Florence Marathon Race Report: Perhaps not my cup of ‘THE’

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I wasn’t exactly ignoring writing this race report.  Not entirely anyway.  It’s of course a bit hard to ignore such a downer of a race result, as well as to ignore the 18.4 requests per day via three social media networks plus e-mail and post comments for said race report.  It’s more simply that I wasn’t really sure (nor am entirely sure as I start writing this) what to write.  Plus, in my choice between writing up a product review (or three), going skiing, or writing about said non-awesome race – it’s natural to choose the others.

As anyone can imagine, it’s a lot easier to write a race report about a race that went well.  Heck, even about a race that went spectacularly bad is relatively easy to write about.  It’s much harder to conjure up a race report about a race that just sorta went thunk.  Or thump.  Or any other adjective that you can fill in where there was no single defining explosive moment of success or failure.

In many ways, the race started out pretty much just like any other.  Our hotel was very nearby the start line, making for an easy walk over to the starting area.

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I had timed it such that I’d pretty much get bearings straight and then drop my stuff with The Girl, and then go out for a warm-up run. My warm-up was about a mile or so, pretty much the norm.  Starting off easy, and gradually building a bit.

Here’s us, and my awesome 6 Euro sweatshirt that The Girl managed to swindle from a tourist shop.  We had forgotten some sort of throw-away clothing, and so she convinced the shop owner to sell her something that nobody was buying, perhaps with a rip or tear or something.  Apparently that product was an XL purple sweatshirt.

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I got back to the starting corral area to find my place.  As it seems to be the general pattern for all of the European running races I’ve run, the starting corrals are quite simply a mind-boggling display of logistical failure.  I can’t say that’s the case in other countries, just the run-specific races I’ve done in France and now Italy.  Over-engineered is probably the term I’d use.

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The corral was neither large enough to fit all the participants in of that established time slot, nor was the single door big enough to let them in anyway.  Neither was the sidewalk area next to the corral large enough to get people to said small door and small corral.

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Nonetheless, because there were two differing starting times published I choose the earlier just to be safe.  Obviously, it was actually the later time, affording me the extra time to hang out with 10,000 or so of my friends.  Interestingly enough, a blog reader was next to me.  Many more would say ‘Hi’ on or along the course, which I always appreciate!

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Soon the wheelchair athletes went out, and then the pros, and then the festivus for the rest of us.  The initial post-start line area was a bit too slim for this particular arrangement of runners (lacking any flow control), so the first quarter mile or so I was going a fair bit slower than planned – perhaps around 7:30-8:30/mile (4:40-5:18/km).  I eventually broke free a bit, and got back onto pace at 6:45/mile (4:12/km), though I subconsciously overcompensated a bit to try and even it out.

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At this point, I simply ran.  I had configured my watch with a display page to simply display my lap pace as a single whole-screen value.  That’s all.  It would auto-lap every mile.  Heart rate and all that other jazz would be recorded, but it wasn’t on my main screen (on the FR620).  Quite frankly, I didn’t want to see it.  And my race plan was pretty straight forward: Maintain 6:45/mile (4:12/km).

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I also had the Adidas GPS watch on the other arm, basically just in a data recording mode.  I wasn’t using it from a race standpoint.  After a mile or so, things emptied out, and I was moving along.

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Onwards I ran.  The first 10 miles or so were pretty non-descript from an abnormality standpoint.  Most of my splits were between 6:40 and 6:45/mile (4:09-4:12/km).  Pretty much according to plan.  While a bit warm for me (it was sunny, unfortunately), I was more or less fine.  I was fairly impressed with how crazy-perfect the accuracy I was seeing on the FR620 was to the split mile markers.  The race had mile markers every 5 miles, and kilometer markers every kilometer.  For at least the first half or so, those markers were sometimes lining up within a mind-boggling couple of meters of the sign.  I’m usually pretty good at running the perfect line in races, but this was taking the cake.

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The Florence (Firenze in Italian) course is about as flat as you can possible get.  The only elevation gain/loss is an underpass and an overpass.

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Where it lacks elevation variance, it makes up for it in turns.  I’ve joked that I think the Florence Marathon route was actually designed by a toddler with a crayon:

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Like most marathon routes in major cities, you have certain components that are highly memorable in nature – monuments, etc… But, large swaths are like most places and simply areas where the city permits races to be held without much interference.

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(Photo taken by the awesomeness that is The Girl)

As I exited one of these such places around the 11ish or so mile marker, I accidentally caught a glance of the Adidas watch showing my heart rate.  It was high.  Rather high.  Way higher than it should have been.

In training recently, I was generally running upwards of 20 miles at race pace, or a blended pace with my HR usually in the 165-170bpm range.  At this point, I noticed it already at the 172-174bpm range.  At mile 11.

