The Road to Rome: Maratona di Roma: The Race

This post has been a long time coming, I should have written it a long time ago, but I have/had a lot of conflicting views on this race.

Last time I wrote about Italy, I had been to the expo and did a shake-out run with The Roman Guy. After the shakeout run, I had a really yummy lunch with Laura & then headed back to The Beehive to just chill out the rest of the afternoon/evening. I like to just veg out in my Pro Compression marathon socks and I always eat pizza the night before a race.

Margarita Pizza, Aqua Naturale & my fav purple Procompression socks - a prerace ritual
Margarita Pizza, Aqua Naturale & my fav purple Procompression socks – a prerace ritual

I didn’t have a TV in my room, so I just read some, surfed the internet & chilled before heading to bed. The race didn’t start until 9am so I didn’t have to be up too early, but I always like to be ready early & there early, just in case.

I was prepared for anything, it had been semi nice out my first 2 days in Rome, but the forecast was calling for rain. I was a little nervous about the rain, I’m not a fan of running in the rain to begin with but wet cobblestones made me a little anxious. I have run on cobblestones a lot, when I lived in Orlando, but Winter Park cobblestones & 2000 year old cobblestones are a little different.

I had an outfit picked out, a black Lululemon pace setter skirt, a teal cool racer back, long sleeve swiftly & my newton gravity shoes.  What I ended up wearing was all Lululemon, running capris, teal cool Racerback, purple long sleeve swiftly, white rain jacket, my cold weather running headband & my newtons.

Ready for anything
Ready for anything

I left the hotel around 6:45a and headed towards the train station to take the metro to the start line. The metro was free for all runners on the day of the race. It was pretty cool seeing all the other runners with their backpacks. Just a sea of red backpacks :).

At Termini, waiting for the metro. Free for runners on race day.
At Termini, waiting for the metro. Free for runners on race day.

The race had put up posts on Facebook telling us all to get off a Circus Maximus instead of the Colesseo stop, which was actually closer, but closed. From the metro stop it was about a 10 min walk to the starting area. It was drizzling a little at this point, I had my umbrella up, just so I didn’t get too wet before the race.

I got over near the Colesseo & took a few minutes to eat some bread with Justin’s peanut butter with honey. I filled my hydration belt bottles with pre-mixed Gatorade (the Gatorade there tasted different) & headed into the madness. There was a very small entrance that they were letting runners into the pre-race area. It was super congested & not the safest way of doing things in my opinion. It felt like with all the runners trying to get in, it could quickly become a mob.

Arriving at the colosseo before the race.
Arriving at the colosseo before the race.

Once I was inside, I went straight to the porta potties, which in my opinion was another disaster or rather poor planning, set up on the races part. There were about 20 porta potties each with a huge line, I waited in line for almost 45 minutes before I had to get out of line to drop off my bag. I saw a few signs directing us to the various bib numbers so I headed in the direction of my bib number, but I had forgotten that women were in a separate section, so after walking down a bit, I had to turn around & go thru the crush of runners all the way to the end, where they had the women’s baggage trucks. Burnt Toast moment #1.

Backpack for baggage drop
Backpack for baggage drop
My baggage drop truck, #58 - alllll the way at the end...
My baggage drop truck, #53 – alllll the way at the end…

I finally got there, dropped off my bag & then ran into 2 of the other runners from the shake-out run. We took a few photos & then I was off. I was supposed to be in Corral 3 but by the time I got up to the starting area it was too late. Burnt Toast moment #2

It was freezing and had been raining off and on by this point. I still had to go to the bathroom and was stuck in throng of runners. We finally were able to start moving towards the start & I was pleasantly surprised to see porta potties before the official start so I ducked in to one, did my thing and didn’t lose anytime on the clock – yea!!

I had a plan for the race from my coach, Mary, and while I really wanted sub 4 I didn’t think it was a realistic goal based on my training. I only had 12 weeks after being out for 2 months and I was running straight vs Galloway so I scaled back to a more realistic goal of 4:10..

The plan was this: (for a 4:10 marathon, the average pace needs to be 9:06 per mile or 5:55 per km)

first 5k-10k: get comfortable. Try to run a little slower (about 10 sec a mile) for this part, as to not go out to fast.
10k-20k: you might still be under goal pace here. Thats fine. Just make it closer to 5 sec slower a mile
20k-30k: Find goal pace now
30k-finish: Move a little faster than goal pace to make up the time. Since you started out slower, you should have the extra energy to push here.

This is what really happened: numbers wise but the numbers don’t tell the real story.

