Monday, March 31, 2014

You simply have not lived until you've run downhill on cobblestones in the freezing rain. The 2014 Rome Marathon - Race Report

I woke up this morning with the alarm which means I'm back on Eastern Standard Time ... which is good. I was enjoying my first cup of coffee in a few days (food poisoning) and I was thinking back on the last week or so really taking a moment to think about how lucky I am.  Not trying to brag just taking a moment to count my blessings.

I just finished this amazing trip to Rome with my husband and friends. Ran a marathon a little faster than ever before. Came home to see my kids who had spent the week with the grandparents having a great time being spoiled rotten. Watched my in-laws perform in their senior variety show. Then came home and watched my 10 year old play Mozart in her first piano competition where she got a first place ("a" ... not "the" first place, all the kids in her group got first places so I don't know what it means but I'm still super proud).

I'm a pretty lucky lady. Now back to the race report. It's long. Sorry, not sorry.

My husband (not paying attention) and my training buddy Jim. All ready to fly to Italy. I wore this jacket the entire trip. I may never wear it again :-)
Packet Pickup
We arrived tired but excited on Friday afternoon. Dropped off our stuff had a small bite to eat in the rooftop restaurant and headed out for packet pickup. Interestingly and a bit confusingly the packet pickup was at Palazzo di Congressi nowhere near the actual race start/finish.  It's nestled in sort of a business park and we were in the cab all confused because it looked like there was  no way it could be the right place. I was the one with the printout with the address and everybody was looking at me saying, "are you sure?"

Which of course, I was not sure. I mean we're in Rome how in the world would I know? And then we turned a corner and saw all the inflatable arch stuff and regular race expo type stuff.

Sheesh ... relief.
The line to get in is on a red carpet marked with the kilometers and markers of the race. Fun.

Silly and fun. Plus free. At the actual Colosseum you can take a picture with gladiators but they want 5-10 or more euros for this pleasure. Here at the new balance booth ... gratis.

Packet pickup was fun. We bought shirts, dressed up as gladiators, dreamed of traveling to many more marathons and each got a pound of spaghetti in our packets :-)

Ideal weather conditions ... not so much
Part of the reason we took this trip without the kids is that it fell over my 11th wedding anniversary and a trip to Italy was part of our honeymoon that we never took because I got pregant. We hadn't wanted to travel there in March because the weather is iffy. Boy was that the right decision. But I had forgotten that apparently and was bummed to see the forecast. Also let me admit here I'm 40 years old and I still can't pack a suitcase for a cold weather trip. A coat would have been a great idea.

Unlike Florida weather forecasters who are almost always wrong these guys were on the money. Also there were 18km winds. Ick.

Saturday - shake out run
Saturday the weather was perfect. Cool and sunny. This was the most spectacular location for a shake out run ... ever. We took about 20 photos and were just generally all geeked out over where we were. We ran towards the start - around the coloseum and then back through circus maximus.
This is in front of the hotel getting our watches all happy. Of course the sun is shining and oh yes the columns across the street date from 100 bc. Crazy.

we were just giddy

so happy

the official picture

circus maximus where ben hur drove his chariot around in the movie. Now they use it as a park and it was where the festival for the 5k was the next day.

Race Day 

have you ever seen a bigger bib? It is no exaggeration wider than my shirt. Notice that my arm warmers while cute are too big they are already slipping down. My expression in the photo has to do with the fact that my husband has trouble operating a point and shoot camera. This was the second photo and yes it is out of focus. How is that possible there is one button and it's shiny? Push the shiny button honey.

rain on the camera. Walking to the race.

Waiting for the porta pottys. We saw a few Italian runners lubing up with olive oil. We have no idea what that was about. We talked about it for days. Since it was just a few guys we eventually decided it was just them and not an italian "thing"

This is the start line in our coral. Those cool trees are called umbrella pines. That's the Imperieal forum to the right of the start line. There was a statue of Cesar standing just to our right. Yes of course, Jim did the lines from Shakespeare.

This is how they separate the corals with that line of beefy Italian men. It worked.

I love this picture because Jim said, look up. And Doug did but into the sky. I don't know why that's so funny to me but it is.
It really rained hard right before the start. The start line even lost power for a few minutes which we only knew because they told us once it was back on.  I'll say here. They did all the announcements and everything in writing was in Italian and English. Sometimes things were confusing for a moment but a lot of runners in the race are from English speaking countries so they really do a great job of accommodating the non-Italians.

And go ...
There were 19k participants registered. I think some didn't show up due to the weather because only 14k finished but still. It was basically 1...2...3... go. It only took us 2 minutes to cross the start line from after the gun. Pretty fast. In comparison I think it's about 10 minutes at the Miami Marathon if you're in the 9th or 10th corral. And it wasn't too crazy although you had to pay a lot of attention because there were ponchos and discarded trash bags all over the ground and it was wet. But the rain stopped right for our start which was pretty great.

Cobblestones hurt your feet ... really ... a lot ... or perhaps I'm a wimp. 
Seriously my feet hurt in all kinds of weird places early like mile 5 from I think being bent over the cobblestones. Also, it's a much harder surface than asphalt so that creates pain in different places.
Right at the start you run by the Capitoline steps, church and museum. There was a huge marching band. The sun was shining, it was fantastic. We were really concentrating on not tripping on the wet cobblestones.

