A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 6; 6th Edition
131 miles raced in 2011
Race: 13.1 Miami Beach
Place: Miami Beach, FL
Miles from home: 2535 miles
Weather: 75 degrees; HUMID; windy
This was an extremely bittersweet weekend for me. I always enjoy being part of the 13.1 series and spending time in Miami prior to the death march that is the summer humidity season is always a plus. Unfortunately, a good friend of mine, Stephanie Goodrich, was in a very serious cycling accident and was recovering in the ICU here in Fort Lauderdale. She was supposed to have been out racing with the rest of the over 3,000 people at the 13.1 Miami Beach but was instead battling for her life. In a stroke of good luck and fortune and whatever else you may wish to attribute it to, Stephanie has made remarkable strides in her recovery in such a short period of time. However after multiple brain surgeries she has a long road ahead of her. So while I was here to enjoy myself, I could not take my mind off my friend and how she was supposed to be breaking a sweat on the roads with me. There was no doubt in my mind that I was dedicating this race to her, our friendship, and her hopeful quick recovery.
My thoughts for the race itself, which seemed far less significant but just as important to keep myself moving forward, were to run in the 1:22-1:24 range. As I am trying to transition from marathons and ultras this year into triathlons using shorter distance racing to help me do so, my desire was to try and get my fast twitch muscle fibers firing as much as possible. That is if I have any fast-twitch muscles fibers (either “left” or “in my body to begin with”. You choose.)
Part of the ever growing 13.1 Series, the 13.1 Miami Beach race allowed me to mix and mingle with a variety of runners, many who were even more new to the running experience than those I usually get to speak to. With a half marathon and a 5k on the docket, many of the runners were uber-newbies when it came to running. I had to refocus my attention when asked questions as I realized that much of my usual advice would be lost on people who had often never run more than 2 miles in their life. It was slightly refreshing to have to fire some new synapses in my brain and not simply rely on rote memories to dispense advice to many.
At a book signing at the Runner’s Depot in Aventura I had the pleasure of meeting Meagan Nedlo, a recent Olympic Trials qualifier in the marathon who was working for one of the sponsors of the 13.1 series. It was quite a stark contrast between those who were hoping to complete 3.1 miles of running and a woman who was going to compete against the top female runners in the nation in just a little over a year. However, we would all be on the same race course at the same time (if Megan had been actually running instead of working the event, that is) which is what makes the entire sport of running so wonderful and cool.
I was staying in Coral Gables for this weekend which was just far enough away from Miami Beach to make just about everything a ridiculously awful driving nightmare. As such, on race morning, I knew I needed to be up WAY early to assure I got to the race on time. I did, to cut the suspense, but just barely. You would expect South Beach to be rocking away at say, 2 AM or 3 AM, but when I was trying to find a parking space at 5:30 AM it was as if the night had not even begun. There were hordes of people in various stages of alcohol abuse and debauchery trying to make their way home or to the next club (which were apparently still open!) on every single corner. I am, of course generalizing about the over-drinking but the fact remains, these kids were here to enjoy themselves. Even being quite the night owl myself, I guess years of getting up at 6 AM to run a race have swayed me ever so much towards earlier bed times. Then again I was always fuddy-duddy to begin with and eschewed most partying and libations. So my current tee-totaling lifestyle is not much different. I just have a grey hair or two more now than then.
However, more important to my immediate racing exploits was how it was already 73 degrees with pretty humid air wrapping itself around me. I was hoping that the wind which I could feel blowing my car to and fro would be the type which was only a cross-breeze, thereby cooling me and taking some of this heat off of me, and not a gale force wind right in my face. We all know this never happens and it is almost always in the face. IN THE FACE! Oh well.