Distanza Pos. Pos. M/F Pos. Cat. Tempo RealTime Parziale min/Km
Via Ostiense (5K) 5000 9483 1194 9476 00:35:37 00:30:43 7.07
Via Ettore Rolli (10K) 10000 10499 1334 10492 01:05:59 01:01:05 00:30:21 6.35
Lungotevere dei Sangallo (15K) 15000 11211 1464 11203 01:37:44 01:32:50 00:31:44 6.30
Via della Giuliana (21.097K) 21097 11103 1477 11093 02:18:41 02:13:47 00:40:57 6.34
Piazza Lauro De Bosis (25K) 25000 12010 1711 12001 02:45:17 02:40:23 00:26:35 6.36
Viale della XVII Olimpiade (30K) 30000 12208 1813 12199 03:22:31 03:17:37 00:37:14 6.45
Piazza di Spagna (40K) 40000 11590 1711 11581 04:31:09 04:26:14 01:08:37 6.46
Via dei Fori Imperiali (FINISH) 42195 11573 1703 11563 04:47:08 04:42:14 00:15:59 6.48

 

First off, I knew that the race would be in kilometers, but I trained in miles, next time, I run in a foreign country, I’ll train in kilometers instead of miles so I have a better idea on my paces, etc.

The race started out fine, it was a bit slower than I would have liked, but it was pretty crowded.  I had read that the first & last 6 miles were cobblestone, but it was kinda intermittent between cobblestone & regular road, with a little bit of marble sidewalk thrown in :).

It was cold, to me, for about the first 6 miles and then it got incredibly humid. I had already taken my jacket off and it was around this point, which was actually I would come to find out, in my cousin, Elena’s neighborhood, near Marconi. I took off my long sleeve skirt here. I was really struggling & I ended up walking just a bit at this point when I took off my shirt. I tied both the skirt & jacket around my waist, the were Lululemon & kinda pricey so I didn’t want to toss them. Burnt toast moment #3, I should have taken the swiftly off before the race & just had the jacket, but too late now.

Of course right after this point, the rain would start in earnest & I was stuck in my tank top since my other tops were wet. It was around this point that things would go horribly wrong and I had a really bad asthma attack, that left me wheezing for about 2 miles – around miles 8 – 10.  I had my inhaler in my pouch, used it and tried to run as much as I could until it was over. Burnt Toast Moment #4

By this point, I probably could have called it a day & just quit, but I came all the way to Rome & I had put it out there on social media, so there was no quitting.  Even after 4 Burnt Toast moments.

I decided to just do my best to finish and I need up doing Galloway pretty much the rest of the race, running when I could and walking when I had to.  With torrential rain in parts, and not feeling very well, I got to St. Peter’s and took the only photos during the race. When I got back to AZ & showed this pic to my mom, she was like that is a horrible photo, which it is, but it really shows what I was going thru during this race.  I wasn’t even half-way thru the race and I felt like I had run 50 miles.

St. Peter's Basilica midrace selfie by St. Peters Looking back from St. Peters

After this point, I just kept trudging along, I was drinking lots of Gatorade – at least 1 cup sometimes 2 at each water stop, which were every 5k.  I thought the Gatorade tasted different, but it seemed to work although, I did have to take a pit stop around mile 19.  The aid stations were well stocked, with water, Gatorade (although they called them sale, or salts), cookies, fruit and maybe some other snacks too.  i was pretty bad about fuel during this race, i think i only ate a total of 2 honey stinger chews the whole race. Oops!

I remember getting to the area around the Spanish Steps & then Piazza Navona & being cheered on by some fellow Americans – thank you for that! before getting into the final stretch. Around 38km, I was walking and a fellow runner passed me and said “Forza!” Which was what I needed to hear right then. I managed to keep going, even passed him and was feeling pretty good, even after having been out there for over four hours.

Then we got to the last aid station which was inside a tunnel about a mile or so from the finish.  Here comes Burnt Toast moment #5 (I think, it’s getting hard to keep track, huh).  It was super slippery, I grabbed my cup of Gatorade and promptly almost went down.  I kept walking and almost fell over a 2nd time, and then a 3rd so after having made up some decent time, I had to walk thru this tunnel since it was so slippery.  I finally made it thru and I knew I was almost there.  I remember getting right in front of Piazza Vittorio Emanuele and all of a sudden, I realized that there was a huge puddle right in front of me.  I remember looking down and seeing it, trying to move to the left and then next thing I knew, I was on my butt, my legs having fallen right out from under me with my hands on either side.  Now, I think it’s hysterical, but at the time, I was so ready for everything to be over, and I just sat there, finally this guy helped me up, but looking back now, if he hadn’t helped me, really, I have no idea how long I would have sat there.  And this was the big one, Burnt Toast moment #6.