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From a perceived effort standpoint, I had noticed in the last mile or so that things seemed a bit harder.  I just sorta wrote it off to a false flat (unlikely), or wind, or anxiety or whatever.

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As I made my way back into the city center and crossed over the river, the route went up a slight incline.  You wouldn’t otherwise notice it walking along, but if you looked far enough ahead, you could see it.  At this point, things ventured into the ‘not so awesome’ category.  I held pace a bit, though then remembered that was likely crossing beyond my HR caps.

Oh, and I saw this little kid…

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..and gave him a high-five:

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(For those curious, all these shots were from the VIRB camera, in burst mode, which takes 5 photos in quick succession with a simple button press, then it goes back to standby a minute later.)

At some point around then, my brain started realizing that there was still a lot of miles to go – some 14+ miles.  It started thinking to itself, “There’s no way I can maintain this effort level for that period of time.”.

I was also thirsty.  Most European races I’ve been in have water every 5K (3 miles).  While I had gotten some water in at each of the previous stops, I probably didn’t have enough.  Nonetheless, being only 12-ish miles into the race, I doubted lack of water was really a problem with any noticeable impact.  Proper hydration takes days, and I’d been really good about getting water in over the past week.

Nutrition-wise, I was rocking as well.  I was taking a gel packet every 5K (roughly every 20 minutes, stashed in Spibelt’s).  No issues there.

I crossed back over the bridge and headed towards the half-marathon point.

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As I approached it though, I already knew I was done for.  I probably knew that back around mile 12 to be honest.  Once my mind starts ticking out remaining miles, it’s in trouble.  There’s not much I can do there.  It just does it.

My legs felt fine (they almost always do).

My aerobic system felt stressed, probably more than it should have been, but not horribly.  I chalked it up to anxiety.

Ultimately though, mentally, I just faltered.  Failed really.

Any endurance athlete will tell you it’s almost always a mental game.  At least if you’ve trained right.

My pace was slowing, without much control on my part, to maintain a similar sustained effort.  It would slip to about 7:15/mile, and then I’d soon see around 7:30/mile or so.

In my case, shortly after the 13.1 banners there was an aide station.  I got water there.  And walked a bit.  I suppose at least I had company:

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Ultimately, I’d do the walk/run thing for another 7 or so miles.  I drank an astounding amount of water over the course of the next few aide stations.  A full bottle per aid station (12-16oz I believe).

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I also drank tea.  Hot tea.  Actually, hot and really damn awesome sweet tea.  It was brilliant.  Oh, and it was spelled ‘THE’.  Italian of course.

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This gradually made me feel better.  But that was likely just as much simply because I wasn’t really running all that hard anymore.  A trot really.

Also of note, they had biscotti.  Because, well, of course they’d have biscotti:

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Ultimately, there would be four big walking gaps in my race:

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Fast forwarding a ways till around the 19-20ish mile marker, I got back on it and just ran.  At this point, I pretty much ran the rest of the way.  Nothing according to plan.  Just moving along at roughly 7:30ish/mile (4:40/km).

(Yes, I do realize that for many, that pace would be awesome.  The best day ever perhaps.  That’s not lost on me.  But, at the end of the day, that’s not the pace I trained for, or am capable of.)

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This was for the most part the most scenic portions of the course.  Lots of things to see and plenty of spectators:

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I found it interesting that starting around mile 23-24ish, there were paramedics stationed frequently along the course.  At one point as frequently as every couple hundred meters.

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Along the way, I’d see The Girl as well a few times.  She being as awesome as ever, running around the course, cheering me on as best she could given she knew just as well as I that it wasn’t going according to plan.

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I’d round back through more scenic/touristy areas with more impressive monuments and sites:

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As I clicked off mile 25, my brain was still upset about running another mile.  My legs were fine, but my brain had been done many miles ago.  Mentally, it was probably one of my longest miles.

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While that may sound normal, for me it’s not.  I often joke that I love the last mile.  And in fact, I even love the last 6.2 miles (10K).  Once I get to mile 20, it’s just cruise on time.  I don’t know why, it’s just a mental thing that somehow works for me.  You can somewhat even see that here too.

But mentally, not this time.

I rounded the final bend into the finish line, in what seemed like the longest few hundred meters ever:

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I’d finish in 3:17, far from the plan of roughly 2:56-2:57 (which would have been about 2-3 minutes slower than my current marathon PR of 2:54).

Once done, they had medals and food.  And more of that great tea.

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Tea should be mandatory at marathons, it’s brilliant.  As an aside, the race volunteers and people were great, and the course is definitely one to consider if you’re looking for a European fall marathon.  No problems recommending it.

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And with that, I met up with The Girl and wandered on back to the hotel.  Not my day.

