Thursday, December 19, 2013

Live Ultimate Run Quarter Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 8; 28th Edition 
1 mile skied, 2750 meters swam, 48 miles biked and 418.35 miles run in 2013 races
Race: Live Ultimate Run Quarter Marathon
Place: Miami Beach, FL
Miles from home: 3257
Weather: 70s; Sunny;Windy; HUMID

My original plan for the Live Ultimate Run was to be a running concierge for Swirlgear, the women’s running apparel company I was working with this weekend.  However, the runner I was supposed to be a concierge to was unable to make the run last minute. As such, I was left with a bit of a quandary.  I wasn’t really ready to “race” a quarter-marathon race but was a bit aimless in my goal.

My friend Hannah mentioned I could help pace her if I wanted to.  Actually, she asked if she could pace off of me which I found funny since presently most of her short distance PRs are faster than mine. I told her I would hold on the best I could but I probably would be staring at her back before too long.

Race morning:

Lots of changes in travel plans in the days before the race had me needing to book last minute accommodations. As such, you can imagine the pickens were slim.  Even though the race would be taking place on the far southern end of South Beach, I was staying way out by the airport. I tried to allow myself enough time to not only navigate through notoriously difficult Miami traffic but also find parking on the equally notorious sparse parking area of Miami Beach.  This was all made much more difficult by me thinking I was out smarting traffic by taking some surface streets that had me facing construction with no visible exit strategy.  Luckily, I navigated my way through all of that to only get stymied by a drawbridge letting some early morning vessel go by. It was really looking like I might not even make the race at all.

Finally through the bridge, I took a gamble on a parking garage that was the closest to the start of the race but very likely filled to the brim. Miraculously I found a spot and soon found my way to the start with minutes to spare.

I found Hannah at the start and while others were worrying about a stiff breeze blowing off of the Atlantic, I was worried about the humidity. “You are sweating already,” a runner said. Check back in a mile if you want to see a waterfall, I thought.

Local fast runner, Bryan Huberty, one of the RDs of the race, was also handling emcee duties.  While I chided him later there is a reason they hire people to do these things, you could tell he was earnest in wanting everyone to enjoy his town.  Before more than a few minutes passed, the countdown to zero happened and we were off.

Mile 1:

Almost immediately I was swallowed up in a group of runners. This quarter marathon grouping also included runners in the 5k, so it was hard not to get swept up in speed you couldn’t possibly maintain for half of a half of a marathon. This mile took runners from the tippytip of South Beach down the infamous Ocean Drive on South Beach. Some major road repairs were going on all over South Beach but this mile was fairly decent. Other sections of town looked like a war zone and I can only imagine the traffic that snarls through them on a regular beach day.  But right now I was only thinking about the river of sweat running down my back.

Hannah mentioned she wanted to go out in about 6:10 or so.  I could see she was going to be much faster than that and bid her adieu. I passed in 6:12; she in 6:01 or so. Bye bye Hannah!

Mile 2:

I am not saying this mile was improperly marked.  I am saying it felt like the longest damn mile of my life. Most of this feeling came from watching the 5k runners in front of me turning around and heading back toward the finish.  Realizing how nice it would be to be done in 18-19 minutes instead of 40-45, I was rather chagrined.  Right after the turnaround for the 5k I heard a pair of feet and a woman slipped by me rather effortlessly. Suddenly we were alone.

Up ahead I could see Hannah pulling away and I could see one, count ‘em, ONE other runner. Man, I was getting crushed. I was just now hoping to finish in the top 10.

Mile 3:

As we turned off of Washington Ave, and in front of the Miami Beach High School , I realized I had run this same stretch in many different races.  But when you only have a thin spit of land to run races on you are
bound to utilize a lot of the same real estate.  I looked to my left as we made a right angle turn and could see a handful of runners not too far behind me.  As my miles began to drop to the high 6s, I expected all of them to be passing me soon.

A right hand turn had runners passing behind the Miami Beach Golf Club.  The female runner in front of me had put some distance in between us but not a sizeable margin. I heard footsteps from behind and was more than surprised when a runner much larger than me appeared. I am not the fastest guy in the world but when it comes to 6’1’’ 180+ pound guys, I don’t usually have a lot of competition.  I figured he would pass on by.

Mile 4:

But he didn’t.  As the race wound around the golf course and onto Alton Road with lots of twists and turns, I found that I could run the tangents a great deal better (or at least with better awareness) than my taller compatriot. He would surge a bit, gain a step and then lose the distance on a curve. Lesson to all of you out there: racing is about much more than just speed.

Finally, while I continued to perspire as if I was paid by the ounce, I woke up. It took me nearly four minutes but I was finally feeling good.  Well, I wasn’t feeling like death anymore so I guess that is good.  We made a left hand turn and now were heading in the opposite direction of all the runners running toward the 3rd mile. I cheered on as many as my energy would allow, saving my breath on those wearing headphones. (Personal rule: I am not wasting breath on people who can’t hear me.)