When I went down, I hit my hand on the base of my palm, and when I got up, I couldn’t even open my hand up all the way, but I had a race to finish, so I picked myself up.  Oh and remember, I had my jacket & long sleeve swiftly around my waist? They were soaked, completely soaked since I had been sitting in a puddle at least 6 inches deep. So while I was in tears, I fixed my shirts and I managed to cross the finish line and get my medal.  When I got it, the girl was like don’t cry, and I told her I thought I might have broken my hand, oops.  Fortunately after about 10 minutes, the pain subsided a bit and it wasn’t so so bad.

One weird thing about Italy, you cannot find ice anywhere, here you finish a race and everyone is walking around with ice, there, I don’t think I saw one person who had any ice and come to think of it, I don’t think I saw any ice at all the entire time I was there.

So I finished the race, I was soaking wet, I had to walk all the way to the end to get my bag, at which point, I like everyone else, put my marathon space wrap around me and changed out of my wet clothes, right there on the sidewalk by the Colesseo.  There was a girl next to me from the Netherlands, who asked me to hold the wrap around her so she could change out of her sports bra, I wasn’t quite that brave 😉 but I did change out of my capris and put on dry pants.  I was done, and as one of my instagram friends said, even with all the craziness, I looked strangely content in this photo.

Post Race Medal Shot

Marathons are always a challenge, I was incredibly disappointed with my time but considering all the burnt toast moments and the fact that I only had 12 weeks to train, basically from scratch, I’m really happy with my accomplishment.  As my now coach said to me when I emailed him to tell him how I did, I could have quit after the asthma attack at mile 8 and the fact that I didn’t says a lot more about me than the number on the clock.

That being said, I do have big goals regarding the marathon, and I made the decision after this race, that I needed to achieve my goals in the half marathon before I could work on my marathon goals.  There will always be another marathon to run :).

Final thoughts on the Maratona di Roma…overall a well organized race.  I think that they need more porta potties and to make sure that women know that their baggage check is separate from the men.  It should have been labeled on the paperwork and with signs.  Obviously you can’t control the weather but running it in the rain was a definite challenge.

Have you ever had a race go so horribly wrong?  And what did you do? Did you quit or push thru?

Race Recap: Ragnar Trail Zion

This past weekend I went up to Zion with some of my running buddies to run the Ragnar Trail Relay.  We did the McDowell Mountain Relay last year and so when one of my running buddies told us about a team that was looking for runners, we jumped at it.

A little burnt toast moment that almost ruined my trip, the day before I was to leave, I woke up with an issue in my back.  I have had a lot of back issues throughout the year, but this was different, it got tighter and tighter all day when I was at work, everytime I went to get up from my ball chair, I felt worse and worse. So off I went to see my PT, Charlie, at Cadence Physical Therapy and he helped manipulate my back to get it back to somewhat normal. But how would I feel on the trails…

I was a part of 2 teams and as luck would have it the captain of the other team, Robin, had reserved 2 cabins way back in November for the race so not only would we be running the relay, we wouldn’t have to camp! Win win in my book.  (McDowell Mountain was my very first time camping and while it wasn’t bad, there is no way I’m turning down a cabin with a real bed and a shower!)

We stayed in cabins 501 & 502, which was called the Overlook Mountain Home at the Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort.  I unfortunately didn’t get any pics of the cabin but you can find information about the resort & the various cabins/mountain homes here.  Personally I would so recommend renting a cabin.

The drive from Phoenix to Zion was about 6.5 hours and except for the last bit in the dark, it was a pretty easy drive.  I’ve really not been out of the Phoenix area since I moved here about 2.5 years ago so it was nice to see some different parts of Arizona.

The only complaint I have, and this is because my phone is attached to my hand, lol, I wasn’t able to access the internet, text or email during my time in Zion.  I seriously have my phone no less than 2 feet from me all day long, mostly due to my job, but also because it’s habit and not being connected was so making me crazy – LOL!!  Eventually I just went with it and said, I guess I’m not meant to do anything today & chilled out 🙂

Waking up the next morning to this beautiful, crisp morning.

Ragnar Trail Zion Day 1 Sunrise
waking up to a beautiful day

My cabin mates were overachievers who thought to bring all sorts of fun extras with them so we were able to start the day with our normal green smoothies, score! Thank you Margaret & Wendy for being so awesome and bringing the Vitamix with them!!