Perhaps there will be another day.  I’m sure.  It wasn’t a case of being tired (I was surprisingly well rested the week going into it, with minimal travel).  It definitely wasn’t a case of under-training, or going out too hard, or improper pace goals.  Nope, all of that I could have executed perfectly fine.  In training, I largely do it week in and week out.

So much so in fact that if you look at most of my training runs, I would actually have finished at a faster time, with less effort, than in this race.  Go figure.

It doesn’t have to do with running with two GPS watches or a camera, again, things I do every training run.  In fact, for me, the camera often offers a distraction from the suckiness of the situation.

Ultimately, it just comes down to races psyching me out sometimes.  I don’t know why.  They just do.  At least long painful ones where I can count a lot of miles left.  At paces I’m uncertain I can run, even if training proves I can run them.  If you had told me to go out and run a 3:05 marathon pacing someone, I’d honestly just shrug and do it.  Wouldn’t concern me at all.  Yes, targeting a 2:57 and failing back to a 3:17 was ‘difficult’.  While I realize there are differences between 3:05 and 2:57, it’s a mental difference for me.  Training-wise I can do either, I know that.  Execution wise…not as much.

Someday I’ll figure out a solution.

With that, thanks for reading.  And for those following along online during the race – thanks for watching and the messages of support!

83 Comments

  1. Thank you for your honesty in this report. So many bloggers turn race reports into a litany of justifications and excuses. You didn't and that's refreshing.

    We all have sucky races. It's how we respond to them that determines our good races.

    Reply
    • Matt B replied

      Ah, such a shame you had one of 'those' races... I know how sometimes for no obvious reason my body and brain just aren't up for it, no matter how well prepared I felt - it sucks mostly because you don't know what to change to avoid it happening again. I've found that just getting back on the horse is the best cure - usually the next run or race is back on target again!

      C'est la vie - glad you found the words to write about it, you're an inspiration for so many, and none less so for admitting a 'failure'. Better luck for the next one!

      Reply
  2. hugob

    Been there this year...twice!!! Just failed two marathon time targets separated by 4 weeks and just for mental reasons. More than physically prepared, but brain sometimes is a pain in the ass...
    nobody succeeds without failing repeatedly. Keep pushing!!

    Reply
  3. Matt

    I wouldn't sweat it Ray, it was just a bad race. We all have them on occasion. I'm glad your honest with your race report, that says a lot about a person. I'm sure you'll have plenty of chances for redemption so don't sweat it.

    Reply
  4. JB

    Great report, it's really nice to see how trained people can live a race like this, I went for my first half a month ago and it was really a disaster from my point of view, and I realised I didn't train enough in the later weeks, didn't sleep enough didn't water enough and didn't check the route elevation profile... That's the good side of the beginner : it's easy to find improvements to make!
    I really hope that one day I run a marathon as "bad" as you ran this one!
    Keep it up, This is a great blog!

    Reply
    • Dr. D replied

      @JB - I use ridewithgps.com to map most of the courses I run and then break it up to study the elevations within the various sections below:
      * For full marathons, it is the three 10s (1st 10miles, 2nd 10miles and final 10km)
      * For half marathons, it is the three 5s (1st 5miles, 2nd 5miles and final 5km)

      From here I create my Plan A - where to go hard, eazy or coast. Plan B is being prepared to change Plan A, should other elements (wind, temperatures, how you are feeling) present a challenge during your race).

      Best of luck.

      Reply
    • JB replied

      Thanks, my plan was originally to choose a flat one next time ;-) but as disappointment goes I may decide to face instead of avoiding...

      Reply
  5. Nathan

    Love the honesty. It sounds like you didn't want to relive it by retelling your story. But I am glad you did.

    Reply
  6. Will

    Well done Ray - Great report as usual - Again would like to reflect the thoughts of the guys above - These things happen in races, even when training is going well, but there is no pressure in training I suppose!! Don't let it worry you - You are a good runner and you know that...Keep going...What's next on the agenda?

    Reply
  7. Josh

    I, along with most of your blog followers, are proud of you. Nice work, better work next time perhaps. As our friends in lunen told us yesterday on a work call, and I quote, "sometimes sh*t happens."

    Side note, recd my 620 orange white bundle from Ct yesterday, was lucky I checked a few days ago and they had stock. Quick TM run and was only .05mi apart on distance, pace virtually spot on.

    Reply
  8. Matthieu in Taipei

    I am sure the post race recovery plan was much more fun than the race itself ! Embrace the suck and move forwards !

    Reply
  9. That's still an impressive time I think with all things considered

    Reply
  10. gingerneil

    Sounds like a tough one for you Ray. Still.... a cracking medal and another marathon ticked off the list. The hard/rubbish ones are there to be remembered when preparing for the next.
    The mental side of a marathon is HUGE. Running the distance is one thing, racing it and being happy with the outcome is another.

