Rome Marathon Race Recap

Race #90
Marathon #7
International Marathon #1
Rome Marathon #1

The BQ hunt continues. I thought I would get that out of the way at the start. I got a whole lot closer though. That comes later. (This might be a long one with few pictures because the official pics won’t be up until tomorrow.)

To start, there were a couple things working against me. One, I did not get great sleep on Thursday and Friday night. (Saturday’s was great, thankfully.) Two, it was raining. There’s something about international races and rain for me. (Remember the 10k in Warwick back in 2011?) I was not happy about the rain prospects as Dad can attest to.

I came prepared though. With a plastic baggie around my phone, a trash bag over my head (with self-made holes for my head and arms) and an umbrella I was “ready” to head out. (Side note: a British guy in the hotel lobby saw my trash bag and asked the receptionist if they had something like that in the kitchen maybe.)

We left a little earlier than we could have but I didn’t mind that much. Having the Colosseum as a backdrop while waiting to start the race was too cool.

Me pre race

Dad and I parted with about 40ish minutes to go before the start. I hated having to give him my umbrella but since I need that after this trip it was then or never.

Getting through the small opening in the gate was ridiculous. Everyone was all smushed up against each other, literally, and quite comfortable with pushing and shoving each other. At one point I said “Oh. My. Word.” The lady in front of me turned around and nodded in agreement. She said something in English back which I can’t remember, just the fact that I happened to be right behind an English speaker.

After another trip to the portopoties I made it up to corral B, the one just behind the elite and sub-seeded start. On the long-ish walk up to the start a whole bunch of guys were almost sprinting to get up there. It made me wonder just how close to the start it was. Thankfully I had about 8 minutes.

I ditched the trash bag around 3 minutes later and waited for the start. It’s an odd feeling standing there listening to the announcements but understanding not a word of them.

At 8:50 on the dot we were off and less than a minute later we crossed the start line. I started my playlist a few seconds before and once we were out of the starting area I could hear the song I had chose to start this off. It’s pretty heady to run past these amazing buildings in the heart of Rome listening to “I owned every second that this world could give. Saw so many places. The things that I did.” Yeah, I knew it would be a great way to start.

Going into this race I considered all that I had put on my plate and wondered if it was such a wise idea to have an ambitious goal in a place like this, if it would keep me from enjoying the sights. I think I made the right decision though. I’m not ready to run a marathon without an ambitious goal yet.

The first water stop was a near nightmare. This marathon stationed the water stops every 5k. If one planned well, this is just plenty. (The lack of more water stations is a frequent complaint on its marathonguide page.) I read one review that mentioned that these water stops offered bottles of water. I decided against my hand held and decided to take water at every stop and try out the water bottle. This was such a great decision. The bottle had an indentation at just the right point that made it feel almost like I was holding my hand held. The nightmare part came when I realized that they also had cups out and I had passed the bottles. I doubled back a few steps to grab one and got slammed into by a guy who so graciously helped himself to the bottle I was reaching for. Thankfully there was no lasting damage.

I’ve run big races before but have never had any collisions. In this race alone I had the above plus a guy hitting my arm with his own arm on the downswing, at least two people stepping on my feet/shoes and other guy putting his hand on my waist in a gentle motion that felt way too intimate. (He was just letting me know that he was next to me so that I wouldn’t run into him but still…)

Post water stop collision, my mind was not in a good place. My body felt great but I was struggling deeply mentally. As I am now several hours separated from that place I’m not really sure of what I was thinking but I do know that it had me seriously considering abandoning the fast pace and just jogging it in.

Instead of giving in to that voice I told myself to make it to the half-marathon point while still chasing an 8:10 pace before re-evaluating. I wasn’t too much of a fan of that idea but I’m glad I kept pushing.

Around 12km or 13 we entered the Vatican. Amazing. I knew it was something important from the sheer grandeur of the buildings but it wasn’t until I read the words on one of the buildings that mentioned “Pontifex” that I realized where we were. I felt a bit giddy realizing that I was running through the courtyard where people gather to see the Pope.