Day 1 Ragnar Trail Zion Green Smoothie

We had a really early start time 9:30am, because at McDowell Mountain we started late and were a little slower than we thought so we wanted to make sure we had plenty of time, especially since the elevation was significantly higher than in Phoenix.  So we ate up and headed down to our camp site to hang out before our safety meeting.

 

Our camp before everyone else arrives Photo Credit: Tom Scotney
Our camp before everyone else arrives
Photo Credit: Tom Scotney
Ragnar Trail Zion Transition Tent
Ragnar Trail Zion Transition Tent
Ragnar Trail Zion Safety Meeting
Ragnar Trail Zion Safety Meeting

All teams have to go to the safety meeting which goes over the trails, the different color and shaped signs to look for, what to do if you get hurt, if your runner takes longer than you expect, if there is lightning, etc. etc..  There wasn’t anything mentioned about snow or rain.  Although I did hear later in the day that they added a little something I had mentioned to the director of the yellow loop about how it seemed like the signs were really far apart in some areas.  They added that some of the signs were really close together when you could have other options and far apart when the trail was clear.  They also mentioned about using headlights starting 2 hours before sunset for safety and that they would be adding blinking lights to the signs when it got dark.

Ragnar Trail Zion Finish Line
Ragnar Trail Zion Finish Line

They told us about how we would be getting different wrist bands, green, yellow & red for our different legs and we would also have one bib for the entire team that we hand off after each leg.  So after all this, we were off.

Ragnar Trail Zion Runner 1
Tom starting us off in Leg 1 in green Night Run shirt
Ragnar Trail Zion Runner 2
Margaret, Runner 2 coming in after the Yellow Loop
Ragnar Trail Zion Runner 3
Joan our 3rd runner coming in after the long Red Loop

I was Runner 5, I didn’t really care what leg I did but it’s hard to wait around.  When you do a regular race, you wait around, but just for a bit, this was for hours so it was a bit difficult in terms of what to eat before going out.  I have a lot of problems with race nutrition when I’m doing a standard style race, but I eat relatively normally for relays.  Weird.  I wasn’t nervous for the relay like I am for regular races :).

Finally it was my turn, I got the bib from Mandy and headed out for my first leg, the Yellow Loop, 4.6 miles with a 600+ ft elevation change.

Ragnar Trail Zion
Heading out on my first leg, the Yellow Loop
Photo Credit: Joan Topham

Ragnar Trail Zion Yellow Loop

Ragnar Trail Zion Yellow Loop Friday 2pm
Ragnar Trail Zion Yellow Loop Friday 2pmish
Ragnar Trail Zion Yellow Loop Selfie
Taking a quick break on mile 2 of the Yellow Loop – uphill
View from the Ragnar Trail Zion Yellow Loop
View from the Ragnar Trail Zion Yellow Loop
The uphill on the Ragnar Trail Zion Yellow Loop
Another uphill on the Yellow Loop – this one was sandy

I started out running thru camp for the first mile, then the second mile was pretty much a hill the whole way, I actually walked most of this mile, I didn’t train properly, after the Rome Marathon, I was recovering and just not real motivated so I wasn’t really well trained for hills, but since this was just for fun, I was listening to my body and my heart rate was out of control high so walking it was.  The trail was a lot different than those in AZ.  It was a lot softer than our trails and sandy in a lot of spots.  The last photo above was pretty much all sand and the single-track trail was practically on the edge.

I didn’t get any pictures of the other part of the trail as mile 3 was a great single track downhill (red somewhat packed sand).  It was so much fun, although you had to really watch your step.  I cruised down this part.  A part of mile 3 linked up to the Red Loop and then both loops (actually all 3 loops) would finish on the same section.  The section at the end, was another uphill trail with numerous switchbacks, pretty steep, I walked this section too until we came up to another part of the camp.  Towards the end of this loop, the wind had picked up so much that I actually had to walk for a min to be able to cover my mouth and nose (I have asthma and dust isn’t a good thing :)).  I finished this loop in about 56 min (11:13, 18:30, 10:10, 11:39, 10:14 last .50) handed the bib off to Wendy and went to chill for about 8 hours before my next leg.

I was pleasantly surprised that I had no back pain during this leg or my next.  I could still feel the stiffness when getting up from sitting, laying down, etc. but nothing while running.  Yea!!

And off to dinner we went…

Ragnar provides dinner for the runners on day 1 as part of the registration fee so we headed over to the Mess Hall and chowed down.