    Reply
  11. Thomas

    Impressive to see that you managed to put a report together, even though that might have been a uphill task.

    I think we all have had races, where we afterwards didn't know what went wrong. Lets hope that we will have gadgets in the future that can give us the missing answers about our body :-)

    Reply
  12. some days is simply not the day.
    So go on, and there will be brighter ones!

    e Evviva il the allora :D

    from an italian linving in paris, which thanks you for the nice enjoyable blog

    Reply
  13. Antoine

    Always god reading from you!
    It felt just the same than this marathon i trainer for 3:30,that ended in 3:43... Différent pace, same story!

    At some point it stops being rational! (Although it also work the other way around, my PM un half marathon n after a night drinking...)

    Keep up (and keep posting!!)

    Reply
  14. Ken P

    Thanks for the report. Hard to write about a bad day, and like the others appreciate your honesty and that your bad day is better than my best day (time wise) ever will be.

    One thing though: you were in Florence, and any day spent in Florence is a good day. Even when you're slow.

    Thanks for the photos. Even better than your Paris dispatches.

    Reply
  15. Manuel Masuello

    Hi, I'm the "blog reader next to you" in the starting cage...
    Well done anyway!!
    In my opinion the race course was easy and flat, the last kilometers was emotional but also hard because of the road surface, my ankles are still crying...

    Reply
  16. I don't know how you manage the tea. If I drink sweet tea when I'm really hungry or just finished heavy exertion, it's asking for nausea at the minimum.

    Then again, I'm working with Southern iced sweet tea and not hot tea. I've actually never had hot tea in those circumstances.

    Reply
  17. Mike

    Not the easiest of race reports but one that needed to be done for you not us. Someone I work with in the medical field told me early on that if you do enough cases you will wind up with complications at some point. It is a consequence of probability. I have found this to be synonymous and hold true in all aspects of life, and even more so in racing!

    Best of luck in the future and keep on trucking

    Reply
  18. daniele iozzino

    I was the one suggesting you to run Florence on the "Paris-Versailles race report" ... I have seen signs of a bad race on twitter but you never mentioned what went wrong and I was scared you weren't posting about it because it sucked organization wide. I felt quite guilty since. Ah well, bad runs happens I guess.

    Reply
  19. Great report Ray and thanks for being frank. Sometimes races suck, it's a fact we deal with, but the good one outweigh the bad enough so we keep doing them (or we're just sick people, which is also a possibility).

    Question: did I miss how you carry the camera? When you're not using it do you stow is anywhere? I carry a GoPro with me on most races and find that the new Spibelt (with the wider belt) is a great place to hold it. Any of the mounts are too much for 26.2, I need it to go away at times and use it in burst mode.

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Paul replied

      I wondered the same thing, Eric.

      Ray, I didn't notice a mount in the pictures of you. Did you just carry the Virb, or were you using some neat hands-free, wearable mount?

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      I just carried it in my hand. I also had room in a Spibelt (I had two), if I wanted to stash it there.

      Reply
  20. David

    Best. Race. Report. Ever

    Seriously. Do enough events (and you definitely do) some will suck some will be good, some will be great and some will bite it big time. I've had a swim in a tri where 300m in I had to backstroke cause I couldn't breathe. Was thinking - am I panicking, no, have I gone out too hard, no, did I not train, no. Then WTF. Body just wasn't on for it for some reason and took 5mins (which in a 1500 is forever) to come around. As sucky as it is for you it's kind of comforting to for me (others?) to hear that everyone else has the occasional "the body/mind just wasn't there" days. On the upside, a little later that same season I had one of my best races ever. Wishing the same to you.

    Reply
  21. Ted

    Hi Ray, thanks for the report. I ran my first marathon (Seattle) this past Sunday and had a very similar experience from a mental standpoint although in my case my quads started cramping at mile 8 after running too hard into a 20 mph headwind on I90, that zapped my legs (why I didn't draft anyone I have no idea...). At about mile 10 I didn't even know if I was going to finish the half but some how made it to mile 16 where I started doing the walk the aid station, running between method which got me to mile 20 and the hills which then totally zapped me and my calves began to cramp badly. I managed to finish but off my goal time by about 15 min - although for a first marathon I am not complaining - I finished it having never run more than 20 miles! Interestingly for me my HR was never really that high for me, aerobically I think I was not challenged, but cramping led to bad form which led to more problems which is a vicious, painful cycle.

    I thought when I checked your Garmin live tracking link on the day of your race that the GPS recorded 1200 or so feet of elevation gain but you said the course was flat - did I misread that or did the watch do some funky elevation calculations?

