Thursday, December 17, 2009

2009 Reggio Emilia Marathon: a live experience

This post describes a live experience for the December 2009 Reggio Emilia Marathon and gives you insight of what it is really look like. Below you can find a translation from the original posting made here in Italian.

The first phone call I made after the withdrawal in the Florence marathon was with Germano, to explain what had happened. At the end of the call he reckoned "well no problem, we try again in Reggio Emilia in two weeks." At first I was very taken aback and genuinely thought I let his words fall on deaf ears. My desire was such that not even 24 hours after I had already enrolled into the Marathon of the Tricolor and booked the hotel.

The two weeks between the two events I've lived in a kind of athletic purgatory, at each exit of race I had very bad feeling and really do not know if I would open the gates of hell with another failure or bringing home a decent performance. Only in the last three days my legs have started to turn again at full throttle, I have done just a couple of specific works, but performed at moderate pace only. These were not the best conditions to appear on the start line!

I decided to share the Reggio Emilia marathon experience with three friends who have ran just “few” marathons: Roberto did 179, Claudio 85 and Leo 19. Between withdrawal chest expo, a walk to downtown Reggio and great pizza I found myself almost without realizing it in the hotel room to squeeze the bib on the vest. Sunday morning the meeting point was inside the sports hall, Expo headquarter and logistics center, an excellent solution, in line with a five stars event. I had heard from many people how great this Marathon was organized and I must admit that they were right. At the stand, I met and greet with pleasure my uncle Steve, aka Stefano Benfatti, the engine and soul of Traslaval. Then came the friends of Running Forum Jean and Carlo accompanied by Silvia. Also for them it will be a very busy day.
I changed my clothes and calmly await the departure time to warm up inside the stands. I decided not to make a real warming, I'm preparing with stretching exercises and joint mobility. Ten minutes from the start I go on the grid, have a word with ucle Steve who tells me that next year he will reach 100 marathons and look forward to racing on.

At the start, I run the first few miles alongside Jean and Carlo to keep warm, then gradually begin to overtake any athlete looking for a group that can travel at suitable pace. I find it, we are about a dozen and the pace is just over 3'50''/ km. The elevation of this race is pretty smooth, the first 17 km in a slight but continuous rise, although apparently flat. I'm in the group, I'm fine and I run loose. The pace is regular and managed by an athlete who seems to be running with easy. Although it seems to me to run below my normal pace, I want to avoid trouble and therefore I stay quiet. After the first 15 kilometers, I eat some integrators. Unfortunately, the refreshments seems little problematic, at the first one I took a bottle of sparkling water really too fizzy. Starting from the second onward I got only glasses that I partly poured on myself. At the 25th kilometer, I thought I was drinking tea, but instead it was an integrator with a crazy taste.

After km 17, the altitude becomes favorable, and this allows us to run under 3'50''/ km easily, in some moments I find myself leading the group. There was great cooperation between us. Completing half marathon in 1:21 '30”, I am still feeling well and start to be confident on the success of the race but I also know that they are only half-effort and the fun is yet to come. Shortly before the 25 km sing, we face a little but demanding slope, at this stage the group began to crumble. A couple of runners are leaving the pack while the majority still linger. I decide to continue with my past, the path is slightly wavy and begins a take and leave with other runners.

Shortly after the 28 km another tougher climb gives me some headhache, partly because of the cold wind bothering me. Something rises from the stomach, just in case I decide not to take the second integrator and soon thereafter everything comes normal. From km 30 I can still keep up the pace but starting from 35th I am starting to feel tired, I am still missing 7 kilometers till the end, the gesture is slightly up and I decided to slow the pace. My Nike Vomero that I decided to use in the race helps me in these situations cushioning support to the ground. After passing km 37 I face the fear because the left femoral artery starts to hurt. Since few miles we are entering the city, finally there is the public lining the streets cheering and got some more energy. I can even raise the pace, the goal is now at hand and I am sure by now that I will finish the race I hear the voice of the speaker, a few corners and there is the start-finish straight which passes while the display of the timing official and two seconds over the 2h43'.

I have done it. First marathon ended at last! I am happy and satisfied, yes, but strangely little excited. I did not get the feeling that instead thrilled me when I concluded my first half marathon. Maybe because I went over to Reggio almost with the burden of having to finish, with an attitude so different from my usual which is instead to have fun. Nonetheless, probably in the autumn of next year I will retry, this time with the goal to be impossible to go below 2h40'.