Dinner Day 1 Ragnar Trail Zion Mess Hall

Inside the mess hall Ragnar Trail Zion
Inside the mess hall Ragnar Trail Zion
Dinner consisted of Pasta, Veggies, Frozen Bread, Salad, a Cookie & Lemonade
Dinner consisted of Pasta, Veggies, Frozen Bread, Salad, a Cookie & Lemonade

I didn’t mind the dinner for the most part.  I thought the veggies were awesome – really flavorful and the pasta was al dente.  I’m not a fan of iceberg lettuce, but I ate it :).  The bread was good, but I could only eat a few bites around the edges because it was still frozen inside.  I normally wouldn’t eat cookies, but I was hungry and it was peanut butter so I figured a little protein LOL.

After dinner we headed back to cabin, where I took a 2 hour nap and just hung out while waiting for my next loop, which would be around 11:30pm.  We weren’t exactly sure how long it would take the runner before me to run the Red Loop (8.2 miles) so I went down around 10:30p to wait, because I didn’t want to miss him. They had TVs with the team names & numbers coming up when your teammate was 2/10s away from the finish.

My second loop was the Green loop which as just over 3 miles.  I unfortunately don’t have any photos because it was pitch black out and even though I had a light, it was super dark and I didn’t want to break or lose my phone. Besides I’m not sure if the photos would have come out in the dark.

I really enjoyed this loop, although it was sooo dark that I really just went super slow because they had mentioned that there was a super steep downhill section with loose rocks and I did not want to fall.  I really didn’t think that down hill was that bad and compared to some of the trails I’ve done here, it wasn’t bad.  I think my headlamp was dying though because I had a hard time seeing, or maybe that’s because my contacts were dirty, I don’t know, but I thought it was super hard to see.

Again, you ended up at the same uphill switchbacks, again I walked this section and then then ran when I got to the top.  This leg I finished in 36 mins (11:55, 11:36, 12:22, final .02 8:41).  I could have gone faster, but again since it was so dark, I just wanted to be safe.

I again handed the bib off to Wendy, told her to be careful since it was so dark and then headed up to the cabin to get some sleep.  I figured I had about 8 hours until my next run, so I took a shower and set my alarm for 6:30am so I could get some food before heading out for my next loop, which I was estimating at around 10am.  I woke up and went downstairs, saw Joan, who told me that Margaret, runner 2 had just left and they expected her back around 7:15a when Joan would go do the next leg.  I got a small bowl of cereal and then went back to bed, setting my alarm for 7:30a.

I was awakened to a lot of talking and so I got up to see what was going on and this was what awaited me…

What we woke up to on Day 2...
What we woke up to on Day 2…

Seriously, I think my mouth dropped open and I was like WHAT? Are you kidding me? I seriously haven’t seen snow in years, I can’t even tell you the last time.  I live in the south for a reason and snow is one of those reasons :).

As we were all taking photos and commenting on what was going on, one of our volunteers, Maryanne contacted another of my teammates and told them that Ragnar had called the race.  Only one problem, one of our runners and one of the runners for our other team were still on the course.  Margaret, runner 2 was not only on the course, she was also wearing capri pants and vibram five finger shoes.  John was in shorts and just regular running shoes.  We were incredibly worried about both of them and wanted to do something, but and for good reason, Ragnar wasn’t letting anyone extra out on the course to look for people.  So we waited and finally John came back to the cabin and then about an hour later (3.5 hours after going out) Margaret was back as well.  Thank you Lord!

Walking down to the Village Ragnar Trail Zion
Walking down to the Village Ragnar Trail Zion

Near the transistion tent Ragnar Trail Zion Day 2 More snow Ragnar Trail Zion

After they were both back safe and sound we went down to the camp site to start breaking things down.  We ended up getting everything back up to Wendy’s truck and then the cabin in 2 trips.

Taking down the tent on Day 2
Taking down the tent on Day 2
My running buddies, Tom, Ken & I after cleaning up our campsite.
My running buddies, Tom, Ken & I after cleaning up our campsite.

It was a mess, snow, mud, water, but we managed to get it all back up there and then most of decided to head home in case the weather continued to get worse.

It was a big surprise waking up on Saturday morning to the snow and not exactly how we expected our 2nd Ragnar Trail Relay to go, but I think in the end we all had a great time and really enjoyed the event.  I know that we were all so relieved when both John & Margaret finished their loops and while the rest of us weren’t able to finish our last legs, I know that they made the right call for the safety of the runners.  I would not have wanted to be out there in those conditions and I hope that no one was seriously hurt while out there when the weather turned bad.