The course is laid out to pass all kinds of attractions.

Running by the old relics is a lot of fun. I read somewhere that this is considered the most beautiful marathon. I don't remember who said it but it's very pretty. Notice the ominous rain clouds.

I was taking a lot of photos. Notice this guy photo bombing :-) Nice job sir. Nice job.

Surrounded by such old things modern structures seem very cool.

we are running

This guy saw me taking photos and came over saying, "Selfie!" It might be my favorite photo of the race.
So, notice how he's wearing the race shirt. Here's a difference between US and European racers. It's totally normal and expected to wear your race shirt on race day. Many people had their names put on them at the expo. Where as in the states sometimes people think it's sort of bad juju to wear the shirt before you've finished the race.  It's also very common for groups to run in matching outfits for their team group. We see that in triathlons too but here it seemed more prevalent to me.
another marching band. I was clearly compelled to photo all the bands. Seriously there are about 5 pictures of other bands that I didn't even include.

I didn't see a single tutu on the course. There was a group running dressed as cows in full furry costumes. That had to be tough in the rain. And this guy running in a tutu and olive leave crown. Love it!

The water stops alternated with sponge stations. Both were seriously hazardous.
 We have a training partner who did the Paris Marathon a few years ago. He had told us that there they passed out full water bottles at the water stops. The first few in Rome also did that. The tops aren't even loosened. So we were expecting it. But it's a serious mess to dodge all the bottles dropped. The wet sponges are also no picnic. The ground is already wet and if you step on a wet sponge your foot is instantly soaked with icy water. Of course, I know this because eventually you step on one even if you're trying to dodge them. There was also a sort of buffet of food with the sponges I didn't stop to get any but I think it was food not gels. The later water stops were cups of water and gatorade. They were pretty understaffed. It didn't bother me because I just opened my bottle and they filled it up but if you had to wait for a cup it was a few seconds.

yes another band

This was a very pretty street by the river

so pretty we took 2 photos
 Okay so here you notice we are 2 runners not three. I started the pace out quickly as I said I would. Jim who is a faster runner than me likes to start a little slower so he was a minute or two behind us from about the 3rd mile.  This is the 16th kilometer you can see the flag behind us. A second after this I thought I saw Chrissie Wellington on the sidelines. It was just a flash but I told Doug but I wasn't sure so we didn't go back and harrass her or anything. Then later I saw this on twitter.

So she was there! And even more astounding I finished before her. Okay she was sick. But still I finished a marathon in front of a world champion ... that's fun. It was fun just to see her actually.

pretty pretty

Almost halfway!
Wet cobblestones. And cool Arch.
The coolest spot on the course
This is approaching St. Peters Basillica. That's Vatican City. It was the coolest thing I've ever run by in a race. You run right up to where they stage the seating for the Popes Speeches and then turn right and run around the square, by the wall surrounding Vatican City and under a gate. Truly breathtaking.

Jim caught us after the 1/2 way point. He has friends in Rome and they knew a runner running with a go pro. We were instructed to look for her. I totally blew that off because seriously, French woman in all blue with a go pro what are the chances. 19k runners. Of course Jim found her. So fun! She sped off shortly after this and finished ahead of us in about 4:15. Congrats Laurance!
Okay so speaking of Jim's friends in Rome. They walked with us to the start. They followed us on the course... in the rain cheering several times. It was fantastic. To have people cheering for you is crazy cool. I can't say enough how cool it was to have that on the course.
Selfie. I had told Doug I was stopping at the next porta potty. My stomach was acting up but still smiling.
 Nutrition ... stomach woes.
I have used the same nutriton in every Mararthon I've done. Water and gu every 40 minutes.And I always have to stop. So next marathon new plan because this isn't working. I can be slow to change apparently since it's taken me 14 years to decide this. I gave up about 5 minutes for this stop. Plus it was revolting. People do not stop to use porta pottys on the course for peeing. And afterwards it was hard to get back to the same pace unfortunately.
This is by the Olympic stadium. I was on my own now.

That sign says Avenue of the Americas or something like that. Seemed cool. Notice the lack of spectators. There were lots. Plenty. They were sort of in "pockets" But there were also just people out and about not paying any attention to the marathon.

Here you can seethat the smile is more forced. I was really trying to push because I was pretty sure I was going to miss 4:30 by a lot. I'm never right about these things.
Wardrobe Fail around mile 21.
I ordered those sparkly arm warmers and they were too big. Which stinks because they had measurments and instructions for sizing and they weren't a little too big but a lot. They wouldn't stay up. I kept them on for a while but then they got annoying and I tossed them to the side of the road. They were only $10 so I don't mind but I won't be buying any more team sparkle stuff unless I can try it on in advance. Actually probably not even then. The fabric didn't really breathe at all. Okay fine. I didn't like them. 

This is a 4:30 pacer.