As race announcer Jeremy Pate called me up to say a few words to the throngs of people itching to test out the brand new 13.1 course, I could tell that not only was the humidity not going anywhere but that the wind was going to be pain in the arse. Fantastic. But with so many smiling faces (expect for the few who were late in getting their packet pickup – honestly, I think there are very few occasions when a race should have race day packet pickup. If you have ever directed or put on your own race, you would never again as a race to do such a thing. It is a pain the butt, causes so much stress and usually leads to difficult problems) we were ready to get going. A Ferrari stood in front of us as the pace car, the gun was fired, its engine roared and away we went!
First 6 miles: 6:00, 6:20, 6:21, 6:44, 6:25, 6:42
As we raced down Ocean Drive in South Beach, I was surprised to be in a small group of people in the lead pack. Last year, running a 1:24:58 I had finished 18th overall. Here, I was in 5th place or so after the first mile (admittingly running a little faster than I wanted to) but with no one really putting too much of a move on. After the next two miles yielded the exact pace I was hoping to run, I thought that perhaps the extremely humid dampness already enveloping me was not going to hurt too much. Had I somehow adapted?!
I knew that mile four contained probably the biggest hill of the course (or tied for it at least) as we ran along the MacArthur Causeway. Part of the ING Miami Marathon but run in the opposite direction, this causeway is a flat and supposedly easy section which routinely gives me fits. Completely flat sections are where I always seem to lose seconds and have runners pull away from me. Here, on this causeway, the same held true. As we approached the climb up the hill from South beach to the mainland, I had been passed by two runners and those in front of me began to put distance between us. Cresting the hill almost exactly at the fourth mile marker, I was not at all surprised to see my time had slowed for this mile, but still wasn’t happy it had done so.
However, the truest test of my fitness would be on the other side of the hill. As yet another runner passed me right before the crest, I figured I would catch him soon. I always make up distance on the downhill portions of a course. And while I did make up some distance, it wasn’t nearly as much as I would have liked. This began to give me thoughts about what the rest of the day would hold for me. After finishing the rest of the hill and once again being on flat land, two more runners passed me right before the fifth mile. I was leaking places like a sieve! I hit my watch at the mile marker and thought the downhill portion of this mile would have helped me get under my goal pace of 6:20 but had a sinking feeling it was not. A 6:25 confirmed that feeling.
As could be expected in a downtown portion of Miami a little after 6 AM on a Sunday, the pockets of people cheering on runners was rather thin. However, I have always felt that those running a little fast usually have their own intrinsic motivation and those running a little slow usually have tons of runners around them to cheer them on. So the lack of spectators on this side was not something I worried too much about. Plus, we barely spent more than a mile in Miami proper anyway. The party was on the beach!
The constant police protection, completely closed streets and volunteers directing all runners, however, did not go unnoticed and was absolutely appreciated. The aid stations were enthusiastically stocked and manned by runners shouting hat each cup contained making it easier for us to grab the drink we needed. At an aid station right before the 6th mile, a runner in front of me who had passed me but would fall back and then pass me again came into sight. He grabbed a glass of water and dumped it over his head. I wanted to tell him:
W When you pass someone, do it definitively. DO not let them back into the race. You give them hope when you linger and that is not what you want to do when you are racing.
2. Put the water *IN* your body. The race will take no longer than 90 minutes for you, the sun is barely up and it is humid. Dumping it on you simply makes it harder for your body to cool, gets your socks wet and may help chafe your undercarriage.
But I had a feeling he did not want my advice at all. He was, after all, in front of me, right? Turning the corner to cross what is affectionately known as “The Tuttle” (or at least that is what nine separate people called the Julia Tuttle Causeway) I was passed by yet another runner. Damn it.
To the Finish: 6:43, 6:35, 6:42, 6:50, 6:58, 6:25, 6:29, :34
I don’t think it was the runner passing me which as the final nail in the coffin of my “race” or even the 6:42 mile I ran getting me to mile 6. I was still only ~ 30 seconds over where I wanted to be at mile 6 with this slowdown. Rather, I remember a 20 yard section where the wind, which had been swirling a bit and was definitely blowing around some of the featherweight runners in front of me, completely stopped and I felt my core body temperature sore. I could tell I was revving very high and the chances of hitting either my A or B goals for this race were slim. Right there I decided to run the rest of this race with my head. I also completely changed my plan for the remainder of the month.