While we didn’t officially finish, we were still awarded our medals and I can now add Utah as my 8th state that I have run a race in. (I did run my last 8.2 mile loop Sunday morning back in Phoenix, it was on the road and much flatter, but I felt like I needed to do it – if nothing else for myself.)

Ragnar Trail Zion Medal 2014
My Ragnar Trail Zion 2014 Medal

All in all I really enjoyed this weekend and I’m looking forward to McDowell Mountain again in the fall!

Have you ever run a race that was cancelled due to weather?  And if so what happened?

The Roman Guy Maratona di Roma Shakeout Tour

After spending Friday afternoon at the Maratona di Roma expo and having dinner with my cousins & aunt, my cousin Simona took me back to The Beehive for some sleep.  Saturday was a big day.  A few months before I had met another marathoner via instagram, Laura, from the Washington, D.C. area who goes by @laurentinaphoto – Follow her – she’s amazing!  Anyways it was her first marathon and somehow she came across The Roman Guy (follow them too :)) again via instagram and they (Sean & Brandon) were also running their first marathons and were going to do a little tour/shake-out run the day before the race.  I have been lucky to have been to Rome many times, but since I have family that lives there, I don’t always get to do the touristy things so I thought, this sounds like a lot of fun and signed up as well.  For 45 Euros, we got a tour of the Colosseum & Forum, a run thru the city & a super cool, Team TRG New Balance tank to commemorate the day.

So Saturday morning, I fueled up with good American style breakfast – eggs and toast 🙂 and set off for the Colosseum.  The tour was going to start there and then we would do a 2 mile shake-out run going hitting up a lot of the best tourist spots in Rome.

I got there a bit early so I just walked around getting the lay of the land – before heading back to meet up with the group. It was kind of cloudy so I was hoping it wouldn’t rain.

The Roman Guy, Rome Italay, Colosseum, March 22, 2014, Maratona di Roma

Notice how the section on the right looks different than the section on the left?  Brandon told us that they had actually renovated a portion of the Colosseum because they had taken a lot of the Travertine for other projects around the city.

It was a bit of a cloudy day, but the 12 of us runners weren’t going to let that get us down and so we started off with a tour of the Colosseum.  Brandon did most of the tour, Sean was the photographer for the day and a lot of the photos you’ll see today are from him (THANK YOU!).

The Roman Guy Shakeout Tour Maratona di Roma
Love this pic 🙂
photo credit Sean Finelli, The Roman Guy

I’ve been to the Colosseum twice before, but it was really nice to be on a tour, Brandon & Sean had insight into things that you just can’t know from looking around.

The Roman Guy Shakeout Tour, Maratona di Roma
Brandon showing us a map of the what the Colosseum looked like when it was built.
Photo Credit: Sean Finelli, The Roman Guy

Inside, they had built a partial floor to show what it would have looked like back in the day, I don’t remember that from my last visit in 2003. But that’s not to say it wasn’t there, 2003 was a long time ago :).

The Roman Guy, Shakeout Tour, Rome Italy, Colosseum, Floor, March 22, 2014
Personal Photo
The Roman Guy, Shakeout Tour, March 22, 2014, Rome, Italy, Colosseum
Check out our awesome Team TRG (The Roman Guy) singlets – super cool 🙂 personal photo
Photo Credit: Sean Finelli, The Roman Guy
Photo Credit: Sean Finelli, The Roman Guy

After a quick tour of the Colosseum, we headed over to the Roman Forum to walk around for a bit.

Panarama of the Forum

The Roman Guy, Shakeout Tour, Rome Italy
Leaving the Forum, time to start our shake-out run. Photo Credit: Sean Finelli, The Roman Guy

So after we left the Forum, we started down the stairs by the Palazzo Victor Emmanuel, which looks a lot older than it is.  This was right near the start & finish line of the marathon.

personal photo
personal photo

And so off we went.  In Italy, unlike here in the States, cars stop when you cross the street, in fact they expect you to cross and if you wait for them they stop for you.  It’s very interesting how it works.

First Stop The Fountain of Trevi Personal Photo
First Stop The Fountain of Trevi
Personal Photo
The Roman Guy, Shakeout run, maratona di roma
Group Photo – Fountain of Trevi
Photo Credit: Sean Finelli, The Roman Guy
The Roman Guy Pantheon Maratona di roma shakeout run
One of my fav places, the Pantheon.
Photo Credit: Sean Finelli, The Roman Guy
How massive are these columns?  Personal Photo
How massive are these columns?
Personal Photo

The Pantheon is actually 50 years older than the Colosseum.  It’s fascinating to me how it looks like a regular building on the outside and then a dome inside and where the famous Rafael is buried.

