The B.a.v.i.s.e.l.a is one of the biggest sporting events in the town where I live and includes a half marathon and marathon among other events. The marathon and half have striking similarities to the Boston marathon: point-to-point courses that start 42.2 and 21.1 km from the finish line, runners are bussed out to the start line via a route that messes with the runner's mind because it is far longer than the race distance, the start is incredibly narrow, helicopters hover alarmingly low overhead, the course profile is extremely hilly with a net downhill (at least the half is a net downhill not sure about the full). It was fun to re-live the Boston experience without having to run a full marathon (beginning to have major doubts about ever moving back up to the full 'thon but I'll think about that later).
The major issue for me with this Bostonesque start was that the early shuttle bus departure meant that by the time the gun went off, I had been separated from my custom boob drainer for four hours and my chest was feeling really uncomfortable. So much so that when I spotted a couple pushing a pram near the start line I started trying to figure out how to say in Italian:
Is your baby thirsty? (Qualcosa da bere per la tua bimba?)
Could I borrow your baby? (Puo prestarmi la tua bimba?)
and ultimately decided it would all be way too weird and possibly end in police intervention so I took my large-b.r.ea.s.t.e.d self to the start line and tried not to think about it.
On the start line I tried to scope out the other women (with help from my teammates who know all the local runners) and immediately spotted two women likely to kick my derriere. After a long delay (they were waiting for the marathon to reach a certain point prior to releasing us and the marathoners were running slower than expected) we were off. First 5 km climb 120 feet (annoying mix of metric and imperial but I can only understand horizontal distance in metric and vertical distance in imperial) and I tried to play it conservative, went through 4 km in 15:50 feeling, pretty tired and glum actually. I did not feel that good things were in store.
Then we hit the long 10.5 km downhill stretch to the sea... yup, 10.5 km of downhill with a net descent of 240 feet! Those 10 km went by in 37:16 ... hmmm, now that I have calculated that split it almost seems like cheating to call this race a PB. Clearly the effect of the downhill, despite strongish headwinds the whole way, was pretty huge. This section was also extremely curvy (not unlike my lactating self... ok, ok enough about the b.o.o.b.s already), I could see all around me runners who were adding dozens upon dozens of extra meters to their overall distance by not running the tangents. Don't people realize?? Running the tangents does not necessarily mean hugging the curves - one must find the furthest point visible on the road ahead and run in a straight line towards that. As the road unfolds, keep finding that furthest point and head in a straight line towards it. At least that is my strategy for minimizing race distance, I think it is geometrically correct.
The last 7 km of this race are pancake flat and are run along the route I run about 4-5 times per week so I am intimately familiar with all the landmarks. At this point, for the first time since the gun, I saw another woman. I timed the gap between at 26 seconds. I figured I was gaining on her since I had not seen her previously. I managed to close the gap to 22 seconds and then she was gone around a bend - she wound up beating me by over a minute so clearly she had a solid last 5 km! My pace, of course, slowed on the flat but not as much as I feared. I got through the last 7 km by calculating at every km marker what time I would run if I slowed down to 4 minutes per km which was somehow very heartening for a math geek like myself. Eventually I got down to the point where I was going to run a PB even if I ran 4 minutes per km and that made me feel amazing. Splits in the last 7 km: 3:54, 3:54, 3:57, 4:00, 4:02, 3:58, 3:40. I could see the clock 100 m out and I kicked it in to try and clip my personal best which I did my ONE second. :)
Then came, by far, the most challenging part of the entire day... finding my way to the awards ceremony. I don't know if I am a skilled enough writer to capture the complexity of the finish area. It was in a large piazza by the sea. Runners entered the piazza on one side, ran away from the sea, did a 180 degree turn and finished towards the sea. The runners were separated from the large spectating crowd by barricades. Further complicating the situation was the fact that there were two parallel sets of barricades for two separate events. The awards were held in the middle of the U. Once I finished and was duly shuffled down the line to baggage pick-up, I could see of no way of storming the castle and getting to the central area. I asked various officials but the combination of their harriedness and my tired brain not understanding them resulted in me making it to the podium after the awards ceremony was over. The officials were clearly unimpressed. Awards ceremonies are a pretty big deal here, more so than I am used to and my impression is that it is in pretty poor form not to show up (and clearly the 1st and 2nd woman managed to show up so clearly it was me who was not on the ball).
I tried to quietly get my award and leave but they were having none of it. Yup, they did a SECOND awards ceremony in front of the whole piazza and thousands of spectators with JUST ME on the podium. Ok, yes, I have a large enough ego that I like people to know I am a fast runner. I admit that. But honestly... awards ceremony for JUST ME in front a huge crowd.... not my style. I have not felt that awkward and uncomfortable since my first high school dance as I stood against the wall wearing glasses and braces conspicuously NOT being asked to dance (Question: Everyone seems to have sob stories about how uncool they were in high school. Everyone. So who WERE all the well adjusted cool kids in high school? My theory? No one. Those kids who were perceived as "cool" were equally uncomfortable and awkward and did not think of themselves as being "cool"). Sorry, huge tangent.
Anyway as they did the award ceremony, I imagined they were saying: "And in third place, the canadian who was too slow and moronic to make it to the podium on time...." (they were NOT saying that... ) and that made me smile and not look quite so awkward (I hope).
So, at last, I have BEATEN my arch rival, even if only by one second on a bit of a cheater course. Whatever, I'm celebrating it!