As mentioned in my short previous post my first marathon in continental Europe on 8th May in the middle of a 2 weeks holiday was a fabulous experience. This post is a detailed report of the race and my experience.
We(myself, wife, brother and his wife) landed in Rome on 2nd May - a slightly cold and windy Monday morning. We spent the next five days doing all the usual sightseeing in Rome, followed by Florence and Venice. Apart from some light stretching I managed a decent 8Km in Rome on 3rd May and a fastish 7Km in Florence on 5th May. On the afternoon of Saturday,7th May, my wife and I arrived in Trieste after a 2 hour train ride from Venice. After checking into Hotel Roma close to the central station we walked down to the Hotel Savoy Excelsior near the harbour and collected the bib by 4:30.
After a couple of hours of sightseeing around the Miramare castle on the Adriatic sea coast and early pasta dinner in a restaurant by the Grand Canal and we were back in the room a little after 9PM. Went to bed by 10:15 PM and had a reasonably sound sleep(waking up a couple of times to go to the loo) till about 5:20am. After my usual intake of bananas, almonds and salted pecans left the hotel at a little after 630 to take the shuttle bus to the start point from Piazza Della Libertà a few minutes walk away.
Met Manas, an Indian runner living in Udine, and his friend from Thailand while getting into the shuttle .Reached the holding area at the Grand casino, Lipica in Slovenia by 7:15am. The temperature was about 13 C. Though sunny it was quite cold in the shade. Used the washroom (to do 'pipi') of the casino, checked in my bag(with trackpant and windsheeter) by 8am, warmed up for about 20 minutes and moved to the starting coral in the 3:30 to 4:00 section just behind the 3:45 pacers.
The race was flagged off about 5 minutes late. It was ideal running weather(14 c and sunny) and fantastic route - wide asphalted road with greenery of forest or fields on either sides and zero traffic or pollution. In fact, I did not see a single vehicle or person for the first 10Kms or so except for race volunteers. After
Starting in Lipica at 395m above sea level the route takes one through Lokev(km5-444m) for about 9.5Kms in Slovenia. I started strongly and crossed over from Slovenia to Italy to hit the 10Km mark in just about 51 minutes helped by the rolling hills and excellent weather. In the Italian segment we went through several small towns/villages going up and down - Basovizza(Km 12-375m) , Banne, Padrciiano, Tebiciano, Prosecco.
The locals ran in the shade on the side of the road while I ran in the sun in the middle of the road. The stretch from 17K to 25K that included portions on a highway had some steeper gradients and my pace started to drop from an average of 5:10 that I managed to maintain till the halfway mark (1:48:27). Nevertheless I felt reasonably strong at Km 25 and had visions of a PB below 3:40 and definitely a sub 3:45 if the pace did not drop too much. However, things changed dramatically from Km 30 - the 13% fall within 300m leading to the Adriatic sea was a killer. I had not anticipated such a steep downhill and was not prepared either mentally or physically. Consequently, I had to slow down considerably to control myself. At the end of the downhill my left calf and sole got completely screwed up and also started feeling stitches in my right hip. I lost momentum and the legs refused to move. The pace dropped significantly to between 5:30 and 6/Km from Km 30.
I had overtaken the 3:45 pacers at Km 2 and now at 33rd Km they went ahead of me, I tried my best to keep pace with them but both physically and mentally I seemed to have lost it(like SCMM 2015) and just could not pickup pace. The magnificent vistas of the blue sea water on one side from Km 30 with mild winds did not help perk me and I averaged a miserable 5:59 for the last 12Kms to finish barely under 3:50. There were times in this leg when my pace dropped below 6/Km which has rarely happened in any recent FM. I was disappointed that I could not at least better the 3:47 from SCMM 2016 as I had trained better and felt in greater shape.
Focused hill training would definitely have helped- something I need to add to my training. I did not study the elevation map of the route well though I had got in advance from the rogansiers and this complacency was probably the main reason for the below par performance. The sunny weather with temperature between 14 and 19c was ideal, the course was scenic and the organisation support was faultless with water stations every 5Km apart. Some other factors that may have contributed was the slight sore throat/running nose, too much sightseeing time on the feet in the preceding week and high intake of sugar and carbohydrates(pizza,pasta, bread, croissants, pastries etc). The whole experience was still very enjoyable - unarguably the most scenic road race that I have run so far. The finishers medal was not great and the refreshment of just a pear and carbonated water was disappointing.
Collected my bag from the baggage counter which was a little far off from the finish area and reached the hotel around 1:20PM. After a quick shower , checkout at 2PM and refueling up with a rich Italian gelato headed to the station for the next leg of the vacation - slightly disappointed, quite tired but nevertheless happy and satisfied. Being able to do a sub 3:50 on a reasonably challenging course with no structured training and no intervals training since March 2014 gave me the confidence that I should be able to do sub 3:45 later this year or at least in SCMM 2017!!