We hit up the Spanish steps but there were so many people, I didn’t feel it was photo worthy 😉 LOL.  Little tidbit about the Spanish Steps, the poet, John Keats lived in the building to the right of the steps before his death at 25.

And on we went to Piazza Navona, where we saw Bernini’s fountain – I always think of Angels & Demons when I go to Piazza Navona now :).

Bernini's fountain in Piazza Navona. Personal Photo
Bernini’s fountain in Piazza Navona.
Personal Photo

And then we finished up in the Campo dei Fiori, the market, in the center of Rome.

Me & @laurantinaphoto by Campo di Fiori
Me & @laurantinaphoto
Photo Credit: Sean Finelli, The Roman Guy
Campo di Fiori, Market  Personal Photo
Campo di Fiori, Market
Personal Photo
Me with The Roman Guy(s) Brandon & Sean Personal Photo
Me with The Roman Guy(s) Brandon & Sean
Personal Photo

I really enjoyed this excursion and I would totally recommend it to anyone.  It was an awesome way to see the city, Brandon & Sean were great tour guides, they seemed more like friends than guides 🙂 and I met a lot of really nice runners.  If you are in Rome and are looking for a great way to see the city, I totally recommend contacting The Roman Guy.

 

 

The Road to Rome – Mar 2014

After a week of jet lag, work and life I’m finally ready to start recapping my trip to Italy and the Rome Marathon.  Warning 🙂 this will be a bit long & lots of pictures.

Where to start…well let’s start with the flight to Rome.  I was so unbelievably lucky to find flights on US Air using my miles and not only that, I was able to fly to Rome in US Air’s Envoy class on an A330 plane.  I had to make 2 stops, but it was worth it to be able to be in one of the Envoy Suites for the flight to Italy.

I fly a least 4 – 6 times a year and I’ve been lucky to sit in first class on short domestic flights, but never internationally so this was a nice treat and perfect since I would only have 2 days before the marathon and I needed to get some sleep on the way there.

First Flight to Rome
First Flight to Rome

Domestically, I had stops in Dallas and Philadelphia.  The flight to Dallas is relatively short so there was just beverages and snacks.  It was quite nice to see that one of the snacks was actually something that pretty healthy, Nature’s Valley Fig Bars, Non-GMO, relatively low sugar, no cholesterol, no transfat – super yummy!  I had a raspberry one on the plane, but I actually had blueberry, apple cinnamon & peach-apricot in my bag.

Coffee & Nature's Valley Fig Bar
Coffee & Nature’s Valley Fig Bar

Imagine my surprise when I looked at the US Air magazine and saw that the featured city for March was none other than Winter Park, FL.  How cool is that!

US Airways March 2014 Magazine, Winter Park, FL

After a nice and easy flight to Dallas, I had a relatively short layover, during which time I started sneezing and getting a little bit of a sore throat. Oh, no! Not a fun feeling to have, fortunately, a zyrtec and I was feeling better in no time.

The flight to Philly was a bit longer so we were served lunch on-board.  I’ve flown first class before, but normally either short flights or on red-eye flights where you don’t get fed so this was a nice treat.

As we were getting ready to take off, the flight attendant asked us what entree we would like.  There were 2 to choose from, a miso beef with bok-choy or a pasta duo (penne with marinara sauce & tortellini with alfredo sauce), since I knew I would be eating some amazing pasta, I chose the beef.

After we took off, she brought us drinks in glass cups, and then about 20 minutes later our meals.

Real Glasses!
Real Glasses!

First Class Entree

My lunch included, Miso Beef, cooked well done, but it literally just melted in my mouth, it was so tender.  It was served with white rice and a vegetable medley of carrots, green beans & I guess there was some bok choy, I couldn’t really tell.  There was also a salad with a balsamic dressing and a chicken & slaw side too (I tried it but it wasn’t one of my favs).

For some reason, I didn’t expect dessert, but there was one, an amazing chocolate cake.  For someone who isn’t a huge fan of chocolate for me to say it was amazing is huge :).  Not that I didn’t enjoy the rest of my meal, but this was by far the best part.  Super rich chocolate flavor, incredibly moist with a fudgy topping and cocoa on top.

Chocolate cake first class us airways

The flight itself was fine, long, when you are anxious to get on your way to your final destination.  The pilot told us we would be landing early and then we ended up having to circle the airport until our original arrival time, which was frustrating since I only had about 45 minutes to get to my gate for my flight to Rome.

Finally arriving in Philly and I literally got to the gate, had my passport checked and they were ready to board – talk about timing :).

