Saturday, April 27, 2013

More Sardinia Photos (And Even a Few Words)

Bongiorno! It's another beautiful day at the Chia Laguna Resort in South Sardinia. As I type this, it's around 2:30 on Saturday afternoon and I'm sipping a cappuccino (twice as good and half as large as in the US) after a delicious lunch, preparing to attend a press conference at 4pm. Apparently they're under the impression that I'm an "elite runner" and thus must have something interesting to say...boy, will they be disappointed on both counts!

This trip deserves a thorough recap/play-by-play (and will get one, I swear!) but for now I'll just share a few more photos and a quick preview for tomorrow's race. It's actually a really neat concept, and one that I would love to see replicated somewhere in the US (or what do I know, maybe it has been already). The resort opened for the season just this week, and the property's investors tapped Marcello to create the race, essentially from scratch, as a kick-off for the summer ahead. As a result, literally every person staying on the property this weekend is participating in the race in some capacity. And every single room is full! Needless to say, this makes for a unique and very collegial atmosphere among the guests. Despite sticking out like a very sore, very blond thumb, each person I've encountered has been incredibly friendly and treated me like an honored guest. (Everyone at home, I hope you're taking notes.) Other than some bad weather on the first day (most of which I slept through), I couldn't ask for a better experience thus far!

Regarding the race itself, as they say in Italian, it's gonna be a doozy. We took a course tour a few days ago and it confirmed what essentially everyone here who can string together an English sentence has told me: don't plan on running a fast time. The first 11-12k of the course is ridiculously hilly as it winds through the cliffs along the ocean, and the wind here is notoriously gusty and mercurial. The first section is out-and-back, and participants pass underneath the finish banner at 10k before embarking on a different loop for the second half of the race. (Or if you're fortunate, which I am not, you could opt to participate in the 10k instead of the half and heed your aching legs at this point.) The final 9-10k is quite flat, so negative splitting is a legitimate possibility provided my legs have anything remaining. Also, Marcello (event organizer/athlete agent/host extraordinaire) has assembled quite a field considering there is no prize money nor promised PRs to speak of. On the men's side, Italy's top distance runner Daniele Meucci, fresh off a 1:01 second place finish at the NYC Half-Marathon (with Ritz's scalp to boot) will be giving my new friend Tyler McCandless some stiff competition (although Tyler may already have been beaten by a freak fever that sprung up suddenly yesterday, poor guy). On the women's side, I'll have to contend with (read: finish approximately 10 minutes behind) the Italian record-holder in the marathon, Valeria Straneo. Both athletes are here with their families and seem perfectly content to battle the conditions for 13.1 miles in exchange for a relaxing resort vacation.

So, with both a fast time and a shot at victory off the table, what is my goal tomorrow? Honestly, I don't know what to expect. The first few days of the trip found my poor jet-lagged body feeling sluggish and decidedly out of its element. But this morning, from the minute I awoke at the leisurely hour of 9am it was as if my internal clock finally calibrated. My mood was improved, my legs felt light and fast and I was suddenly bursting with excitement at the prospect of getting my ass kicked up and down the Sardinian hills tomorrow. And besides, as the sub-sub librarian noted, Marcello has assured me that as long as I'm ready to party by noon then everything is perfecto.

View in one direction from approx. 11k mark of the race. In the foreground is the resort and to the left you can see the stage where the awards and post-race party will take place.

View from 11k in the other direction. These two shots were taken within seconds of each other--crazy how different the sky looks! Tyler and I ran to that watchtower on the left yesterday morning.

One last shot from the 11k area. To the left is the very steep, much-needed downhill that leads to the flatter second half of the course. With a grade like that I might break the posted speed limit!

The finish line (and 10k mark), literally in the driveway of the resort. Talk about convenient!

Where the post-race magic happens.


Jim said...

Best of luck and have a great race