When I started the blog (a little over a year ago), I had to choose a name. And as it always happens in these cases, we spend very little time in deciding something that will live with us for a long time. At that time, the thought of running a marathon was something intangible. A vital goal. Something to do at least once in a lifetime. But far away in time, almost a chimera. A marathon, for a popular "weekend" runner, intimidates. And anyone who faces this event for the first time without that feeling is either unconscious or foolhardy.
But I've been burning phases. And training. And getting to know myself. All so that I could get to the starting line confident that I could do it, but of course with respect.
I set myself three different goals. First and foremost, of course, to finish the marathon, secondly, to do it under four hours, and thirdly, to get a record of 3:45. Being the first time I faced the distance, I didn't want to set a too optimistic goal, even though following VDOT tables and with my times in other distances I indicated I could look for 3:30.
The hours before the race
The arrival in Valencia was almost at midnight, after a long journey by car that started from Marbella. And not in the best way, because of the news coming in from Paris and that as the night progressed they got worse. Not only because of the helplessness and bad feelings that such an act produces in you, but also because of the fact that you were heading with your family to a multitudinous event.
We unloaded the luggage in our rental apartment around 23:30. The location chosen was in the heart of Valencia, renting through AirBNB and thus avoiding the high prices of hotels, which obviously hung the sign of busy as the Valencia marathon is quite international. Thanks to some offers I got the rent for 105 ? the two nights, not bad for an apartment where we would sleep 5 people (and a dog) and that was located in the heart of Valencia, two steps from the city hall.
As soon as you arrived, you could already feel the atmosphere of a marathon, with that blue line painted on the floor and that hours later you were going to be stepping on it. It is so magical that it seems to have been brought by the Three Kings; one night you go to bed and the next morning it is there, all set, for your enjoyment. And when you see it you feel like a child who has been brought a new toy, and you are wishing you could play with it.
The next morning, as soon as I woke up, it was time to go out and do the final training. 20 minutes of running through the centre of Valencia, culminating in running technique and stretching. Here ended many months of preparation and training, of strengthening exercises, of long and not so long runs. Of series and of intervals. Of long nights and weekends. This was the end of the road. But the smell of marathon was still in the streets. You came across more runners, people with colourful clothes, sports sunglasses... we all came to the same thing, to enjoy a great race.
After a walk through the centre of Valencia it was time to think about the day of the race again, with the consequent load of carbohydrates.
Another good thing about doing a marathon in Valencia, eating with the race in mind doesn't cost you any effort.
Bib collection at Expo Deporte
After lunch we went to the start and finish line of the marathon, where Expo Deporte, the runner's fair, had been set up. It was divided into two parts, the upper floor being where we had to go first.
At the end of this part of the fair there was the bib collection point. A really efficient service, without any kind of queue or waiting thanks to a good organization and the large number of volunteers present. You arrive, show your ID and leave with an envelope under your arm.
And inside the envelope, the bib with the chip and the label that would be used for the wardrobe the next day.
The next step was to go to the lower floor to walk around the second part of the fair and pick up the bag from the runner.
Among the stands present at the fair were the people from Polar.
They weren't the only ones. Also TomTom presenting his new Runner 2 (from which I keep trying to get a test unit. There seem to be clocks everywhere, but they don't send me any).
Once the visit to the fair was over it was time to do the shopping to prepare dinner. That night it was time for pasta.
To the exit
Getting up on a Sunday morning at 7 a.m. may seem like a punishment, but when the alarm clock rings for a marathon, you jump out of bed quickly. Getting to the start was going to be easy, as there was a free bus service for the runners. From the town hall square to the start line itself. When we got to the stop the queue was quite long, but in a matter of minutes a couple of buses arrived and we quickly filled them up.
Once we arrived at the City of Arts and Sciences, the first thing to do was to leave the rucksack in the cloakroom. To do this we used the sticker that the organisation provided us with together with the bib. And as with the collection of the bib, the service was very quick on the part of the volunteers. Arriving, handing in the rucksack at the point marked for your bib number, good luck on the part of the volunteers and that was it. When it came to collecting the rucksack we simply had to show our bib so that it could be returned to us.
After a long queue at the door of the bathrooms I went to my starting box. I was relatively late, because with 10 minutes left I was totally crowded. I couldn't even reach the entry point, and we were about 150 runners at the side of the box waiting for the race to start (we were in the second wave, which would start at 9:06).
After a respectful minute of silence that only broke the sound of the helicopters, we were ready to face the start. As soon as the clock struck 9 in the morning, the 10 km race and the first marathon wave (sub 3:30 times) were launched, which allowed those of us outside the box to access the start area.
The fact that I had entered the starting box late made me a little nervous. The 4:00 hare was 100 meters from where I managed to enter, and ahead of me were hundreds of runners. And I was looking for the 3:45 hare! I passed a few lines before the start of the race, but I was still far from the area where I belonged. There was nothing to worry about, the race was long.
