Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Race Recap Part 1: Venice Marathon 2011

Ready for a long post?

Sunday. D-Day. Race Day. If you follow me on Twitter or DailyMile, then you already know the end of the story. This is the beginning/middle of the story.

Wake up call at 0515. And this is me at 0515 on race day.

Just before shower; hair monster!!
Everything laid out & ready to go!

I always wake up early enough for a shower; I find showers calming & it helps me get the fuzz out of my head in the morning. After my shower wake up call, I got myself together & drove to Stra, the starting point of the race. It was easy to do because I'd been so meticulous about laying out every single thing I'd need for the race. I got there fairly early, even after a small detour (wrong turn). When I got there, I checked the weather outside my car & for the rest of the day.

Baby, it's cold outside!
Expectation for majority of race

It was far too early & cold to head to the start of the race, so I decided to stay warm & relax in the car. I could've gone for a cappuccino, but I was worried about how that would affect my stomach; I don't drink coffee before runs. Instead, I popped in some music & brought the nerves down.

 Around 0730, I suited up & headed for the starting area. I understand Italian, though I don't speak it very well. There were quite a few volunteers out to help direct the crowds. There was also signage... in English.

Partenza - Departure point... THE START!!
I couldn't resist snapping a shot of Porta Potty city. I made sure to use the "facilities" early, before the crowd got too big & they got too nasty.
Your friend, the porta potty.
I stayed dressed & held onto my bag for as long as I reasonably could. At only 40 degrees, it was rough to be outside with no real protection against the weather. I was sporting my specially-purchased RunningSkirts gear. I'd planned this outfit the moment the RS Fall Line premiered & was super excited to finally wear my new clothes.

Ready & excited for the big day!
But I wasn't quite expecting the reaction I got. People were staring at me. To be fair, that's not unusual in the Italian culture per se, but it was excessive enough to notice. In fact, fellow runners actually ID'd me as American immediately, which is a big No-No for military stationed overseas... something I never even thought about when I picked the race outfit. Too late to worry about it, I enjoyed my brightness & 2 friends found it very easy to find me in the crowd. Bright clothes = easy-to-see.

The starting area, Villa Pisani, is gorgeous. In fact, the whole first 1/2 of the marathon took place along Rivieria di Brenta, which is a beautiful way to do any race. I was in the last corral, which messed with my brain a little bit. I tried to ignore it & enjoy the amazing landscape. It was all very amazing & I enjoyed every moment of excitement in the starting area... except for seeing guys lift their shorts & rub BodyGlide-type stuff all over their bits-&-pieces. That wasn't pretty.

Walking to the corrals in front of Villa Pisani

Trying to get into the crowd in Corral #5
The real problem I had was the cold. I was not prepared for how the cold was going to affect me. I didn't think about how long I would be waiting before the start of the race, so I had no gloves or leg protection against the cold. And while I love RS Compression socks, they were not warm enough to wear with my Newtons on Sunday... so by the time we finally started walking to the starting line, I couldn't feel my fingers or feet/toes. No exaggeration. When I started running, I had icicles for legs & ice bricks for feet; every step hurt, much like when you try to walk after your feet fall asleep. Every muscle was cold, even though I'd jumped around & tried to move to stay warm. But my body was tighttighttight. It was not a great start.

I started my Garmin a few steps before the starting line. I was focused on warming up, so I figured I'd start timing & get my head in the game. It wasn't until about the 5k mark that my feet started to get some feeling back... I was finally warm by the 5 mile mark. I made sure not to run too fast; I was determined to run "my race." Very early, the 6hr pacing group passed me. One of the dudes grabbed my arm & tried to drag me with them. He was very good natured, so I didn't get too upset. I simply pointed at my Garmin & the pacer immediately understood I was running intervals. I ended up passing them!

At that point, my whole race plan became about keeping the 6hr group behind me because I knew the course maximum was 6 hours. And I didn't have to run fast at all to keep them behind me; I was running comfortably. I was talking to people, waving at spectators, flagging down the photographers to make sure I got pictures... I was really enjoying the entire thing.

Right until Mile 11. That's when I felt something was "off" with my right knee. During a walk break, I even tweeted about it!

At the halfway point (13.1 miles), I called my trainer & she advised me to start walking more than I'd planned. Which I was already doing. I lost so much time, the 6hr pacing group caught up to me! I knew they were also doing a Run/Walk combo, so I figured I'd be safe if I stuck with them. But at 16.45 miles on my Garmin, I saw a bright orange race volunteer & ran straight for her. My knee didn't feel stable; it didn't feel like it would support me any more. I felt wobbley & since I've never had/experienced knee issues, I was terrified. I was hysterically crying from pain & emotion & the only words I could get out:

Me:"Please help me. I need help right now." 
Race Volunteer: "Ah, English. Do you want to finish?"
Me: "No. I just want to go home."

Keep in mind I'm sobbing hysterically the entire time & only speaking broken English.

At that point, she jumped on her walkie-talkie to call an ambulance. Then she & another volunteer pulled one of the banners off the fence line to wrap me up in; they didn't have any foil blankets. I called my trainer, still sobbing hysterically, to let her know I'd DNF'd, where I was, & where I was going. Safety first, right? In about 10 minutes, I was loaded into an ambulance & taken to the infirmary station... approx. 4ks away... which means I'd almost made to the infirmary by running!

The story is depressing after that. I was wrapped in foil & fleece, shuttled to the finish line for the bag drop (which was exceedingly humiliating), then had to make my way back to my car. At the starting point in Stra. At that point, I had 2 strokes of good luck: I got a seat on the bus for the hour+ ride to Stra & the bus stopped right in front of my car so I didn't have to walk anymore. I got in the car, called friends to let them know I'd made it & I'd check in when I finally got home. With expert use of my car's Cruise Control, I made it to my hometown, where I picked up a pizza & trekked home... still crying, by the way. I didn't stop crying until the next day.

I want to give a shout out to the race volunteers/ambulance crew who helped me. I was alone, couldn't get enough Italian together thru the pain, & female. And when I handed myself over to them for care, I never once felt unsafe. They handled a hysterical female calmly & with compassion. I felt safe because they made me safe... & I can't give them enough kudos for being so awesome.

That's race day. Total Fail. But I have no regrets... & you'll read why in the next post! :D


  1. Well, hurry up with that next post, then! ;D Some of us have *no* patience!

  2. Thank you for letting us know how you felt on that day. I know it must have been awful for you but I'm glad you have no regrets now.

    For what it's worth, I'm still really proud of you!