    Reply
  22. Eric

    Ray,

    Thanks for the honesty and sharing what clearly was a painful experience. You had a bad day, they are no fun but they happen. While you did not have a BQ you clearly have the ability. I say you should join The Girl run Boston and have fun!

    Reply
    • The Girl replied

      Thanks Eric!! I'm still trying to talk him in to it, I could use (and would like) the mental support Sherpa for the big race :)

      Reply
  23. Dan

    Ray, thanks as always for the great -- and honest -- race report.

    Others have said so, but sometimes the magic woiks and sometimes .... I've completed 13 marathons (with a PR similar to yours). Some of them were awesome and left me invigorated afterward, others not so much. Something like corral chaos (which you experienced) or a bad commute to the starting line (which you didn't) can undo all your mental preparation. If every race -- or every Mariners' game -- went exactly according to plan, what would be the point of competing? Take it as a challenge and learn from the experience. And keep up the great work, both on the road and, especially, the blog.

    Cheers!

    Reply
  24. Marco Polo

    I have the same mental issue with running longer races. My marathon times bear absolutely no correlation to training pace, nor my 10k and even half marathon bests. Hell, according to the Yasso 800 theory I could be a sub 2:50 marathoner, yet my best is 3:25.
    I read once (wish I could remember) where someone wrote that about 25 things need to fall in place to run a marathon PB. Some we have control over, some we don't, some we don't know exist.
    When we have a bad run we'll analyze over and over and over what went wrong. But chances are you won't find the cause. It just stings because of the work put in, and because you (probably) can't bounce back and have another crack at a PB in 2 weeks.
    Anyway, nice report. Oh, and absolutely loving my KICKR!!

    Reply
    • Dr. D replied

      @Marco - you can bounce back and yes it is mental and a good preparation (massage!).

      Last year I was able to run four marathons over successive weekends with times between 2:39 and 2:45. The second was one I was expecting to do well in but the legs did not cooperate, the last was the hardest (very cold and windy) but the best run!

      Best of luck to all runners - you are truly amazing.

      Reply
  25. Amedeo

    Ray,
    I am one of those who was waitingi for a your race report, and I "live-tracked" you during the race.
    Maybe it's though to write about a bad race but in your honesty I can appreciate you more than before.
    Beside I think this report could help many people with lesse experience than you in marathon, just like me (I will debut on Febbruary): I learn that anything can happen, also without any reason and so my only thought will be enjoing with the race.

    Thanks

    p.s.: anyway I hope you appreciated Firenze and its citizen

    Reply
  26. Tommy

    You know what they say: running is 90% mental and the other 10% is in your head. The best laid plans can fall apart even if you are at 100% physically. I find that in bad races when I start looking for excuses using imaginary problems (my knee feels funny, my stomach doesn't feel right) I have a short window to get it back on track or my race is shot.

    At least you finished and it seems like you are letting it go and moving on (too many of us dwell of perceived failures which hurts us in the long run). There will always be another race!

    Reply
  27. Dr. D

    Ray - putting this report out there will inspire most folks, it will reassure some and most of all it will make us keeping on trying till we succeed.

    As I strongly believe, it is not about trial and error but about trial and success.

    Keep it up.... you are an inspiration.

    Reply
  28. David

    I'm exactly like you. If I start to count how many miles are left in the race, I'm doomed. My brain just want to finish. After that, all goes downhill for me

    Reply
  29. Ken

    Nice race report. I've had a few races like that where everything looks good going in but then the race just falls apart anyway. I guess it's just part of the experience -- how can we properly appreciate the great races if we don't experience thud once in a while.

    Reply
  30. Ed

    Your pain is our gain. Yet another entertaining and interesting race report. Thanks for sucking it up.

    Reply
  31. Josh Parks

    Ray:

    Do you think that splitting the screen between lap pace and heart rate would have helped? Not necessarily in alerting the eventual result but by encouraging you to stay slightly slower on the first half?

    I used this approach this year at NYC full and was amazed at how hard I had to keep slowing down just to keep within my heart rate range.

    Please note that this isn't meant as advice - I'm genuinely curious as to whether you think this would have helped you or just been annoying. You seemed pretty directive about NOT wanting the heart rate data which makes me curious as to why.

    Awesome job by the way - I know it's hard not to make your goals but you really seemed to enjoy the race and find wonder in the experience. (which is one of the main points to begin with!) Bravo.

    Reply
  32. Tim

    I have traveled to Florence many times and think it is a beautiful city, but it always struck me as very chaotic.
    In my memory the roads are not always the best quality. This could also make it harder to hit a certain race pace.
    Nevertheless this was a great race report and your acknowledgement that a 7:30min/mile would be an awesome marathon pace shows that you have not lost touch to the basis of the endurance sports (which is fantastic).