After the refreshments I went back to the sports hall: I was struggling climbing the stairs. Here I got the pleasure of knowing Kayak Runner, which concludes very happy below three hours. Following meeting Jean and Carlo, have now beating the course in 2:50 and closing their staff '. Considering the location and some practical problems they have faced (Carlo is blind and Jean his leadership) they have made an excellent performance.Well done guys, I renew my congratulations and my sincere admiration. Surprisingly I find that I also won the Podisti.Net challenge, a special internal classification involving divided into different categories the site's members that they had reported.
What can I say ... I could not ask for more from this weekend of sport and friendship. A special thanks to all who followed and incited me in the last two weeks with emails, comments and text messages. You were all with me on the climb of the 28th kilometer. You could have pushed me a little further ...:-D

Monday, November 30, 2009

2009 Florence Marathon: a live experience

This post describes a live experience for the November 2009 Florence Marathon (or Firenze Marathon) and gives you insight of what it is really look like. Below you can find an Italian translation from the original posting on the Florence Marathon live experience. The next 2010 Florence Marathon is scheduled on the 28th of November 2010 and will be an unforgettable event.

Congratulations Henry (nickname Albe), you have won the glorious yellow t-shirt for the lightning Running Team [...]. With your prediction of 2h43'25" you did predict better than everybody else my real time of the Florence Marathon which was 2h45'12" (difference of -1'47"). I have finally understood why when we saw each other 2 times during the first part of the marathon, you told me to slow down ... you would have in mind to get the t-shirt... eh eh, just kidding. Thanks a million for your support, particularly during the last stage where I was really tired. My race was somehow strange and, as in all marathons, everything happens after the 30th km. I was progressing very well at the pace of 3'45"/ km, but I decided to speed it up during the neighbor of 29/30 km, downtown Florence through the Cascine Park.

But let's get starting from the beginning. Initially I thought I was doing a great race. The start was very confusing, but it was also my fault since I lingered a bit too much to chat with friends and bloggers that I came late in the grid already clogged enough (even with "abusive" having no right to the red chest). Along with Franchino we started slowly, doing slalom among the many top runners making a-6 km/min pace. With difficulty we got rid of the heavy traffic after 1.5 km, with the first step in 4'20", the second in 3'35" and 3'20" in the next 2. It took a while to reach Matthew who I saw the front but running at pretty strong pace. Once there I held a pace slightly quicker than him, that I saw and decided to follow Franchino running very relaxed and loose. The first 10 km has gone fast and without much effort in less than 37 minutes. I was feeling pretty good and also the 15th km I was in a good control in 56' although I decided to move away from Franchino who had a slightly too fast compared to mine. I've always kept running at pace of 3'45-50" passing the half in 1h19'07" with the feeling that I still got lot of energy in the body. But obviously I was wrong. I started doing the maths and thinking that maybe I would have the chance to achieve the target under 2:40. As always I have encountered the biggest problems towards the last 10-12 km, especially if you are not in great shape as I am right now. At km 23 I reached Franchino who had suddenly slowed down. I do not know what happened to him, I tried to encourage him but he nodded as if to say he had some problems, I am very sorry for him but luckily he is still very young and strong and he will be back soon, and seeing how he runs I do not think the next marathon will go above 2:35. Going into the center of Florence, the speed it had seemed discreet and fatigue seemed under control, even my legs felt OK.

Running into Piazza Duomo (left) and Piazza Repubblica (right) was memorable: lots of audience to applaud and encourage. Fantastico, a performance worthy of the best NY Marathon! Exiting from the center of the Cascine and close to 30 km sadly have ended my dreams. The switch to the 30 km mark in 1:53' 39" was still in line with a final 240 projection. This has been the critical point of my race, I saw Matthew running at double speed, seeking his personal Best.

Firenze Piazza Repubblica
I pushed verbally and mentally knowing how much he cared.He closed in 2:44 and did not go how he hoped for less than a minute but it is only a matter of time, the marathon next spring will certainly be a triumph because his potential is well below 2:40.Yesterday in the last 7 km back from the halfway point of the Cascine, the stiff wind against us has put a clear obstacle to our performance. And it annoyed me a lot, I dragged awkwardly toward the finish line by closing the last 2 partial steady decline from 5 km in 20'38, respectively (average 4'07"/ km) and 21'41" (average 4 ' 20"/ km) with the 40th km in 4'35" and the recent slight improvement in 2 to 4'12", only thanks to the incredible pressure of the public ... I crossed the finish line still in hands like always and I finished my 28th marathon, one of the finest is sure to follow contour of friendship and fellowship that has characterized this wonderful weekend spent with friends and all the other bloggers. I expect a month of relax and deserved rest. I will restart in January with new targets. Motivations for sure will be there! Greetings to all, we'll meet again in March for a new marathon (I think Treviso) and for the second edition of the great contest "get the time." Be clear: We only accept less than the expected timing 2:40!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

2007 Milan City Marathon: a live experience

This post describes a live experience for the November 2007 Milan City Marathon and gives you insight of what it is really look like. Below you can find a translation from the original posting describing the Milan City Marathon live experience in Italian. Please note that the 2010 Milan City Marathon has swapped its schedule with Turin from November to April 11th 2010.

