Sunday, 30 November 2008

Happiness is...

Just a quick post to let you know...I DID IT!

Official time - 5:16:21

Thank you so much. If it hadn't been for all of you I wouldn't be this deliriously happy right now. Or have so many aches and pains. But because of the aforementioned delerium happiness, I'm able to overlook that right now.

Race report to come in a couple of days.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008


Seeing as the next few days are going to be chock-full of craziness (more so than my usual), this is going to be my last post for the week. Promise. :)

Today I’m trying to focus on getting some work done.
Tomorrow, I will enjoy holiday festivities with old and new friends.
Friday, I will get my last run in and then meet Z at the airport.
Saturday, we’ll take the train to Florence and go to the expo to pick up my race packet.
Sunday, I’ll run the Florence marathon. And somewhere around the three and a half hour mark, I’ll officially turn 30.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I want to thank all of you.
Thank you for your encouragement, support, advice and humor.
Most of all, thank you for your friendship. It has meant more to me during this journey than you will ever know.

It’s a big weekend ahead. I hope I can control the jumble of nerves and excitement enough to get some rest. Only four more sleeps. I want to make them count.

I want to wish all Americans a safe and happy Thanksgiving and a wonderful weekend to everyone.

See you on the other side.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Get set...

You know what the best thing is about having a crappy taper and a mental meltdown over a short-lived injury? It’s allowed me to set aside a huge chunk of my ego, particularly the part which controls goal setting.

I’m not saying I no longer have a goal for this marathon. I do, but it really is down to the bare bones. It is what it should have always been. I want to finish, plain and simple. I don’t care what the clock says when I cross the finish line. Whether it says 4:55 or 5:55, it doesn’t diminish the fact that I will still have run 26.2 miles, a feat almost none of my real life acquaintances have ever entertained let alone attempted.

I will be a marathoner. I will be a birthday girl. I’ll be able to eat my weight in gelato with only a modicum of guilt. Life will be good.

But the simplification of my goal doesn’t mean I’ve thrown my race strategy out the window. On the contrary, it’s the glue holding my crazy ass together.

The Florence marathon provides pace leaders, a first for me in a race. The slowest pace group they have is for a 5 hour finish, which equates to an 11:27 per mile pace. This is the group I’m hanging with at the start and, hopefully, for the duration of the race. I’ve run nearly all my training runs on my own, but the idea of a pace group sounds wonderful to me. I won’t need to obsess about how fast I’m going. I’ll just keep up with the people around me, leaving me able to enjoy the scenery and soak up the experience since I won’t be looking at my watch every five seconds.

If at any point I feel like I can no longer keep up with the pace group and need a walk break, I will switch over to Plan B: run for 10 minutes and walk for 1. Being on my own, I’ll need to be able to cut down the marathon into smaller chunks, because if I think about the entire distance I have left to run I’ll just end up weeping. But since I’ll probably be too dehydrated to shed tears, it’ll look more like I’m dry heaving and that, while also being severely unattractive, is not conducive to running.

This strategy, though making me very dependent on my watch, will hopefully distract me from focusing in on the distance I have left—a possible spirit killer depending on where I am in the race.

Other incidentals in my race day preparations:
-Don’t drink truckloads of water within three hours of my bedtime on the night before the race in order to prevent me from waking up frequently during the night to relieve my bladder.
-Use the port-a-loos at least three times before the race starts. An empty bladder is a priority issue for me.
-Eat a good breakfast two hours before the race start. I don’t want to be running with a lead weight in my tummy as I have done on several of my training runs.
-Apply BodyGlide to any part of my body that has even the remotest chance of chafing.
-Pin emergency gummy bears supply to my pants/shorts. (I haven’t decided which to wear yet.)
-Remember how unbelievably fortunate I am to be hale and whole and have the opportunity to run in Italy.

Anything I’m forgetting?

Monday, 24 November 2008

On your mark...

I do believe I have officially quit my bitching. At least for today.

The groin is fine. By early yesterday evening the pain was gone and I was left feeling rather stupid about my overreaction. Ah well, can you blame me? Do me a favor and don’t answer that.