    Did you ever consider having someone pace you? Maybe the running with someone would keep you mind in check and take you to a new PR?

    Al the best
    Tim from Alpha Fitness Solutions

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      I've thought about it. It's a bit tough in that it's hard to find folks at that pace, especially now living in Paris. Obviously, they exist somewhere, but finding them is like finding a needle in a haystack.

      Reply
  33. Swimrunbiker

    View your results from another perspective - it would take me 4hrs 17min on a good day. I'd take your off day every possible chance. I can't even comprehend what it must feel like to run at your pace versus at 9min @ 175bpm. Nice job.

    Reply
  34. Peter

    How did you carry the VIRB? Don't see it in the photo of you by the Girl.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      It's in my right hand, with the photo taken by The Girl. You can see the lens peaking out, and the white trim below it.

      Reply
  35. Jason Uhlrich

    I absolutely loved this post. I trained for my first marathon this summer and on my first attempt at 20 miles, I completely imploded at mile 6. It was the most discouraging feeling ever. I got back to my house after walking for another 5 miles and felt so defeated. I didn't start to feel better until I read other reports like this one later that night.

    The fact is, you never know how you will feel on any given run. Sometimes you are mentally strong enough to overcome it and sometimes you mentally give up when your body could persevere. I am sure it was a terrible feeling but it reinforces why these races are so exciting . . . there are no guarantees.

    Thank you for sharing your story! It helps guys like me know that these "bad" days happen to everyone and if you just keep pushing, better runs are around the corner.

    Reply
  36. Ray

    Ray,

    Thanks for the great & honest report. Not a fun one to write, but an interesting piece. I've been there too, fell violently ill three days before the Berlin Marathon this year. I ran the race but didn't get anywhere near the time I had trained for.

    Keep it up - you are a great inspiration
    All the best

    Reply
  37. Lara

    That's one of the most frustrating things about racing, when you have a bad race and really can't pinpoint why. Especially when it's a big "A race" you've really been training for. On the other hand, it's great when you know you aren't well prepared for a race and have a great race anyways! :)

    Reply
  38. Leandro

    Thanks for the honest race report Ray.

    So, you write the best gear reports ever, you work and travel more miles than a pilot, you help your wife with her business, you train hard and also race.

    Reading this report it's a confirmation that indeed, you are human. I was seriously questioning it.

    Chin up, you will have many great races for every sucky one like this.

    Reply
  39. Montana Steve

    Is that the VIRB on your right upper arm? Do you have a pic of how you mount/use it while running?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Montana Steve replied

      Also, isn't that a heavy bit of kit to carry for a marathon? Wouldn't your iPhone or other small camera be easier, even if some small loss of quality?

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      It feels normal to me honestly. One has to remember I run with my other little camera on 95% of my runs, so it's all normal. The reason I went with this camera is I'm finding during daylight conditions it's actually producing really nice images, plus, video is silly easy. During night conditions, both kinda suck for still photos while running.

      For the iPhone, that has the hassle-factor of taking it out of the case somehow. The thing I like about the Virb is the standby to photo aspect. One-touch button and poof, 5 photos taken, like the GoPro really as well.

      Reply
    • Montana Steve replied

      Now that you pointed out that the VIRB is in your hand -- I can see it. It looks like it's a lot smaller than it appears in standalone pictures. Thanks!

      Reply
  40. One of my cousins, a doctor and runner, is a firm believer in the restorative quality of tea after a marathon. I haven't tried it myself, but perhaps I should now!

    Reply
  41. Remco Verdoold

    I would not be surprised if you had a slight Illness. If your body temperature is slightly higher, you produce more heat, a primary reaction to illness. This just added bit of temperature must be removed as well to prevent overheating. Adding the extra heat from the running results in a higher water loss as well as a higher heart rate. Maybe you lost more water during your sleep before the race-day. It is all a matter of balance. Nevertheless it is not nice to feel the hammer hitting hard. Great you have managed to finish. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • Mary C replied

      As others have mentioned, when reading the race report, my first thought was that your body was fighting off something you didn't even know about. Truly, I would not write off your result as simply a mental problem that you had with the distance or goal - I think you should give yourself more credit for that.

      Although you felt well hydrated the week prior to the race, the fact that you drank so much during the race without feeling bad is a sign that your body really needed that water for some reason. As you know, the elevated HR is a good sign of a body that is not recovered or ill as well. Of course, once you realized you weren't going to make your goal, it is natural to have feelings of not wanting to continue - but that is a symptom of the problem, not the cause (I think). You know yourself better than anyone, just sharing my observations as an outsider.

