My triathlon season was over after Ironman 70.3 Wiesbaden mid-August. Since then, I have been training for Florence Marathon which takes place on the 27th of November. My coach Chris believes in quality over quantity so I did not have a high volume training. I averaged not more than 50 kilometers a week over the last three months leading to the race, my highest weekly volume was 66 kilometers. The running sessions were combined with some swimming and biking. After all, I am a triathlete preparing for a marathon! :-)
I was very excited to run Florence marathon for many reasons. First, I was going to Florence with ten members of my triathlon team, Coaching Zone. Second, I will have the privilege to run with my coach the first part of the race. Not many athletes get the chance to run a competition with their coach! Third, and most importantly, I felt I was in great shape and I thought my previous PR of 3:27:52 won't be hard to beat.
Together with my teammates, we arrived to Florence the day before the race. It was my first time there and I realized from the first steps that this short weekend won't be enough to really appreciate the beauty of the city. It was like walking in an open air museum. I would definitely have to come back and visit it properly. We went to the marathon expo late in the afternoon. It was at a walking distance from where we stayed. The expo was big and overcrowded. We had to walk through the entire expo to get the race number and the athlete package. It was very tiring, I was just hoping that this walk will not affect my performance the next day. We managed to get back to our stay at around 6 pm. Then we had a short easy run with few strides. the legs felt good and the confidence was high few hours before the start of the race. After that, we had a dinner in a nice Italian restaurant in the center of Florence, with no surprise, we all ordered pasta.. :-) We did not stay long after that.
On race day, I woke up at 6:30 am feeling really good. I got ready then I had one banana for breakfast. I don't like to eat too much before running. I left around 7:30 but I did not manage to go to the start with my teammates. Luckily, I met Chris in the starting area, we ran a few hundred meters to warm-up then headed to our starting box. We were trying to reach the 3:15 pace maker but it was almost impossible to get there. The streets of Florence were too small to contain thousands of runners at the start. My race strategy was very simple, maintain 4'35''/km pace. Running with my coach would definitely help me since he was also targeting this pace for the first half marathon.
The gun went off at 8:30, we passed the starting line after 1'30''. The first few hundred meters were very crowded and the pace was a bit slow as expected. We tried passing other runners without going out too fast. We ran the first kilometer in 5'00''-5'10''. Then, we gradually increased the pace to reach around 4'30''/km. We were actually running a bit faster than my planned marathon pace, most of the splits were between 4'25''/km and 4'33''/km, but the pace was still good and I was not running out of my comfort zone. We reached the half marathon mark in 1:36:13 (4'33''/km). Everything was going pretty much according to the plan. I was still running with Chris until the 25th kilometer, he then increased his pace. I decided not to follow him and kept running at around 4'30''-4'35''/km pace. Suddenly, just before the aid station at the 30 kilometer mark, I slowed down then I started walking. I felt like I had no more energy left. But, I have been taking one gel every 5 kilometers and was properly hydrated. So, nutrition-wise, everything should be OK. For a second, I started having some negative thoughts like maybe my pace was too fast and I am now too tired to continue, maybe my race was over.. But I knew if I wanted to finish, I had to stay positive. I thought about all the training I have done to run this marathon. I thought about my long runs in the dark and cold. I haven't done all this to end up walking! I told myself that at this point I was not too far from reaching my goal, all I had to do is run 12 kilometers on tired legs at a 4'35''/km pace. It sounds to me like a normal training session, I have done it many times before. So I took one gel, drank some water and resumed running. The next split was 4'36''/km, the mind game seemed to work pretty well! By kilometer 36, I started feeling good again. I was running between 4'25''-4'35'' pace. From that point, I had to run faster than 5'00''/km to reach the finish line in less than 3:15. That is totally doable! My confidence boosted and I started to really enjoy the race.
So far, I had a normal muscles fatigue but I did not really suffer. But a marathon without suffering is not really a marathon, so my feet started to hurt by kilometer 40. I felt that a blister exploded on my right foot. It was painful but with only 2 kilometers left, I decided to enjoy the pain! :-)
I crossed the finish line in 3:14:03! That is my new marathon PR, and it felt relatively "easy" ! :-) My coach Chris and my teammate Seb were waiting in the finish area, they had amazing performances! We waited until all our teammates arrived, we all had a great day! Then, it was time for post-race celebration! :-)
Once home, I looked back at my GPS data, I was happy to see that I managed to run the last 12 kilometers at exactly 4'35''/km. That is a pure mental performance to maintain the pace after having had to walk through the aid station at kilometer 30.
I was also happy to see the improvements I have made since my previous marathon last year in Frankfurt. Not only my time was about 14 minutes faster, I also had a relatively even pace with only one walking gap. I give credit to my coach Chris for the great work we have done together throughout the year.
That was the last race of season, it is time to have some rest! Thanks for reading. ;-)