Anyhoo, things were so peachy with me today that I ended up getting my last long run, a short 8 miles, in this morning. Just in case, I opted to run in the nearby park rather than along the river. I had no pain. Nothing. Nada. In fact, I felt pretty good. *knock on wood*

There’s only one part of my body that has yet to fully recover. The left side of my hooha hasn’t known what’s hit it in the last twenty four hours with the frenzy of ice packs and muscle ointment. I’m hoping it’ll forgive me soon. With my luck though it won’t be until after the marathon.

Two more runs this week and then it’s game time. I’m trying to focus on my work but lately that’s been impossible. The excitement has set in and all I feel compelled to do is visit the race website to look at the course map, elevation chart and whatever photos they have posted.

Speaking of photos... Marcy, in response to your question, I don’t think I’ll be carrying my camera with me during the marathon. I’d love to since I’ve heard the views of the city during the first two miles are pretty spectacular, but I can’t chance losing or breaking my camera. I still have some research-related site visits post-marathon (if I ever get a response from the freaking Italian officials) and I can’t risk it. However, my sister, Camera Queen that she is, will be there, snapping photos and taking video like a maniac. I’m sure she’ll have plenty of stuff not featuring me that I can post after the race. Hope that’s consolation enough.

Okay, kiddies, I’m off to obsess about the race get some work done. Have a great week (a short one for my fellow Americans). Catch up with you later.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Stand down

Disregard the last post. Please.

Both the pain and my hysteria have subsided. I'm continuing with rest, ice (or frozen peas in my case) and ibuprofen as it's working pretty well.

Thanks for the comments and emails. Sorry I freaked you all out. This is why I shouldn't post on the weekends. My logical/rational thought filter only works Monday to Friday.

Why now?

Several of you have asked if I’m nervous and/or excited yet about the marathon. The answer: Oh hell yeah. Both actually. In large quantities.

The realization that I was going to be running a marathon soon first came on Friday. It intensified on Saturday when I rented and watched Spirit of the Marathon (thank you, iTunes). My anxiety sky rocketed that evening when I stood up from a chair and felt a pain in my left groin area. It’s all in your mind, I told myself, though I was careful for the rest of the night.

Sunday dawned. As I was slowly emerging from sleep, I stretched out my body as one does in the morning. The pain in my groin area was like a bucket of ice cold water. It was not a figment of my overactive imagination. It was real. Fuck.

No one was up yet in the Nerditorium, save for the cat, so, still dressed in my pjs, I gingerly made my way downstairs to the kitchen and grabbed a bag of peas from the freezer. Walking up and down the stairs was fine. It’s when I take a normal or long stride or when I turn my leg out to the side a bit that the pain emerges.

I crawled back into bed, slapped the peas on my groin and tried not to freak out. I was unsuccessful.

Today was supposed to be my last long run, at least 8 miles. That’s not happening. Missing it is the piece de resistance on possibly the worst taper ever in the history of running. The week before when I was in Siena, I totaled a whopping 2 miles for the week. Two. Due. Dos. That’s it. My mind was focused on the conference and my paper, not running.

This past week, I did get in my short runs, but now it’s been two weeks without a long run. That’s not good. Now I feel like even if all is well with my groin by race day, I’m not going to have the fitness I need to run the marathon. The longer I lay here with ice on my groin, the more conditioning I lose.

I know I’m panicking and I’m trying to stop, but I can’t. Faced with the prospect of not being able to run, I’ve realized how important this marathon is to me. I’ve put all this time and energy in just to see my efforts potentially wiped out by one stupid random moment. I mean, for christ’s sake, I was just standing up from a sitting position. I do that a hundred times every day! Why now? What did I do wrong?

Anger, frustration and fear are coursing through me right now in equal parts. I don’t know what to do. I’m afraid to even attempt to run right now in case I make it worse. All I can do is hope that resting and icing the area will do the trick.

If you have any advice, please leave a comment or drop me an email. I’m desperate.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Random Friday drivel

Get ready for the random brain farts that have been my thoughts for the past few days.

Yesterday I violated one of my own long held rules. I watched a Christmas movie before December. I know, it’s sick. I’m sorry. In my defense, it was National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and I was doing work while it was playing. Forgive me.

I came across this postcard when I was in Siena last week.

It reminded me a lot of the comments people have been making recently about post-marathon slumpage in running mileage. Runners beware. ;)

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been running mostly in the afternoons, because it’s warmer then. It appears all my years of acclimation to cold weather during my childhood in New England have gone straight to hell in a hand basket. I’m such a baby now when it comes to cold temperatures. I’m going to freeze my nerdy ass off when I’m back in NH next month for the holidays. Merda.