Passport checked, boarding pass ready, Zone 1, Seat 2A
Passport checked, boarding pass ready, Zone 1, Seat 2A
Finally just about on my way.  US Airways plane to Rome
Finally just about on my way. US Airways plane to Rome

As I was boarding the plane, the flight attendants were directing us to the various areas of the plane, the A330 is pretty large and in both Envoy & economy there are 3 sections, window, middle and opposite window so they want to make sure you go to the right side to make it easy for everyone.

My Envoy Suite was super cute and I immediately made myself at home, I even forgot to take a picture of it empty because I was so excited!

Envoy Suite US Airways A330

Extra space, Envoy Suite US Airways A330

Chilling in my Envoy Suite US AIrways A330

Not too long after I got semi settled, the flight attendants started coming around with a tray of beverages, they offered prosecco, orange juice or sparkling water.  I very rarely drink alcohol before a race or on a place (don’t want to be dehydrated) but this was a special occasion and as I told my boss and friend, I was like what would R.J. do and said Prosecco it is! lol

Prosecco to start US Airways Envoy to Rome

They came around and asked us what we would like for our entree before we took off, there was a nice menu with 4 dinner options, Tenderloin of Beef, Sun-dried Tomato stuffed Chicken Breast, Citrus Mahi Mahi and for the vegetarians Spinach Lasagna Rolls.  I chose the beef, I hardly ever eat beef in my normal day to day life, but you’ll see as I continue to recap, I eat a lot of it during this trip, interesting…

US Airways Envoy Menu

One last thing before we take off, they brought us cute little bags with some supplies – let me tell you the eye mask came in super handy.

US Air Envoy Amenity Kit

And away we go…

Taking off for Rome

Once we took off, things started happening quite fast.  The flight attendants came by first with bottles of water, then hot towels, then to bring our starter for dinner.

Warm mixed nuts to start
Warm mixed nuts to start
Appetizer course, Sliced pesto chicken breast with tomato-caper relish, salad & hot rolls
Appetizer course, Sliced pesto chicken breast with tomato-caper relish, salad & hot rolls

I loved that they let you pick your own rolls and had wheat and multi-grain.  The chicken portion of the appetizer was ok, nothing special and I tried the relish, but it had way too much onion in it for me.  The salad was good – they had darker greens in it, none of that horrible iceberg lettuce, thank goodness.

Super cute, tiny balsamic vinaigrette
Super cute, tiny balsamic vinaigrette
Entree Course - Tenderloin of Beef with morel mushroom sauce, served with sweet potato mash & broccoli florets
Entree Course – Tenderloin of Beef with morel mushroom sauce, served with sweet potato mash & broccoli florets

The beef was really good, I don’t use a lot of sauce so I left most of that, but the sweet potato mash, so so yummy.  That’s really the reason I choose the beef, of all the sides, that was by far the best option in my opinion.

Ben & Jerry's Health Bar Ice Cream
Ben & Jerry’s Health Bar Ice Cream

There were several choices for dessert, Raspberry Mousse, a cheese plate or ice cream.  This looked the best and it was good, although, the chocolate cake from the DFW – PHL flight was way better ;).

After dinner, they dimmed the cabin lights, I finished watching This Means War and went to sleep.  The nice thing about the envoy suite is that the seat lays flat, however that doesn’t mean it’s super comfortable. I have long legs and while the seat laid flat, there was a bit of space between the seat and the extra portion for my feet so I felt that a lot.  They gave us really nice thick blankets, but for the first time ever on a trans-atlantic flight, I was so hot.  I feel like even with that, I was able to sleep pretty well and fortunately when I woke up I did not look like Debra Messing in The Wedding Date.

I woke up just in time for breakfast and we were about 1.5 hours from Rome, over the Alps at this point.

Sunrise over the Alps
Sunrise over the Alps

Breakfast is served…

Spinach & Turkey Bacon Quiche
Spinach & Turkey Bacon Quiche

There were 2 choices for breakfast, the spinach & turkey bacon quiche that I picked & a yogurt & fruit bowl.  This was good, but unfortunately it wasn’t cooked all the way thru so I kind of just ate around the edges.  It’s such a nice change to see lots of veggies & fruit accompanying the entree.  They also served warm croissants and coffee.  I tried a chocolate croissant and was a little disappointed, it wasn’t really worth it, but it was seriously only 2 bites.

Not too long after breakfast we were on our final descent and landing in Rome.

Roma Fiumucino Passport Control

First stop passport control and then on to Rome…

Come back this week to see what happens next :).

Have you ever flown business or first class internationally?  What was your favorite part?