 10k.
Of course, like any endurance race you need to have a back up plan to your back up plan. Going out too fast will make you hit the wall by mile 20. Godd luck in Philly!
My philosophy for BQing has always been to be a "little" aggressive in the first half. Inevitably you will slow down some over the last few miles. Just don't be too aggressive. At MCM, I went through the first half in 1:25 and then came home in 1:29. The other key is to hold onto your pace as long ad possible. Once you start slowly down, it is a downhill slide.
Good luck at Philly. I'll be up there too running the Half.
Can't argue with two fast studs like Hugh and Kevin. I went 1:35 first half and 1:39 the second half. My approach is a tad slower than marathon pace the first 2-3 miles, marathon pace the next 2-3, a bit more aggressive until 20, and let the dice roll where it may for the last 6.
Good luck Travis.