I have the best sister in the world. Z is missing out on Thanksgiving next week in order to fly to Rome. She leaves Thursday afternoon but won’t arrive in Rome until Friday morning. I owe her big time, especially since I will get the chance to celebrate Thanksgiving. For the first time in four years, I should add. I’ve been invited to dine at the American Nerditorium on Thursday. [Editor’s note: I’m staying at the British Nerditorium, hence no holiday fare here.] Good news: pumpkin pie, baby! Bad news is three-fold: (1) I’m going to be forced to talk shop on a holiday, (2) no family there, just a couple of friends and about a hundred strangers, and (3) I can’t overindulge because I don’t want to shoot my digestive system to hell three days before the marathon. Don’t worry though, the presence of pumpkin pie trumps everything.

Above my desk in my room, I have a homemade calendar on which I’ve been counting down the days to the marathon. [Editor’s note: 9 days!!!] One of the Nerditorium inmates residents commented that it looked like I was counting down the days I’ve been in prison. Seeing as all of us here at the Nerditorium have remarked at one point or another about how institutionalized we’ve become, it’s not too far off the mark.

Last night, I had dinner with friends across town. Afterwards, I had to walk a bit to get to the nearest bus stop. When I was about two blocks away, I saw my bus turning the corner and head towards my stop. The next bus could take up to 40 minutes and I didn’t want to wait that long so I ran full out, covering the distance including crossing four lanes of traffic, and made it to the bus before the doors closed. All without being winded. I couldn’t have done that a year ago. Thank you for reminding me how far I’ve come in such a short period of time, Merry. I had a smile on my face the rest of the way home.

All right, all right. I know the only reason most of you visited my blog today was to see who won the quiz. Well, here you go, you greedy bastards.

Answers to Wednesday’s quiz:
1) The little guys on Fraggle Rock were called Doozers. Sorry for the confusion, JoyRun!
2) B. Jem is apparently truly outrageous, though, according to the lyrics, her music is considered contagious. I think they misspoke and were actually referring to her nether regions though.
3) The blue dude in the ThunderCats was Panthro.
4) Morgan Freeman was on The Electric Company. To be honest, I didn’t realize this until a few years ago. I’m a bit slow obviously.
5) The Smurf villian was Gargamel and his cat was called Azrael.

The first commenter with all the correct answers was Turi. Yay Turi! The second winner for this quiz chosen by the random number generator was commenter #13.

That was Karen. Yay Karen! Both of you need to email me your snail mail addresses and I’ll send those Popeners out to you next week.

Concerning the quizzes, I still owe Viv a pop culture quiz (probably one relevant to this decade) and TheLooseMoose would like another one on Rome. Anyone else have any quiz requests that I may choose to ignore? There will probably only be three more quizzes before I leave Rome next month. [Editor’s note: So soon. *sniff*]

One more quiz-related note. Usually, I feel like I’m the one in the blogosphere who wears the TMI crown. However, Vanilla’s comment on Wednesday’s post has officially usurped my royal position.
“Interesting sidenote, when I have to take a dump I often announce that I'm going to take a Doozer.”
Well done, sir. Oh, and *gag*. [Editor's note: Scratch that. There is nothing Vanilla or I have said that could trump the TMI machine that is Mr. Glaven Q. Heisenberg. Sweet lord, man, you have no shame.]

Good luck to Ted, JoyRun and Marci who are running the Philly marathon on Sunday and anyone else I forgot who is also racing this weekend. I look forward to reading your triumphant race reports next week.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Diversionary tactics

Thanks for berating me in the last post, everyone. It helped. Seriously.

Moving’s quiz time again! I can hear the collective groans from here. I do so enjoy them.

Okay, the person with the most correct answers wins a postcard and a Popener. A second winner will be selected via the random number generator, so leave a comment anyways. There’s still a chance.

Now for the questions. I’m feeling a bit nostalgic, so bear with me.

1) In Fraggle Rock, there were these little people who built things and looked a bit like Bob the Builder. What were they called?