The first kilometre was used to warm up and to look for a comfortable place where we could progress. Luckily the start was on the Monteolivete Bridge, which was wide enough to accommodate the thousands and thousands of runners who were going to enjoy the streets of Valencia (more than 16,500 in the marathon and 8,500 in the 10 kilometre race that started at the same time).
The goal of the first kilometers was to get into a comfortable rhythm, but above all to see how I was doing due to the overload of my gluteus medius that I was recovering from in the physio days ago. The idea was to run in rhythms of 5:15-5:20 min/km, so at the beginning it was a matter of controlling the desire to run. You have to start with your head, the race is very long and you can't do anything foolish at the beginning.
At that time the weather was perfect, around 14º, the sun was hot enough not to be cold and windless. You couldn't ask for anything else. The refreshment posts, located every 5 kilometers, were quite varied. I took a bottle of water in all of them and a glass of isotonic. I avoided the gels, preferring to take my own and thus avoiding possible stomach problems.
The first kilometers passed through the farthest part of the center, where there was less public. Even so, the animation points were constant, percussion groups in their immense majority.
The discomfort in the buttocks was there. I could feel it but it wasn't going any further. It wasn't a pain, but the feeling of having the area numb and slightly swollen. I signed that it would stay that way for the rest of the race.
After a second stop to expel liquid at kilometre 20 (the first one at kilometre 13, I felt like a camel) we were entering the Cabanyal (a seafaring district of Valencia) again, and one of the worst moments of the race arrived. The discomfort of the back and buttocks area was getting worse. In a matter of kilometres it became quite latent and the ghosts began to appear. There was half a race left to run, and if I had been so loaded in three or four kilometres I didn't even want to think about how I could get into what was left to me. Especially knowing that the start had been quite conservative (2:03 the half marathon) and that from that point on it was time to tighten the rhythm a little.
There was still half a race to go, my body was perfect and my legs were only slightly tired, but that damned disease that appeared only a week before the big date seemed to be intended to continue spoiling the race. My spirits were going down, but not my rhythm, which I kept up like a hammer. I took a gel and started thinking about closer targets, the next one over kilometer 26, where I would see the family again in the Alameda area.
The race finishes in the Alameda and I can't see them again, either they've gone to another area or I was looking for them in the public area which wasn't there. But well, from that point on the best part of the race begins, as we enter the centre of Valencia. We cross the Puente del Real and go into the heart of Ciutat Vella. There are already many people cheering, shouting, singing. The people of Valencia have taken to the streets and they are cheering us all on as if we were their children, their friends, their colleagues. And we, the runners, cannot fail them.
I stop for a moment to ask a volunteer for a little reflex on the area of the ailment. I didn't trust him to help me much physically, but at least he got it out of my head. We passed the town hall and turned right to look for the exit to the center of Valencia. Arriving at the Torres de Quart we reach kilometer 30, and I amuse myself by reading the public signs. "Explosives to tear down the wall" said one of them. I smile and continue on my way, picking up my water bottle at the refreshment post. Here I notice for the first time that I start to overtake people walking. It seems that it is true about the wall of 30, because before they were not, or at least I had not noticed it.
For my part, I do damage assessment and realize that the pain in my back has completely disappeared. I didn't even realize it. Body good. Legs good. Pulse good. Here I already knew that this marathon was mine, there was one hour left to cross the impressive finish line at Science City, and nothing could stop me from being there.
We crossed the Jardín del Turia and headed for the hardest part, since the road was bumpy upwards. In the areas with the steepest slopes I adjust my pace so as not to force it and I do a couple of kilometres in 5:40 min/km.
Kilometer 35. Territory to be explored. My long runs had never reached this point before, I didn't know what to expect. I continued to overtake many runners and accelerated the pace a little, going down at a rate of 5:00 min/km. The rest of the race was downhill and I had to take advantage of it.
I stop for a moment in the 38 to receive reflexes on the twins, which are already very loaded, but I can continue the march without any major problem, although now the kilometers were passing more and more slowly. It's incredible how at first you get to kilometer 10 without hardly noticing and now go from 38 to 39 is an eternity.
I'm already in the bullring. The spectators cheer, shout your name and remind you that you're already there. Anyone who tells you that those moments don't thrill you would be lying. You don't run for yourself here, not even for the months of training. You do it for the public's sake and you can't let them down.
We arrive at the Paseo de la Ciudadela. There's only one straight line left. I get a warning from the biceps of the right leg and decide to slow down a bit for the rest of the race, trying to be more careful with every step. I keep the cadence but shorten the stride. I pass under the arch of kilometer 40. Only one left!
Two hundred meters later, both of my femoral biceps go up at the same time. Tremendous pain that forces me to stop suddenly. I stretch for a few seconds (which seems like an eternity) and receive people's breath.
"Don't stop now Eduardo, you're already there. The marathon is yours!" they tell me from the audience.