Once I got to the halfway point I actually felt pretty good and very thankful that I hadn’t given in to the negative thoughts earlier. It was about this point where a guy got my attention and while pointing to his hand said “Agua? Water?” I could not figure out what he wanted with the bottle I had just gotten at the last refreshment station so I just handed it to him. He took it, poured some in his hand and then threw it onto his face before handing the bottle back to me. After a quick “grazi!” he was off. Okay then.

I felt great through the next section even through mile 20. (I’m not sure what miles these were exactly because I was purposefully avoiding looking at the total distance on the Garmin and all I had to look at where the kilometer markings. I loved these by the way. It’s a much more manageable distance than a mile.)

When I took my last gel at mile 18 (I took them every six miles) I knew that would be my last one. It took way too long to get down and I knew it would take even longer at mile 24 if I tried.

At 32k, aka with 10k remaining, I decided that I would put the hammer down just a bit. I don’t think my pace improved that much but I might been riding a bit of a high because barely 2k later I hit the wall, hard.

My legs started hurting, really hurting. As soon as that started I flipped the Garmin screen to clock and ran to finish as strong as I could. I had already come to the realization that a BQ was probably out of the picture, not by much but by just enough that continuing to chase it would have been futile. I’d also already established a ranking of goals. From easiest to hardest: PR with a qualifying time for Chicago (sub 3:45), break the 3:40 barrier, qualify for Boston (sub 3:35) and the reach goal of 3:33.

I kept telling myself that I did not come to this race to do less than my best no matter how hard it felt or how much my legs hurt.

I also tried to keep counting down the kilometers. Soon, but not soon enough, we were at 7k to go. (I skipped the last water stop.) I never saw the 36km (6k to go) marker. I kept hoping to see it so I could stop telling myself less than 7k to go. It was such a relief to see 37km. Only 5km left. I can do this. I never saw the 39km marker either so was overjoyed to see 40km. Only 2 km to go!

Then came 41km. We turned onto a street that I recognized from last night’s dinner. We were so close! I looked at the time then and saw 3:38:xx and wondered if I had enough left to get under that finish line before the clock turned over to 3:40:xx.

I know it didn’t look like a sprint but it sure felt like one.
Mission accomplished
Screenshot 2015-03-22 14.15.01

Also…this is how I looked like at the end, a bit like a drowned rat
me just after finishing

Just like that I was done! Also, I was amazed at just how quickly (first step) it became incredibly difficult to move forward in any manner.

Since this post is already incredibly long I won’t go into details about the incredibly long walk back to the exit. I will mention the incredibly large and delicious Gatorade we received as well as a full goodie bag. Also, European men do not have the same sense of modesty as many other places. As we passed the left luggage trucks I happened to see several men that felt that out in public was the perfect place to strip down to their underwear and change. #wheninrome

When I made it to the exit I was thankful for two things. One, Dad was right there. Two, he’s fairly tall. I’m so glad I didn’t have to go looking for him.

We, slowly, back towards the Colosseum so I could get the post race picture I wanted.
me post race

And just for kicks, here are my splits. (No, I did not mean to rhyme.)
Screenshot 2015-03-22 14.03.36
Screenshot 2015-03-22 14.04.17

1 Comment

Filed under marathon, race recaps, running

Rome Marathon: PregameĀ 

“Going to a new level is scary even if workouts show if you are there. In races, be committed. Be brave. That’s where the PRs live.” –Greg McMillan via Twitter

I got chills when I first read that tweet last Tuesday. In less then 140 characters, Greg defined where I am before this race and gave me the motivation to really go for this coming Sunday.

I am going into this race better prepared than I have been for any of my other marathons with the possible exception of San Francisco. With Spinx I had no idea how to properly train for a marathon. I decided to run New River only eight weeks out. My long runs for Savannah were some of the worst I’ve ever had. (I ended up racing better than I expected but I still hit the wall hard to run mile 17 and 18.) training for San Francisco it really well but my body have not adjusted to higher mileage. Marine Corps Marathon got derailed by a last-minute injury. I also expected much more out of identical training to San Francisco. Twin Cities also almost got derailed by injury and ended up getting sent back a slight decrease in intensity to avoid a full-blown hamstring injury.

