Monday, July 13, 2009

"Fast Times" in Firenze

I admit it. I have been enjoying my recovery from the WC100k a lot. Immediately following the race, I flew back to the states, ran a bunch (well a bunch for just having run 100k-i.e. 50+ miles), paced/crewed for Krissy at WS100 and then turned around and flew back to Europe for a family vacation/work trip (kind of one and the same when you work in the family business) to Florence, Italy. So by enjoying, I mean keeping busy and not really doing much resting or recovering. And so many of my runs have really, really sucked. I just haven't really had the energy, which is natural after a hard 100k on the life force sucking pavement. I am sure the being in a different time zone every other day and not sleeping very well doesn't help. So when our generous host for our trip & business associate suggested over dinner last Monday that me and my sister join him for a big local 10k the next night, I agreed but was not really looking forward to the snails pace I was feeling I could muster. But what the heck I thought. It would be a fun outing, good to spend some time with Lorenzo, Tim (a consultant to Lorenzo's company), my sister and some other of Lorenzo's friends.

My sister and I went for a morning run to shake out our legs and get some miles in, then we spent the day wandering around, playing the Boboli Gardens and napping (my favorite activity). The race didn't start until 8:30pm, so Lorenzo picked us up about 7:50 and we drove over to the park where the race was held. While I had suspected that this was going to be more of a run than a race, boy was I wrong. There were more than 300 runners (which on a Tuesday night seems like alot) and was more race than many ultras I have done. T-shirts and everything. Lorenzo registered us and we warmed up a bit.

I was hungry and tired. Lorenzo kept teasing me saying I had to run fast and make everyone mad by winning, but I was not feeling it. I felt more like passing out than running a step. But ah what the hell, it was 10k. A marathon feels like a sprint, so a 10k feels like not even getting started running. We went to the start, were marched up the starting line archway and after a minute of silence, the gun went off.
Apparently, the cells of my body are activated by the start of a race because suddenly I was going and feeling fine. We had all started pretty far back in the pack, so I bobbed and weaved through the crowd, clipping along comfortably at just about 4:00min/km. I felt really comfortable and decided just to aim for 4:00min/km or thereabouts, i.e. my marathon pace. I passed runner after runner after runner. Each time I would give a smile and zoom onward. I was wearing my SD100 mile t-shirt and know that is pretty easily understood, so I can only imagine what people were thinking. About 3.5km into the race, I approached what I suspected were a top group of the female runners. One of them had a bike pacer, which I took as a good indicator of being one of the faster crew. I felt surprisingly good, so I just swung wide and moved past them easily. I heard some fast Italian talking as I past, but was blissfully unaware to their WTF or whatever they were uttering.

After one loop, I was at 20:30 and feeling strong, so I decided to pick it up a notch. I started passing a lot more people, but never saw another woman. I found it most entertaining that when I would past men, they would grab my shoulder and try to hang on. And then they would drop off, not able to keep the pace. With about 800 meters to go, one guy whom I had passed easily came charging up behind me and tried to make a move on me, trying not to be outdone by a girl. We turned the corner to the final straight away, I turned to him and smiled and said, "good work, you can do it". And then I put more than 25m on him to the finish line with a strong finishing kick. I finished in 40:07 and even better, as the first woman! Sweet!
Me, Lorenzo and Sarah after the race
It was pretty cool to come and win a race. Even better that it seriously shocked the Italian. I come to find out that this was no small race. The race announcers pulled me to the microphone and tried to interview me and those who spoke English came up to me to ask me where the heck I came from and why I had decided to run. Tim came in 3-4 minutes later, then Lorenzo, then Sarah, then Lorenzo's friend. The best part was that there were not only t-shirts but an awards ceremony and everything. We waited around for the award ceremony and I got to get up on the podium and receive my winnings which included clothing, a bag and the best part: a scooter helmet. Pretty crazy.

We finished off a great night by going to the restaurant that was right there in the park, called CowSheep. We ate great local food, drank delicious wine and spent time with great friends. Winning was fun sure, but the real good part of the day was experiencing good friends and good fun. I came to find out later that there was a decent sized article in the Sports section of La Nazione about me and the fact that I was just a tourist who showed up for the race. Ha!

I am back home now and looking forward to getting back to training for TransRockies. I had a fantastic run yesterday, 30 miles in the Headlands which made up mostly for the lower mileage week I had in Italy. I had a great week in Italy, but I am definitely ready to get back to life after a super busy June. I have no idea where the month went!

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