2) According to the show’s theme song, Jem was

(a) truly courageous
(b) truly outrageous
(c) truly contagious
(d) truly skanktastic

3) Even though as a youngin I aspired to be Cheetara, this guy was actually my favorite ThunderCat.

What is his name?

4) Which Academy Award winning actor starred in PBS’ The Electric Company?

5) Name the villian in the Smurfs.

Bonus: What is his cat’s name?

Leave your answers in the comments of this post by 5 pm EST on Thursday, November 20. I’ll announce the winners on Friday.

Happy quizzing, everyone.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Dear RBFs

Okay, so there's 12 days till the Florence marathon and I haven't felt like running much lately. In fact, the only thing I have felt like doing is crawling into bed and sleeping for about a month. Like Ted, I seem to have lost some of my motivation. Bottom line: this is not good.

So, to try to get back in the running spirit, I thought I would focus on race day preparations. Here's where you marathoners come in. Basically, I want to know everything. What are your pre and post races do's and don'ts? What do you wish you had known/done prior to running your first marathon? Did you ever suffer from a lack of motivation before the race? If so, how did you conquer it? Also, how on god's green earth do you all survive marathon training with actual jobs?! Except for deadlines, I pretty much set my own daily work schedule and I haven't been able to balance things well at all. At least not well enough to not feel run down and cranky all the time.

While I await your words of wisdom, I'm going to try to get some work done while also searching for a pirated copy of Spirit of the Marathon on the web. That might get me excited to run again.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Back to normal ... sort of

Oops. It seems I neglected to tell you all I would be out of town for a bit. Eh, my memory is total shite nowadays, so this doesn’t surprise me. I can barely remember what day of the week it is anymore.

For three and a half days I was in Siena. Well, I stayed in Siena, but I spent most of my time in a former monastery about twenty minutes outside the town.

I brought all my running gear with me, determined to get a run in since I hadn’t hit the pavement since Sunday. Finally, on the morning of the last day of the conference, I crawled my sorry self out of my warm bed and actually managed to get a short two mile run in.

The streets of Siena are entirely paved with stone (though there the slabs are much broader than the ones in Rome), so I’m glad I made it a short run as my knees were twinging towards the end. I ran from my accommodation near the church of Santa Maria dei Servi to the Campo, running six laps around the piazza before returning home. It was a beautiful cool morning and I had the area almost totally to myself except for a woman walking her dog. Oh, and the ten-person garbage crew cleaning up the remnants of Friday night’s revelry. At least I provided them some entertainment.

Here are some photos of Siena and the monastery. Enjoy.

early morning view from my bathroom window

Torre del Mangia

Palazzo Pubblico

Santa Maria dei Servi

Palazzo Salimbeni

monastery's main courtyard

view from the entrance of the monastery

one of the monastery buildings

olive picking time

view of the countryside from the monastery's gardens

In Friday’s mini-post, I was a bit pre-mature with stating that my colon was no longer angry with me. Apparently that was just a temporary cease-fire agreement. The battle continues with my colon using explosives-fuelled gorilla guerrilla tactics [Editor's note: Thanks Razz.] and me retaliating with chemical weapons. Peace talks do not seem likely. This does not bode well for marathon day.

Hope you all have a great week. Catch up with you when I can.

P.S. – Out of curiosity, is anyone a master at Photoshop and have some spare time on their hands? If so, could you contact me via email? I have a request to make of you for which I will of course provide compensation.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Still not back to normal

Bullet point fun!
  • Still not in Rome
  • Haven't run in five days
  • Guess I've started my taper early
  • Will try to run tomorrow AM
  • My right hip hurts
  • My quads are sore
  • Finally eating and sleeping well again
  • My colon is no longer angry with me
  • Will have pretty pics to post on Monday
Have a great weekend everyone!