      Thanks for writing the report, I'm sure it wasn't easy to do when (like you said) you have so many other more appealing things to do. For me at least, the value of your race reports isn't based on your result, but on the "real-time" race observations, pictures, and level of detail. Your blog is overall fantastic really.

      PS - Definitely you should still go to Boston with your wife. Raising money for charity is a totally legitimate way to "qualify" for the race (and I don't care what elitists might say about that!). I bet if you did sign up and put a fundraising link up on your blog, your readers would show their support in droves.

      Reply
  42. Florence is my target marathon for next autumn.
    I am Italian and never been to Florence, so this is a good "excuse" to visit it.
    Thanks for the honest race report!

    By the way, the correct Italian spelling for "tea" is "tè", but it is also usual to find it written like the French word, "the".

    Reply
  43. Drew

    I know this was not easy to write but really appreciated the article and ranks for me personally as now one of my fav's. My guess (not that you care) is you had done so much road warrior past few weeks that all this came to head the day of your race... you were fatigued. I know you had taper but due to everything else going on your body did not recover - or worse it did and just so happens you were on the brink of coming down with a cold (which you would now have by the time I write this). Only reasons other than stress or temp/humitdity I can account for you not being able to run your set pace. The human body is complicated and I'm not claiming to understand but that's my take. :) Thanks again for the write up and pictures - glad to know your human :)

    Reply
  44. The mental game is so much harder to train than the physical particularly when your self set expectations are so high. Accept it for what it is, don't over analyze and move on. There will be other races albeit not necessarily in such a beautiful place. Go to the top of the Duomo , recognize the centuries it took to build, enjoy the luxury of some introspection, and then go for some great food with "the girl". Well done.

    Reply
  45. Richard Diz

    Thumbs up!

    Reply
  46. Ray

    Where do you find out about races?

    Reply
  47. Merrill

    Read, if you haven't already, Joe Friels Training Bible.

    Amongst other things, it tells you how to look for scientific indicators that you could be having a 'bad day'.

    I've had a ride like that recently. Average 160+ bpm and under 28km/hr on a flat 1 hour ride, when I can average the same speed, 15 bpm lower over a 4 hour ride in the hills.

    Reply
  48. Hubert

    It happened to all of us Ray, keep it up!
    thanks for your honest report.
    Well, you now have a strong basis for your next workout!

    And don't worry, the Girl loves you even if you failed :-)

    Reply
  49. Mark

    Hi Ray, I just read this interesting article and thought it might have some relevance to your marathon link to runnersweb.com

    Reply
  50. mark buckley

    Nice report on your mental state during the Florence Marathon we all go through mental breakdown at stages during the year its refreshing and motivational to know you are not the only one who's brain craps out every now and then keep the reports coming love them

    Reply
  51. Ray, you've run enough races at this point to know there's no shame in a bad race. Everyone has them. I do like your comment about how your bad pace would be amazing for some of us. I would be included in that. A BQ is far beyond my capabilities today or perhaps ever (my current goal is sub 4hr so I'm not even in the ballpark). But its not about what's good for someone else...its about what is good for you.

    There might not be anything you can do to avoid what happened in the race but just go out and run another one! I mean, we all want great times but since noone is paying us to run at the end of the day its all about the experience for me.

    Reply
  52. SimonNZ

    One of the things I like most about marathons (I have done 3, PB 3:19) is there is no hiding, no fudging, no "it'll be all right on the day". There will be a point at which pain will come, and you just hope it is towards the end!

    The tea looked interesting - I always enjoyed the warm flat coke towards the end on the marathons I did. Not too early- I would try and leave for the last drink station to help me through the last few KMs, and boy did it work a treat!

    Love the blog, as always, once again you are a real inspiration for me.

    Reply
  53. John

    As others have said in different ways, if you didn't have bad runs, you wouldn't have good ones. And remember that having a bad run is a first world problem.

    Love your site.

    Reply
  54. Nice pictures. For those wishing for the entire route, please refer to my report (link below), also covering the whole Florence context. Making marathons in cities like Florence to be only a time game is like asking a girl out for tea ONLY ;)

    Regards, Tor

    link to temperance.dk

    Reply
  55. OperationOne

    different pace here, but same problems: first half too fast, second half trying barely to reach the end. 3:54, sh*t happens. keep up your good work, a clean and nice run is much closer than you think.
    (ps: Tea at the aid stations is a quite common feature for all races here in Tuscany :D )

    Reply
  56. i thought about you when I saw this link to whatisultra.tumblr.com ;)

    Reply
  57. gingerneil

    Hi Ray.
    Reading this again as I prepare for my first Marathon in 3 weeks time (eek!).... Just wondering how you found having just lap pace on your FR620, and the comment that you 'accidently' saw the HR on your other watch. I know from other posts that you use HR for your training zones, but obviously will have used the lap pace to pace yourself against the time you were aiming for in the race. Do you usually have only the lap pace showing for races, or was this something your tried as a one-off for the race ? Do you find the HR a distraction as your goal is based on pace and not an HR zone ?