Two things strike me as I look back at the previous paragraph. One, it’s crazy that I run so many marathons it still feel a bit like a newbie. Two, it’s nearly impossible to have a perfect training cycle. Okay, there’s actually three observations. Three I’ve been dissatisfied with my performance in only one marathon, Marine Corps.

Bringing it back to Rome. 

I really want to qualify for Boston. Before starting this training cycle, I analyze my previous training so I can isolate when I needed to work on most. Two things jumped out at me: long runs in tempo runs. Both improvements oil down to one thing. I had to stop giving myself excuses. Unless I was dying there was no way I would and the tempo run or turn it into intervals. I would take that same mindset to long runs. 10 minute intervals at slightly faster than marathon pace at the end of an 18 miler are crazy; I can do them.

I kept finishing long runs incredibly pleased and amazed with my effort. I mentioned this feeling in nearly every weekly training recap.

Confidence boost came with Hilton Head. Without training specifically for the half, I meant and surpassed my goal feeling, comparatively, fresh as a daisy. I still can’t believe how good I felt after smashing my PR by four minutes when snagging and PR by only a few seconds in San Francisco last year left me feeling a bit like death warmed over. That’s when I realize just how effective those tempo runs have been.

That leaves me now facing the land of no excuses. I no longer have a training cycle between me and the big BQ attempt. I have no random injury or lackluster just meaning to give myself as an excuse come race day. 

I had a mantra for Hilton Head, “sub 140 or bust.” I didn’t lineup at the starting line to take it conservatively. Every time at home had that I felt like backing off I reminded myself of that mantra. That’s what I want for Rome. 

It’s time to be committed. It’s time to be brave. I want to be with the PRs live.

To make it even better, I making the One Republic song, “I Lived,” The first song on my marathon playlist. With lines like “I did it all./ I don’t every second/that this world could give/I saw so many places/the things that I did” and the Coliseum behind me, how could I ask for a better motivation?

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Rome Marathon Week 14 Training Recap

I find it absolutely crazy that the marathon is less than a week away. I’ve got a post coming up about that so I won’t say any more here. For the second week of a taper, the past week went pretty well.

Monday easy run
Running with Mom doesn’t always make for the easiest of easy runs. :) I like that. At a few points during this run my pace dropped and I have no idea why. It may be due to strong wind gusts or just not paying attention. Other than that this was a good run.

Tuesday tempo intervals
These intervals were difficult but not too much. I felt strong throughout and enjoyed the run.

Wednesday easy/recovery run
I felt surprisingly strong through this run, stronger than I usually feel. I purposefully didn’t look at my pace which ended up being a little slower than I expected but not too much.

Thursday stationary bike
This is a decent ride. I felt strong. Mom still got about half a mile farther than me. :-) Maybe after the marathon I can work on increasing my cycling speed.

Friday short, fast tempo
Thus tempo run was short but challenging. I really enjoyed it. I felt strong throughout.

Saturday long run with marathon pace finish
I didn’t feel quite as peppy that morning. Thanks to the rain I ran inside on the new treadmill which required a bit of adjustment. During the last 50 minutes at race pace I had to stop twice, once to refill my water bottle and once to catch my breath. The inside heat was getting to me. This wasn’t my favorite run but the last long run is done. Next stop? Rome!

Sunday rest
With plenty to get done before the trip, rest has not been a problem. Rest from exercise that is, of course.

Leave a comment

Filed under marathon, running

Rome Marathon Week 13 Training Recap

I can definitely tell that I’m at the end of a marathon training cycle. I’m still enjoying training but definitely thankful to be in the start of the taper.

Monday easy run
I felt a bit “creaky” when I first started this run but thankfully after about 10 minutes or so all the creaks were worked out. I got into a good rhythm and felt good for the rest of the run.

Tuesday race pace tempo run
This race pace tempo was definitely hard at the start. It took me about twenty minutes or so to get into it but once I did it didn’t feel quite as difficult. I’m glad it’s done. I hope that pace will feel a whole lot easier come March 22 since I’ll have to maintain it for 3 hours 35 minutes!