Monday, 10 November 2008

Give me a break or at least a Kit Kat bar

Why my 20-miler on Sunday sucked patootie:
  • My hips felt tight as of mile 1.5.
  • Forced to prairie dog it for six miles until I could find a toilet. (You were just dying to know this, weren’t you?)
  • Twits kept stopping me to ask for directions.
  • My sunglasses are worthless and made me almost completely blind when the sun shined directly on me. Not good for foot placement on crappy, uneven pavement.
  • Dropped one of my gummy bears on the street. In my head, I thought, “Gummy bear is down. Repeat, gummy bear is down!” Sad it will not get to experience the journey that is my g.i. tract and have the chance to rocket out my pooper like his buddies. R.I.P., little guy.
  • My knees felt the need to remind me why running on stone paving is not to their liking.
  • The inside of my left foot ached on and off throughout the run.
  • Two bathroom stops again. I have the bladder of a senior citizen. :(
  • Unbelievable amounts of bird poop along the river for the last 2.5 miles. There was so much of it, I could taste it. It was disgusting. I’m sure I’ve contracted something horrible from it too. F*cking pigeons.
  • The damn run took me 4:10:15 to complete. That’s an average pace of 12:31. F*cking ex-boyfriend WILL NOT leave me alone.
  • F*cking hill I had to climb and then descend after my run to get home.
  • F*cking stairs in the Nerditorium. Why did they have to put me on the fourth floor?
  • Post-run headache to end all headaches. This happened after my last 20-miler too. What am I doing wrong?
Having gotten all of that out of my system, I can admit that the suckage was all my fault. If I hadn’t skipped out on the 16-miler last weekend, this one probably wouldn’t have hit me so hard. That’ll teach me.

In the last post, a lot of you assumed that this was my last long run. Well, it’s not. According to my Smart Coach schedule, I have another 20 miler next weekend (my third one. god help me), then an 8-miler the weekend after and then the race. Is this all right, do you think? I’ve taken a look at other marathon training plans and they all seem to start tapering three weeks rather than two weeks ahead of race day. Should I follow the flock and do the same or stick to my two-week taper?

This week is going to be a busy one for me, so I won’t be around much. I’ll try to post again by Friday, but no promises. Try not to feel too neglected. Things should be back to normal (whatever that is) by next week.

To entertain you while I’m otherwise engaged, here’s some fun stuff for you to watch/stare at.

This video is a highlights reel of Ironman Kona 2008. I have no desire to pursue triathlons, mostly because I can’t swim my way out of a paper bag (what?), but I have a lot of admiration for those who do. Watching this video is really motivating and also puts my training into perspective. Hell, if these people can survive swimming, biking and running for the better part of a day, I sure as hell can run a measly marathon. I found this video on Paul’s blog. Paul completed this year’s Ironman and lived to tell the tale. A much belated congrats to you, Paul. And thanks for not minding (I hope) that I hijacked the video for my own post.

And for the ladies, here’s a photo from a forward one of my cousins emailed me. I’m not overly fond of the amount of forwards I get every day from people, but I didn’t mind one bit about getting this in my inbox (not a euphemism). Enjoy.

Who’s gotta quarter I can borrow?

Okay, folks, that’s it for me. Have a great week. I’ll catch up with you all when I can.

Friday, 7 November 2008

A winner ... and another winner

Finally got a run in on Thursday. Not the distance or the type it should have been, but at least I did something. It’s frustrating. I just can’t seem to shake the fatigue lately. It doesn’t help that work is stressing me out (next week is a big week for me...gulp!) and time is passing a lot faster than it normally does. Damn deadlines. So I’m grumpy, bloated, brain-dead and just want to sleep for about a week. How the hell I’m supposed to get a 20-miler in this weekend is beyond me, but I can’t skip it since I missed out on last weekend’s 16 mile LSD and I really don’t think starting my taper three weeks earlier than scheduled is a good thing.

Oh yeah, then there’s the marathon. 23 days left? Holy. Crap. Thankfully, I’m in total work-mode, so I’m completely unable to worry about that until next weekend. Then it’ll be all hands on deck on the good ship SS WTF HAVE I DONE?!.

Enough of my bitching. Here are the answers to Wednesday’s quiz:

1) The pyramid is the tomb of Gaius Cestius which was built in the late 1st century BC.

2) The 2nd century AD Greek physician who wrote a treatise on gynecology was in fact Soranus. No, I didn’t make it up. Soranus is tied with Pupienus as my favorite name from antiquity.

3) The answer is A, satyr and nymph, though I can see how it could easily be confused for D.

4) The name of Indy’s secretary was Irene. The only reason I know this is because I took an Indiana Jones movie quiz a few years ago and this question stumped me completely. Now I will never forget it.

5) The esteemed Laurence Olivier played Zeus in Clash of the Titans. Burgess Meredith played a character called Ammon, Harry Hamlin played Perseus and Brian Blessed wasn’t in the film at all.