I regain my composure and I line up the entrance to the park. I finally see the family, who are waiting to take my picture.
Mixed feelings. You want to finish as soon as possible and stop the pain, as well as set the best possible time. On the contrary, the image is so beautiful that your wish is that it lasts forever. Kilometer 42 sign, a turn to the left and there it is, the finish line over the water. Two hundred meters of blue carpet that ends in the longed-for finish line.
Test passed! If you now ask me if so many months of training, discipline and commitment have been worthwhile the answer is YES, a very resounding yes. And not for overcoming the race, but for the atmosphere, for the emotion of the people shouting your name. Receiving the support of thousands and thousands of people, both in the audience and other runners. A marathon is something very big, and it is only possible to know its true dimension when you are part of it. It is indescribable, there are no words to describe the sensations. You have to live it.
After crossing the finish line we all head like zombies towards the medal reception, all of us with strange gaits, where we again enjoy the exquisite organization. They put some space blankets over our shoulders to fight and give us a bag with food and drink to recover our strength. After walking around the area a little bit I feel as I can, trying to avoid new jerks. And simply, I enjoy the moment. I'm surrounded by runners and public, but at the same time I'm totally alone, in silence.
After that moment "alone", I get up to look for the exit. Three steps that look like a wall. I head for the massage and checkroom area. In five minutes I'm already receiving a massage to unload legs by student volunteers from UCV (thank you!) and pick up the backpack the same way I left it, without any waiting.
And time to take a picture.
Or 30 pictures. Because it's not every day you run a marathon.
And I take home what I've been looking for, that medal that credits me as one of the more than 14,000 runners who completed the race.
A little technology
As I know that many of you like these details, I'll comment on what I wore during the race. The watch I chose was the Fenix 3, mainly because of the convenience of being able to configure the different options directly from the watch. I created a specific sports profile for the race.
I just wanted to get the basic information. A first screen with three pieces of information. Total race time, lap time in progress and heart rate.
Time was simply used to see how far ahead I was, but I didn't use it to calculate rhythms, so I preferred to use the current lap time rather than the instantaneous pace, which is what I usually use in training, and finally the heart rate, more as a check that everything is going well than as a reference value.
On the second screen I wanted four pieces of information.
Of course, the distance, to use as a reference because in the end what they send are the official kilometers of the race. I really did not pay much attention, because having the automatic laps I had the reference of what mile I was in every time I marked a kilometer.
In the middle, two key values: Average pace of the whole race, which allowed me to see how the lap of the first screen was going with respect to the rest of the race. Normally this average pace would help me to know how I am doing with respect to the goal, but for that I had the marathon final time field (downloaded from Connect IQ that same morning) which estimates the final time using the average pace of the distance travelled together with the current pace.
That's what I used to regulate myself the most during the race, but it doesn't take into account a key factor. A marathon is 42,195 meters, but unless you run alone and are very good at tracing the corners, it will be difficult for you to cover the same distance. Every time you make a curve on the outside or you go to the side to look for supplies, the meters increase. Add to this the inaccuracy of the GPS that can add or reduce meters depending on your luck in positioning and the result is that we can't trust that field either. So for the next occasions we will have to use the old method. Time per kilometer pointed out and watch the clock as it passes by the signs.
Finally, I like to carry a cadence field to check if with the passing of the kilometres and the fatigue the rhythm is reduced and I have to wake up. Normally when I start to get tired I lengthen the stride and reduce the cadence, even if I keep the rhythm, so that field is a good element of control and I don't forget the importance of the cadence.
I didn't set off any alarms to remember to drink or eat, because that's what I had the refreshments for. Nor did I set off any heart rate or rhythm alarms. Some of the runners had set them off, because you could hear the different alarms on people's watches (alarms that they didn't pay any attention to...). Other beeps that were heard included phase changes from advanced training, which is another smart way to plan an endurance race.
As for the pulse sensor, I opted for the Mio LinkI didn't need the data provided by the HRM-Run sensor during the race at all, and I was looking for comfort. This race already has enough worries to add more possibilities of friction or burns produced by the tape.
I was thinking until the last minute whether to take the Stryd (of which I still have full proof) along with a Ambit3It was even in the luggage I prepared for Valencia. At the last moment I decided not to wear it, not only because I chose Mio Link as my pulse sensor, but also because the use I've given to Stryd has been quite limited (I received the final unit 2-3 weeks ago, and I haven't even been able to calculate my FTP) and I haven't yet collected enough data to be able to evaluate it during the race. It would have been useful to regulate me perfectly in the few climbs I had, or to help me correct my posture as the fatigue set in. But I chose comfort.
A fabulous experience. Now that I've completed the marathon challenge, what? Well, for the moment, I'm resting and recovering from what's left of the overload, but not much rest, because I still have half tests and new devices to analyze on the way.
And with that... thanks for reading!