Wednesday easy/recovery run
This run was nice and easy as prescribed. It took a minute or two to warm up bit after that it was pretty easy.

Thursday stationary bike
This was a fairly unremarkable ride except for the fact that my left knee protests every time I sit up on the bike instead of leaning forward. (I have no idea what the actual names of the positions are.) Towards the end of the ride I like to alternate but I guess I’ll stop that now.

Friday intervals
This run went really well. The intervals were challenging but not too difficult.

Saturday long run
I had planned to try to get the long run done before work as is my preference. However three things worked against that. Our treadmill is still on the fritz My gym doesn’t open until 8. I didn’t feel comfortable or safe starting my run outside on my own in the dark before 5 in the morning. Instead I used the time to cross stuff off my to do list to make room for the run after work.
I am not a fan of afternoon runs. (Okay, that’s an understatement.) It was for the best though. What a temperature difference. It was almost too warm. With all the changes I wondered if I could get the long run in as prescribed. A difference between this wondering and wondering of the past is the fact that I did not give myself an out. Before this training cycle started I made it my goal to make the long runs a priority and not skimp on a single one. When it came time, 40 minutes in, to start picking up the pace, I did, no matter how difficult (mentally) it felt. Throughout the remaining 100 minutes I kept at it, 8 minutes at 8:10, 2 minutes easy. The hardest part of hitting that pace was the mental battle. Physically my legs were more than capable of executing this run and they cooperated quite brilliantly. Yet another successful long run in the books.

Sunday rest
When a lot of the day is take up with Italy trip planning (eek!) it is very to make sure to rest.

Leave a comment

Filed under marathon, running

The New York City Marathon Lottery

So, when I first wrote this post out longhand, the drawing for the NYCM lottery had just started. (Why it has to take all day is a question that will likely never be answered.) I entered, just like last year, not regretting the $11 it cost just to enter. (I also don’t regret the momentary panic that set in when I had to get a new credit card number due to fraud. Waiting for the new number was almost torture and yes, my NYRR account was the first thing I updated.)

I didn’t get in, as I figured.

New York is a bucket list marathon for me, a must do marathon, though not in the same way as Boston. (That goes almost without saying.) However, it is the largest marathon in the world. I have to be part of it some year.

Since NYRR decided to do away with the 3 (or 4…can’t remember) times rejected guaranteed spot option, it is highly likely that i could enter the lottery every year until I die and not get in. That doesn’t sound too appealing or promising. That got me thinking.

I took a look at the time qualification standards. Before Hilton Head these standards seemed completely unatainable. (3:13 for a marathon still seems a bit far fetched.) Yesterday I looked at the 1:32 half-marathon standard and knew instantly what I would do if (ie…when) I didn’t get in.

Crossing that 1:40:xx barrier made a low 1:30s half seem doable, if extremely hard. I had already decided to aim for a sub 1:35 at HHI next year. What’s an extra 3 minutes?

I don’t know how easy (probably not at all) it will be to reach that goal but I’m definitely going to try. How cool woudl it be to snag a time qualification entry for the NYCM?

Leave a comment

Filed under half marathon, marathon, running

Rome Marathon Week 12 Training Recap

Before I get into the break down of this past week’s training I did want to make a brief mention about the drop off of posting. I know that not that many people read this blog so I am obviously not posting for readership. However, at this point, my work schedule (and other life stuff) prevents me from crafting more than my weekly training post and the occasional race recap. I hope to soon get back to writing more but in the meantime, thanks for reading!

Monday easy run
I was not into this run when I first started. It felt really hard through most of the run, right up until I started the hard intervals at the end. Once I started those I got into the run and almost didn’t want to stop. I used my HRM for the first time on this run, finally. For a data nerd like me, this may or may not have been a good idea.

Tuesday tempo intervals
The first tempo interval was incredibly hard. I actually wondered if I would be able to make it through the rest of the work out. The crazy thing is that each successive interval seemed to get easier. By the end of the run I loved it.