6) The answer was E. Troy had some great actors, but the script was complete crap. You shouldn’t mess too much with a story like that. It’s endured millennia for a reason—it’s that good.

So, who won? That would be the lovely Brooke, of course. She got every answer spot on. Yay Brooke! Email me your snail mail addy and I’ll get your prize out to you soon.

Realizing the game had already been won, most of you didn’t attempt the quiz at all. This saddened me. Since I’m feeling overly giving and also a bit bad that so many of you are getting shafted, I decided to have a second prize winner chosen by the random number generator. The lucky number was 4. Commenter #4 was erm....well me actually. Crap, that’s not going to work. Let me try that again.... Okay, the winner is lucky number 7.

Commenter #7 was Viper. (Editor’s note: WHAT?! Sorry Marcy.) All right, lush, email me your mailing address too.

Brooke, Viper, soon you will be reveling in Popener ownership. It’s an amazing day for both of you, I know.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Post-election stupor

Oy. I stayed up too late reading election news and then got up early this morning to see the results and have an IM chat with Ellen before she finally crashed. She had to stay up and cover the election for work. You rock, El! Enjoy your much deserved snooze, buddy.

So basically I haven’t been running. Since I don’t have much to’s QUIZ TIME again! I bet you’re all excited yet frightened by what’s ahead, aren’t you? I would be if I were you.

Okay, the rules: first one with the most correct answers wins a postcard and a Popener. If my questions suck (as they tend to do) then I’ll use the random number generator again to choose a winner. I know some of you don’t like the second option seeing as you put a lot of time into your answers and comments and then I basically throw all that in the toilet when I randomly choose a winner. Well, tough cookies. Just think of this like the election—a potentially random choice as the result of a broken system. (Editor's note: Sorry, I’m just a wee bit tired of having to explain the electoral college ad nauseum to non-US people. Though I’m sure having to explain it to Americans is just as bad.)

Having now berated you, I actually will follow my own rules this time and go with the person with the most correct answers. Unless one of you convinces me otherwise. :)

All right, let’s get to it!

1) There’s an ancient pyramid in Rome. Here’s a picture of it.

What was the pyramid used for? (Hint: It’s the same as for the ones in Egypt.)

2) There was a second century AD Greek physician who wrote a treatise on gynecology. What was his name?
(a) Aristotle
(b) Soranus
(c) Zorba
(d) Dr. Spock

3) Check out this sculpture.

What does it depict?
(a) a satyr and a nymph
(b) a Republican and a Democrat
(c) a priest and a nun
(d) Mrs. Nitmos trying to get away from Nitmos’ post-race spooning.
(Hint: The answer is A no matter how much we all think it should be otherwise.)

4) In the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indy goes to his office and is swamped by his students. His harried secretary tells him he has a stack of papers to grade. What is the secretary’s name?

5) Which actor played Zeus in the film Clash of the Titans?
(a) Burgess Meredith
(b) Harry Hamlin
(c) Laurence Olivier
(d) Brian Blessed

6) Why did the movie Troy suck balls?
(a) They omitted the Gods from the story.
(b) Brad Pitt can’t maintain a consistent accent throughout the entire film. (To be fair, an ancient Greek wouldn’t have had an English accent anyway.)
(c) They glossed over the fact Achilles had a homosexual relationship with his buddy Patroclus by making the latter his young cousin in the film.
(d) Not enough screen time was devoted to a shirtless Hector (played by the wonderful Eric Bana)
(e) All of the above and then some.
(Hint: The answer to this question is E. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot and choose something else if you don’t agree with my assessment. Feel free to include your own film commentary in the comments if it makes you feel better.)

Okay, type your answers in the comments of this post before 5 pm EST on Thursday, November 6. I’ll announce the winner on Friday.

Have fun, kiddies.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Race Report: La Corsa dei Santi

It was kismet. Stepping off the bus outside the Nerditorium, I turned and saw the advert plastered on the side of the departing bus. Seeing the runner's silhouette, I quickly memorized the words on the advert and googled them when I got back to my room. It was indeed a race. I of course signed up for it immediately.

La Corsa dei Santi (the race of the saints) was taking place on All Saints Day (duh!), starting and ending at St. Peter’s. The event was actually composed of two races, a competitive 10.5K and a non-competitive 4K fun run. I was ineligible to sign up for the 10.5K because I'm not a member of an Italian running club, so I signed up for the 4K.

