Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Corro Ergo Sum

And that was the theme that the Rome Marathon organizers used... loosely translated to: I run, therefore I am. Cheesy, I know. But I like it.

Having had trouble breathing in a failed attempt at a long run two weeks earlier had me humbled and I consequently lowered my expectations for what was originally planned as a training run for B*ston. I managed to run a couple of times in Madrid, once in Barcelona and once in Venice. All four runs were completed sans breathing problems and this brought the sub-3:30 expectation back onto the table.

I had planned to do one last run before the big day, but the ten days in Europe was full of sightseeing and my feet saw a whole lot of work and me figured that it was not going to help any; I was just too tired on Friday. That was too bad as I was really looking forward to run in the circo massimo which happens to have what appears to be a .7 mile loop.

On Saturday, and as I was playing tour guide to my brother, I took him to the Vatican Museum, where I separated as I did not want to spend too much time on my tired legs. I waited for him outside; people watching... sitting down. Two hours later he came out. I took him to other sights while using public transportation as much as possible. I think I did a fairly good job of staying off my feet... on Saturday anyway.

Race day is here and I wake up a bit earlier than planned. I shower and have a banana. I don my ipod shuffle and head out the door just before 8 am. My brother and I make it to the starting control area with about half an hour to go. He was to run the 4k that was to start 15 minutes after mine. He wishes me good luck. I smile, hoping that luck does indeed help my lungs.

I sit on the curb right next to a 60ish woman. She asks me in Italian what I expect to run. I reply: three thirty. She wows. I smile. She expects to complete it in 4:30. I can only hope I will be in similar shape when I hit that age.

It's five minutes to go. I stand up and start getting mentally ready. I have packed three hammer-gels in the backside pocket of my shorts; they feel a bit heavy. This guy decides that he has to make his own porta-john out of an empty water bottle, even though there were four female runners in close proximity. Only in Europe.

The race starts and it only takes me about 30 seconds to cross the starting arch. I am right behind the 3:30 pacers and I intend to keep them close. The weight of the gels are pulling on my shorts. I reach behind and pull one and decide to leave the other two. We turn left around the monument to the unknown soldier. The road is paved with cobble stones. My breathing is cooperating. Right before the first Km marker I get bumped on my arm and my ipod comes out flying. I immediately stop and go back to pick it up. I almost get run over by two runners, one who looks really annoyed; I don't blame him. It costs me about 20 seconds. No matter, the 3:30 pacers are 'carrying' blue balloons so they easy to spot. I slowly reel them in before the 3rd Km. I am feeling good, yet a bit timid about the sub 3:30 goal. First 5K goes by in 24:35, with a few seconds banked. My confidence grows.

I get to the first aid station and I make sure I grab enough gatorade. I drop back a few seconds. This would repeat every time I would reach aid stations. Because it was a bit warm for a 'thon I used the soaked sponge provided at 7.5Km to cool my body by poring quite a bit of water on my head. The water soaked my top and bottom. I could feel my shorts ride up-and-down. I fear I will get chafing but I plod on. The plan is to ingest the gels at the 10, 20 and 30 Km marks. I reach the 10K mark in 24:51 (49:24).

I am still feeling good. I know once I go over the distance of my longest run (14 miles) I will feel even better. The course is fairly flat with a few inclines. I play with my gait from time to time to ensure I use different muscles. 15K, 24:32 (1:13:58)

The half way point would come in another 30:31 (1:44:29), or roughly 30 seconds faster than last year; and I feel stronger this year. I think I can break 3:29; all I need is a one second positive split or faster. Definitely doable. I can feel chafing around my wait, on my back... and right below my armpits; the chafing would only get worse.

The next segment would have me see something I never expected to see. I casually glance to the right and I see a female runner taking care of business... mind you it was not number one. I might have seen it all now. 25K, 19:00 (1:53:29)

I was slowly slowing down, but I stayed right behind the pacers. 30K, 25:13 (2:28:42)

It was getting harder and harder to keep pace with the pacers. I am holding on though. I hit the 20 mile mark and I know I only have a 10K to go. Alas, my legs start feeling heavier, and my quads are really tight. I just try to hold to pace as much as possible. I notice I am hardly bending my knees: the marathon shuffle. The 3:30 pacers drop me. I try to keep them in sight. I am really struggling. I think the culprit is all the walking I did sightseeing. I do the math as to what would happen if I slow down to 9 minute pace and I can live with a sub 3:35. It's a training run after all. Interestingly enough, the last seven Ks are the most scenic ones, together with the first two Ks.35K, 24:57 (2:53:39)

I reach 40K feeling really, really tired. The chafing only makes it worse. I now know that I will not run sub 3:30. 25:39 (3:19:18)

I make it to the final hill of the course, on a cobbled road, right by the Colosseum. I try to pick up speed by the legs are not responding. I know this last stretch as I pick up speed on the decline. I look at my watch and think that I may be able to break 3:30 after all. 600 meters to go and I hammer it as hard as i can. Too bad I am not a sprinter. I see the clock and it reads 3:30:30... I know it's over; I have not been able to break 3:30. I run the last stretch in 10:52 (3:30:10). I am not disappointed though. I am pleased. No discernible injuries. It was a succesful training run where I miss my goal by a mere 11 seconds.

Ciao Roma.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

How not to run long distance

Today's long run was supposed to be 'easier' than normal because it would take place during the LA Marathon. A friend of mine would provide fluids at predetermined mile markers. Even with the support, it was a total disaster. I planned on 18, and had to quit at 14 (17 mile marker). I jumped at the three mile mark and started running the first five miles at 7:35 pace; my breathing felt a bit out of sync, but I had hopes to continue at this pace for ten miles, ease up for five and speed up for the last three. My legs did not cooperate. I am not sure if it was the speed work on friday, or the upper respiratory infection I believe I have or just that I am not in shape to run long decently. My longest run during this cycle has been 14 but even those have not felt as 'hard' and I did not have trouble breathing as I did today.

This run does not predict a good result in two weeks, in the Rome marathon; it would be asinine to even attempt a sub-3:30, my original goal. Why sub 3:30? Because the three 'thons I have run in Italy have been sub 3:30 and I would hate to run slower than that, but at this point I have to accept I am not ready; I will take a 3:45, I am that desperate. Argh. Boston will have to be run at substantially slower than I had hoped. Hopefully by then I will be in able to run sub 3:21, but I may be setting myself up for disaster.

On another somewhat related note, there was an event that took place this morning; it was a relay for an LAPD SWAT member who recently became the first casualty since SWAT was created. I happened to catch up to them and as they were carrying a torch, and its fumes were causing me discomfort, I sped up a bit. Right before the 13 mile marker, there were about 50 (wo)men in blue standing right next to each other on the sidewalk. As the torch carrier was a few steps behind me, the (wo)men in blue all stood at attention and proceeded to salute the incoming relay member. This sight caused my skin to immediately get goose bumps. It was quite the sight.

Last week I actually had a good running week. I only ran 36 miles but they were relatively fast. I averaged 7:40 pace. Two of the runs left me quite pleased. One included a five-mile segment ran at 7:08 pace, the other had 3X4X400 with a 60 second standing rest between repeats and they averaged 91 seconds on what I consider a slow dirt track. Alas, today's run brought me back to reality. :-(

Tomorrow I am scheduled to fly to Madrid along with my brother. It will be difficult to run during the trip, but I will attempt to run a few times before the actual marathon. I don't want to bonk as badly as I did today. The moral of the story? Do your long runs... and... make sure they are long enough though. :-)