    On my FR220 I usually have lap pace, HR zone and distance (with other stuff like overall avg pace on another page incase I need to check that against overall goal pace). Distance is maybe a little pointless when there are markers on the route, but HR is a good gauge of how things are going and if your body is telling you that the current pace is ok, if you can speed up a little, or maintain pace and save some for the last 10k.

    Any thoughts ? I've read loads about general marathon prep (nutrition, hydration etc etc), but not much on how best to use the technology to your advantage. Any other race-day tips for a marathon virgin, tech based or otherwise!?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Generally it's HR based. We had tried pace this time, as a slightly different approach. Obviously, that didn't work out. Not necessarily for the approach, but just because. In theory I was to actually watch HR as a limiter, but I was somewhat at the point of not caring.

      In my last race (the HM), I race almost exclusively on HR. In fact, I completely ignored pace altogether. That worked out fairly well for me. But, that doesn't necessarily mean it was technology - just perhaps a better day.

      Here's a bit more I wrote on pacing for races some while back: link to dcrainmaker.com

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Actually, sorry, this is the post I wanted: link to dcrainmaker.com

      Reply
    • Gingerneil replied

      Thanks - appreciate the time you take to respond, even to old posts!!

      Reply
  58. Eric Guinard

    Hi Ray, you said you weren't sure about writing this race report, well, it certainly helped me a great deal. I went through exactly the same type of race in LA a couple of weeks ago. I know a lot of people don't make their target time, I knew of course it was going to happen to me one day or another but it's always hard to figure out. So reading about your race made me feel good about the whole thing for some strange reason ! First time I post, I'm a huge fan of your product reviews, thanks for all the great advice and incredible level of details. Hope to cross paths one day in France maybe ? Cheers, Eric

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Thanks Eric, glad I could be of help. And indeed, next time you're in Paris - give me a shout!

      Reply
  59. Aaron S.

    Hey Ray--thanks for posting this. I just had a race 4 weeks ago that just wasn't my day either and I was absolutely at a loss as to what happened. I'd planned on a 3.11-3.13 and ended up at 3.35 with several walk/stretch periods in there. I had totally nailed all my training leading up the race, so when the wheels came off right before mile 13 I was just stunned. Was so down about it that I couldn't even do an analysis for my coach--just sent him a blow-by-blow timeline without any color. I was completely shattered.

    Four weeks on I've mostly gotten past the event (except for the occasional stab of disappointment in myself whenever I see something posted on FB by BAA), but reading your account here made me feel a lot more at peace with myself and with what happened. If it happened to someone like you, it can certainly happen to someone like me. So thanks. I appreciate that you gave as much attention to detail about a race that didn't break your way as you do to the ones you nail.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Thanks Aaron. Bummed to hear it didn't work out for you, that sucks. But like you said, sometimes it takes a bad day to find a good day. Here's to next time!

      Reply
    • Jf tobback replied

      It's ok. You are just getting old :-) at 42 am preparing for my 17th marathon and my quickest was my first in 4:02 but never more than4:50. Welcome to the easy going club. Marathons are fun!!

      Reply
  60. Dion

    Heey ray i read your florence marathon report just now.
    I ran this marathon last sunday, and must say I had sort of the same thing.

    IT just wouldn't work, mentally I lost the sight of my aimed time (2.53, already at halfway.
    I managed to finish in 3:02 and fifty somewhat seconds.

    Reading your blog keeps me hopefull that next time, i Will pull it off again.

    (Ps. In my case though, i'm afraid i was a little bit undertrained)

    Like to read your reports, keep it up!!

    Grtz, Dion

    Reply
    • DC Rainmaker replied

      Thanks for dropping by Dion, and congrats on the finish yesterday - even if like me, it wasn't quite what you wanted.

      Reply
  61. Alex Jeffreys

    I ran Florence last week and completely blew up as well... Seems to be a common theme for me though, and I'm completely frustrated by it. Looking back at my Garmin stats, my HR was higher than usual for the pace I was running and I was definitely very thirsty at the end of the race. Another warm and humid day, probably 6 degrees warmer than the cold wet climate I flew in from (London, England). I pretty consistently blow up 18 miles in with stomach cramps that knock me off my feet, and no matter what I try and do I can't then seem to get back running for more than a couple of minutes at a time. I was convinced this time around I'd cracked the problem and took S!Cap salt/electrolyte supplements. Nope. I got my cramps earlier. No more marathons for me!

    Love the website, gadget reports, race reports, everything. Keep up the good work, and thanks!

    Reply

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