St. Peter's

As with most things in Italy, I should have known things weren’t going to be straightforward. Waking up bright and early on Saturday, I ate a good breakfast and then headed out to catch the tram. I waited nervously for fifteen minutes at the stop, but then the tram came and I was on my way. Well, I thought I was until five minutes later when the conductor stopped on the Via Flaminia and told us all to get out. He spoke too quickly for me to understand, but I found out later why the tram wasn’t completing its usual route—I would soon be running through part of its regular course. Stupid me for not thinking of this earlier.

There was still twenty minutes before the competitive race started, so I made my way on foot. Halfway there, I realized I needed to pick up the pace, so I started running, soon almost flat out in fear of not making it to the starting line on time. I stopped briefly in front of Castel Sant’Angelo to pin my bib on and then ran towards one of the guarded barriers leading up to St Peter’s. Weaving my way through the crowds, I pointed animatedly to my bib and said 'per favore' (please) to security who kindly let me through. Then I had to book it down the street and around a block before I reached the start area.

By now I had to pee like crazy. Luckily there were four port-a-loos available with absolutely no queue. Yes, you read that right. No queue. Maybe this comes of having a race in Vatican City. I don’t really care about the why, I’m just glad I didn’t have to wait.

Queue-less port-a-loos

I was in, out and at the start line before the competitive race started. Once those runners were well clear of the start line, my group shuffled forward and awaited our start.

Waiting for the gun to go off

It was quite funny being in a race situation but having everyone speaking Italian. It gave me a little taste of what the marathon will be like. I was surrounded by men, women, teenagers, and youngins. There were a couple hundred of us and I was somewhere in the middle when we took off, so I was slowed down a lot in the beginning. Apparently it’s a universal that all walkers, regardless of nationality, will start at the front of the pack when they should be in the back.

The race felt like it took forever but then in a blink of an eye we were running back towards St. Peter’s. For most of the race I had kept a woman in my sights, hoping to pass her near the end, but right when I caught up to her in the home stretch she pulled out her finishing kick and left me in the dust. Eh, I tried.

I did end up passing another woman who reminded me very much of my sister. When we were about 50 meters away from the finish, we got passed by the winner of the competitive race. She said something to me then and although I didn’t catch the exact words I understood her meaning and laughed along with her. We both felt extraordinarily slow right then.

I didn't achieve my race goal of a sub-25 minute time. My final time (thank you, trusty wristwatch) was 25:20 (10:08 pace). I blame the walkers, my pre-race sprinting and my 7 mile tempo run on the previous day for my slower than desired time. Yeah, that sounds good. It doesn't really matter anyway since it's automatically a PR. Yay for running a new race distance!

I must say, I adore the Italians because they don't totally screw me over on race swag like the English do. For the measly €5 ($7) entrance fee I got a t-shirt, LiveStrong bracelet, a bottle of water, a bottle of Gatorade, a chocolate snack cake and my bib. Post-race, the wonderful volunteers handed me two bottles of water and three pre-packaged pastries.

Race goodie bag and contents

In England, I usually lay down £20 (the equivalent of $35+) and get a bottle of water and either a wrist band or, if I’m truly lucky, a race medal. I guess the race was so well supplied by the race sponsors they were handing out stuff to everybody after the race, even non-racers.

In this photo, you can see two little old ladies on the right who are obviously NOT racers being handed some goodies. It made me smile.

In non-racing news, I didn’t get in my 16 miler this weekend. There's still a chance I can squeeze it in today, but I’ve been feeling a bit blah (not sick, just not feeling up to much lately) and am also under deadline, so not sure if it’s going to happen.

To get at least some fresh air yesterday, I went to the park and rented a bike. I haven’t ridden a bike in years (spin class doesn't count). It was a nice blast from the past. It would have been better had it not been the weekend though as the place was crawling with tourists and families all enjoying the fine weather and blocking the paths as they are want to do. The children were the worst. The situation was aggravating enough that I once again contemplated getting my tubes tied. Eventually I calmed down and just wondered why more people didn’t use a more effective contraceptive method than pulling out.

On that strange note, I hope you all had fantastic weekends. I’ll catch up with you later.