Milan Marathon 2007

Cold but not freezing. Damb but not wet. It was seven am, departing from home. At eight am we arrived in Milan, Piazza Castello. To share with me the cold-but-not-cold, the damp but not wet, I have invited my friend D. The presence of a companion-friend has been crucial. The alternative course of action would have been to deliver the bag to the store by 8.30. Until the hour of departure, at 9.15am, I would have to be covered with makeshift equipment.

The first very important choice: the race clothes. At home I had initially decided for an undershirt as well as my athletics t-shirt. Moreover, I have selected shorts against leggings. In Piazza Castello I confirmed the choice of the piece below, but I changed the upper one: via the T-shirt, undershirt only.
To keep myself warm, I sprinkled with camphor oil, improper weapon to keep competitors away from me...

The departure area was very crowded. Ready, GO! The first kilometer was inevitably slow due to the high number of participants. Finding the rhythm was the first obstacle.

It took me a lot to enter the atmosphere, the race and the weather. I covered the first five, ten, fifteen kilometers in a certain sense of fatigue, discomfort, almost boredom. I felt strange sensations. The hints of fatigue usually appearing from the twenty-fifth kilometers here came early. In front of me I saw the specter of a crisis.

Statistics say that I made the first ten kilometers averaging 4'02 "/ km. Given that I ran the first kilometer - because traffic - at 4'25", I am better off not thinking about it. Those are unthinkable things during training.

From km 11 to km 21 and ninety-seven meters – until the half marathon – I have taken more logical pace: 4'07"/km. I finished the midway in 1h26'14", more than a minute slower than at Maranello - Carpi.

It followed the usual slowdown for me. I decided to lower the pace and to focus on the ease of travel. I noticed the regularity of breathing and movements’ fluidity.

I got to the thirtieth - where it says the race starts - with a sense of resignation. I knew that soon my legs would have been heavy as usual.

Yet I was not terrible. Until that point I was able to eat well. Even the supply of the thirtieth km was positive, complete with a snack having banana taste. I had done the same thing ten miles before.

The kilometers passed: less than 12, then eleven and ten. I have always remained quiet, at my pace, without forcing.
Arrived at kilometer thirty I have enjoyed doing some little sum: find the average per kilometer that would have allowed me to get to the finish in less than three hours. Less than three hours, yes. I did not think to beat my personal best.
I challenge anyone to do three-hour-minus-two-hour-and-twelve-divided-ten. Calculating and converting minutes in seconds is the most critical part.
Well, with difficulty I had understood that if I had continued at 4'30" /km, I could make it.

Here are my timing henceforth: km 33, 4'24", km 34 4'19", km 35 4'24", km 36 4'25", km 37 4'16", km 38 4'24", km 39 4'20".

I started to record the lap per kilometer without looking at the total time. No more small computation, just to finish in the shortest possible time. Three kilometers before marathon end, I found myself in good shape. Here is the crazy thing happened: I ran the last three kilometers to 4'10"/km, 4'09" /km and 4'08 "/km, a fast and growing finish. I managed to get this as I want, as it should always be. I decided for the first time ever to skip the last replenishment, at km40. To run the last km I no longer need anything.

I crossed the line with deep feeling of joy, mixed with disbelief.

When I entered the narrow finishing road, between two wings of crowd cheering, I looked to the big clock set above the arch of the finish line. I launched the final sprint, attracted by the music of the powerful speaker amplification. Thirty meters from the finish, I broke down my race gesture to raise my left hand fist. Time to stretch my arm and then I got of cramp through my right leg. I resisted. Few steps: the chip set in the bonds of the left shoe has started playing. Under my feet there was the arrival red carpet, over my head the inflatable structure beyond which you can stop running. We should stop running! I have made it!

I continued to celebrate, even if I am alone. Somebody from the organization has slipped the medal around my neck. Another person has covered me with a thermal towel. Thereafter, I have tried the complicated operation of removing the chip from my shoe. I had to return it as soon as possible; there is a 15 euro penalty to lose it. At that time, I got big cramps.
My friend D. joined me and the party continues with the race story.

A heartfelt round of applause to the volunteers that were completely to our service. Bravo also to the Milan Marathon's management. I particularly liked the final refreshment, the large dressing room, the big tent with the "risotto party", and other services of which I have not asked for (storage bags, massages, showers).


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