Wednesday easy/recovery run
My legs were pretty tired when I started as expected on the third straight day of work. After a few minutes they warmed up and the rest of the time passed quickly.

Thursday stationary bike rest
The “snowpocalypse” kept me from getting to the gym in the morning for a bit of cross-training. It didn’t keep me from working a normal schedule but that’s another story. I’ve got to find some more stationary bike time somewhere.

Friday tempo run
This tempo pace was difficult at the start of the tempo portion but I was able to settle into it and get it done.

Saturday long run
I almost signed up for the GHS Half Marathon. It would have been easy to incorporate that into my long run…just tack a few miles on the front. As it was, I ran against the stream for the first couple miles listening to my new favorite running song, “Brave.” The first few miles were uneventful. I did start to feel a little sluggish around mile 6 but once we got over the slight hill I was able to settle back into a good rhythm. After splitting off from Mom I almost ran twenty minutes too much thanks to my inability to do any sort of mental computation while running. Thankfully I had enough time to figure it out. :) I really started to feel all the work I’ve put in around mile 17 when the countdown started for real. I wondered how I was going to do the mild pick ups near the end but was determined to get them in. Long runs have been my focus this training plan. Once I got to those pick ups they were hard like I suspected but I kept pushing. Just after the third I paused for a few seconds to skip ahead in my music to my new songs. I needed a little “Brave” to get me through. That seemed to do the trick. I was able to finish strong and run my longest ever marathon long run (by .2)! Three weeks until race day!

Sunday rest
There’s not much to be said about rest days so I’ll leave it there.

Leave a comment

Filed under marathon, running

Rome Marathon Week 11 Training Recap

All the weeks can’t be amazing. This past week wasn’t bad, it just lost a bit of the luster thanks to the weather and a lovely head cold that still persists.

Monday easy run
I felt okay through this run even though I did forget about the hill intervals near the end. Whoops. I’m beginning to get a bit concerned about my right hamstring. It was pretty tight throughout the run so I took it easy for the rest of the day, stretching and backing off from my daily hamstring exercises for a few days. Hopefully it’s just all the work I’ve put in lately.

Tuesday 30 min easy
I switched Wednesday and Tuesday’s workouts in the hopes that I’d be able to get something in with the ice preventing travel but woke up with a horrible sore throat. I ended up taking the entire day off.

Wednesday tempo run
I had to shorten the tempo by 5 minutes so I could get to work but I’m thankful the gym was open so I could get the workout in. I was a bit nervous (for nothing it seems) about my hamstring but everything went well and I loved pushing it.

Thursday stationary bike
This ride felt good but somehow I took it too easy in the first half of the ride? I checked the RPMs halfway through, discovered it was too low and kicked it up a notch. I still had to sprint at the end (and add an extra minute) just to get to 15. Sometimes the mileage I get on the bike baffles me.

Friday tempo intervals
These intervals were really, really hard but I absolutely loved them and felt great the whole way through.

Saturday long run
I can’t say that I loved this run. I struggled mentally for the first 7 or 8 miles, mainly due to the end stages of a head cold that I’ve been battling this week (so much coughing and sniffing). At that point I wondered how on earth I would finish the run with 50 minutes at an 8:10-15 pace and wondered if this would be the first long run of this cycle that I would have to modify. Thankfully after mile 8 things started looking up. I finally got into a rhythm and started to feel strong, strong enough that a downed tree (completely blocking the path but there was enough room to step off on one side and duck under) and a stray dog that started to run with me (seriously, one of my worst nightmares) couldn’t bring me down. Granted, my heart rate did spike a little with the dog encounter but that didn’t last long. Then came the last 50 minutes. I stepped up the pace and settled right into it. I could not believe how strong I felt running that pace at the end of a long run. All this work is paying off. I kept reminding myself of my goal to focus on the long runs and not slack off.
This may not have been my favorite long run of the cycle but it was still good. I’ll take that.

Sunday rest
I really love my Sunday rest days. There aren’t that many more ways I can say that. :)

Leave a comment

Filed under marathon, running