Pacerunner who can't tell time freaking me out. I saw him go by and I hung on for dear life. He was running about an 8:45 pace. Which I know is not 4:30 but I got all freaked out because I figured maybe my watch was off or something.

Anyway  he stopped with his group at every water station which is one reason he had to go so fast I think. I would get ahead of him at these stops because I just grabbed and went. Also he was just insane because after about 20 minutes he passed me for good and I just let him go. I figured that meant I'd finish around 4:45 and I was bummed a little but also knew it was just what the day was for me because I had tried and just couldn't hold his pace.

It was a blessing to see him because it pushed me hard to speed up and when he dropped me at least I knew I had pushed hard toward the end. This made me really think about how valuable a friend or pacer pushing toward the end is. And I was missing my pals. 

Around this time I passed a race clock which said 3:45 which I was pretty sure was off from the power outage at the start since I thought I was way behind that. For some reason I couldn't find the elapsed time on my watch. However after a few minutes I figured hmmm. maybe it's right and I am actually faster than I think so I didn't give in. Also I was freezing and needed to finish this race.

This is a tunnel toward the end. At this point I was gassed but I knew it was about over. This is uphill inside the tunnel. There was a water and sponge stop. Everyone was walking but I jogged a bit because I really wanted to finish. It's also my final picture during the race. After this my battery died. There was a dj at the end of the tunnel with club music and a strobe light. I think they were actually supposed to be outside the tunnel but came in because of the rain.

Just after this tunnel where I had filled my bottle it leaked and was empty. Why I haven't thrown this peice of junk away before this is beyond me. It always annoys me. So in a moment of total road run rage I tossed it to the side with all my pent up frustration. Which is to say I threw it about 3 feet away in a total girly toss. But whatever. I was annoyed. Good bye arm warmers, good bye water bottle, I put the camera in my pouch and was all business till the finish.

Europeans can really run fast. Also ... don't fall.
Different from any other race I've done. I was passed by people the entire race. Usually toward the end there are zillions of walkers that I pass and I love that feeling. Not here. I was passed continuously through to the end. Just an observation. Lots of fast runners.

Running on cobblestones toward the end just stinks. The whole last few miles is up and down on uneven cobblestone roads. I seriously just kept thinking don't fall. I didn't see anyone wipe out but both Jim and Doug apparently did. So, I feel lucky. I won't run another cobblestone race anytime soon. ouch.

Maybe the best finish line ever.
Finally I saw the chariots on top of the museum of defense (I'm not sure that's what that building is but I think so) and I knew I was close. I quickened my stride a bit but not much because it was raining, of course, cold, and I was on winding cobblestone roads. But still coming back onto the Via dei Fori Imperiali (road of the Imperial Forum) seeing the ruins and the finishing arch was pretty spectacular and I just couldn't believe it when I saw the clock saying 4:31. I was thrilled. Super thrilled.

I got my space blanket and a super kind Italian opened it for me or I'd still be standing there shivering. I got my medal ... it's really rad. I found my friends in the crowd. Amazing. And I found my cheering crew including my husband ... more amazing. Plus, it stopped raining for a bit.

Here are my splits from the race results. 

Via Ostiense (5K)0:34:236,520:34:236,520:31:26
Via Ettore Rolli (10K)1:04:366,270:30:136,021:01:38
Lungotevere dei Sangallo (15K)1:34:586,190:30:226,041:32:01
Via della Giuliana (21.097K)2:11:546,150:36:566,032:08:57
Piazza Lauro De Bosis (25K)2:35:426,130:23:486,052:32:44
Viale della XVII Olimpiade (30K)3:10:506,210:35:087,013:07:53
Lungotevere Arnaldo da Brescia (35K)3:43:596,230:33:096,373:41:01
Via dei Fori Imperiali (FINISH)4:31:566,260:47:576,394:28:58

I can't quite figure out how to purchase the race photos yet. But if I do figure it out I'll post them up.

Long hobble back to the hotel followed by some seriously rad pizza.
Your legs are shot at the end of any marathon but I think due to the cobblestones my quads were extra fried this time. It wasn't the hilliest marathon I've done but I must have run with a different stride with the terrain. It was a painful hobble.

Accidentally we took the slightly longer route back to the hotel. We stayed at Hotel 47 which I recommend as a convenient hotel to the race.

It's only about 3/4 of a mile but with about 1/4 mile to go there was a torrential downpour and a strong icy wind. It totally sucked. But we made it and I took a seriously hot shower.

Then we met up downstairs and headed out for pizza. We lucked into a great cabbie who found us a local pizzeria that would serve us and had pizza and beer which was perfect. Just perfect.
The pizzeria is called Popi Popi and you can just see my pizza behind the giant beer which apparently seemed much more important at the time to take a photo of. It was the best pizza I had on the trip.

This is the next day we're getting ready for our Vatican catacombs tour. I'm sporting my medal.

Later that night we went to an Irish Sports bar and watched KU (my alma mater) lose a basketball game which was not the best result but still a great end to a great day (weather not included).

So that's it. 

It is the a huge long post but if you have any questions about the race ask away because I'm happy to answer. I do recommend this as a great travel race.

What's the farthest you've traveled to race?

What do you think is the most beautiful race course?

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