With another half marathon next weekend in Sarasota and two scheduled marathons in Georgia and Oakland following that, I knew I had a packed schedule. I also knew that running these marathons was unnecessary. As I am trying to see if I can build a nice base of fast miles in shorter distance, the need to run two more marathons when I did not need them was without necessity. I am not in a rush to simply complete as many marathons as I can in as many states. I am not trying to notch off a finish to prove I can complete the marathon distance. I have done it 128 times. I do not take the marathon distance for granted but accumulating the most finisher medals is nothing I have ever had any desire to do. So I completely revamped my schedule in my head, changing both marathons this month to 13.1 distances and immediately felt better.
Running up the first hill on the Tuttle, I actually did not slow down much at all and regained some of the distance put between me by a group of four runners, now clustered together. The wind was pretty fierce here but I appreciated the cooling affect. Furthermore, I felt that the decision to run more intelligently was a way to show I really was dedicating this race to my friend Stephanie. I have been given the gift of good health and longevity in a sport I love. The past few months have forced me to also take into a much deeper perspective those who matter in my life and the events which shape it. Slowing down just a notch and being able to enjoy the beautiful sunrise over the Atlantic as we burst over the top of the hill around the 8 mile mark was exquisite.
In doing so, as my time slowed and slowed I still was able to gain some ground on a runner or two. I soon passed the younger fella who threw the water on his body. I began to pull some other runners into sight as well, even though I was running out of real estate.
Around the 10th mile we again ran on a portion of the ING Miami Marathon course but again in the opposite direction. It is amazing how different a course -section can feel just simply by turning around and running the other way. Some welcome and lovely faces of the lululemon store were “womanning” their own aid station and cheering on runners right before the 11th mile. Having had the great fortune to have done a book signing here in Miami at one of their stores, many of the ladies shouted my name which brought a big smile on my face. When I hit the 11th mile I saw I had almost run over 7 minutes for the first time all day. I decided with two miles to go I could still honor Stephanie and my commitment to running smart while at the same time picking up the pace and making sure I did not run a 1:26. I knew it was going to take some hustle.
Over the next mile I tracked down one runner who had passed me nearly 5 miles ago. I had not liked this runner because when he passed me he did not have a drop of sweat on him. I looked as if I had emerged from a rain shower and Mr. Bone Dry was flaunting his non-over-heatedness way too much for my tastes (He, of course, did nothing bad at all. I simply hated my overly-efficient sweat glands and needed to be angry at someone else.) I began to make my move and passed him right at the 12th mile. He said some words of encouragement but I knew what they were meant to do: get me to respond and slow me down. I know all the good competitor tricks of the trade and presently ignored him.
One mile later, having built a fairly substantial gap over the fella chasing me, I was able to finish strong with some of my fastest miles of the entire race. To show how much more difficult the weather had been, my time of 1:25:54 was nearly a minute slower but I went from finishing 18th last year to 11th overall this year. I immediately turned around and offer a congratulatory hug to the gentleman behind me and then just a few minutes later got to watch the first physically impaired runner on a skateboard contraption of sorts, come in. The crowd let out a huge cheer for him and I got goose bumps. I gave a quick interview to Jeremy the announcer and grabbed some drinks to replenish the fluid lost over the past 85 minutes.
I then scooted over to my booth on the beach where I would sign books and continue to hear amazing stories and greet new friends for the next few hours. With the sun on my back, an ocean breeze in my hair and wonderful people all around me, there were few better places to be than Lummus Park right smack dab on the beach.
I can only hope Stephanie will be enjoying this ocean breeze herself soon. Get well soon, Steph.