Hitting Washington Ave again I was lubed up and ready for a final push.

Mile 5:

As we snaked through town and onto Ocean Drive, I knew the vast majority of the race would be on the winding bike path. I did not, however, expect a little out and back portion north when the race was going to finish south.  Again I heard footsteps and figured Mr. Big was finally cutting me down.  However, another runner materialized at my side.  He gave me a “good job” as he passed.  I recognize that “good job.”  That is what you say to be polite to someone you have been tracking for a while, know you have more energy than and will leave in your wake.

Yet, even though he got about 10 yards in front of me, he got no further. With no more effort than previously, I was able to stay exactly the same distance behind him.  This was setting itself up for a potentially painful finish.

Mile 6:

By now we had joined half-marathoners on this bike path.  Starting 45 minutes before us, they were tired and drenched. But they were useful. You see, with so many other runners around us, Good Job Guy could not know I was inching closer. I wanted to keep it like that.  Every single time we went around a curve, I would swing out wide and into his blind spot.  If he took the curve as an opportunity to look behind him for chasers, he wouldn’t see me.

Passing Lummus Park and getting ready to hit Ocean Drive again for final .55 of a mile, I knew I was in prime position for a surge.

To the finish:

Then I wasn’t.

In one block, Good Job Guy put another 5 yards on me. All I could think was that he had been biding his time as well and given the shirt he was wearing showed he was a South Florida runner, he would handle this humidity far better than me.  But then I began to picture that this guy was 10th place overall and how I had been right here all along and was letting it slip away.

I dug deep and crept up in his shadow.  With 2 blocks to go I began a slow surge hoping to get moving at the last minute.  Unfortunately, he slowed a touch and I moved shoulder to shoulder with him.  Not wanting to make the same mistake of allowing him an inch when I was making a move, like he did to me, I realized this was just going to be one long hard kick whether I liked it or not.

With one long block to go, the red numbers of the clock were visible but the time was of no consequence.  I had run marathons as a faster pace than this 6.55 miler.  What was important was making sure I held this guy didn’t beat me.  As I hit his peripheral vision there was, as expected, a response. He pushed forward and got an inch or so in front of me.  But I had more.

As a photographer got what I hoped would be a spectacular shot of me finishing hard both me and my
chaser had to alter our course just a touch to go around him. I wondered if the photographer went to the Mike Tomlin School of Trajectory Change and the guy behind me was his friend.  Fortunately, I crossed the line first.

I turned around and engaged in an extremely sweaty handshake/man hug with the man who two seconds ago was a foe. It ends up that I wasn’t chasing 10th place. I was chasing fourth. All the people who I saw in front of me earlier in the race were the only people in front of me. Suddenly I realized I finished one place off the podium. Or, as Steve Prefontaine said “The worst effin place.”  But 2nd male overall, so that's cool!

All told, the race has some tweaks in order to make it better. That's a fact.  However, some of the complaints I heard were outlandish.
1. Someone said the course measure .15 of a kilometer long, based on their GPS. Ignoring that GPS are not what courses are supposed to be measured by, that is not the smallest distance in the world. That's a good minute worth of running.
2. Another criticized a course volunteer for not knowing some obscure thing this runner needed to know immediately.  Here’s the thing: Runners, don’t criticize volunteers unless they purposefully hipcheck you into a wall or steal your wife. They are volunteering so you can run around in short shorts and post a picture on Facebook so your friends can tell you how awesome you are. Thank them profusely.
3. There are a few snafus when it came to just general race management.  Again this happens. One of the reasons I wrote my second book was to educate as many runners as possible about all the things they don't know. We expect so much for so little from races these days.  I was in that group at one point.  But now I know how much goes into an event and how one little thing can set off a chain reaction. More runners need to be involved with races from the other side of the table. Then they will think twice about being miffed about little things.
4. Finally, I saw someone vehemently complaining about there not being age group awards. I know it is nice to get a trinket signifying your place or time in a race. Many people may only get one in their life. I understand that.  But NOT getting one doesn’t remove the achievement. You don’t lose the benefits of your training because you didn’t get a babble to collect dust on a shelf. Furthermore, complaining publicly, especially on social media might be cathartic at the time but it is not just a one and done thing. Every person who reads it, every time, is like you complaining about it over and over again.

The race needs improvement for sure.  But there were good things about it as well. What seems most important is that those involved with the race want to make it better. Few events are perfect out of the gate. Yet, this race looks like it has a bright future both here in Miami and in the other cities they plan to take their RUNcation to.  I hope to see how those events go.


Jan Pfeifer said...

Mile 5: "good job" ... So funny and so true! I have been both the giver and the recipient of that comment.

Curtis Eppley said...

Great race report. The things that can go wrong are so many for race directors. I wonder how they ever get some of them done. As Dane said, just be grateful for the good things and let them know what can be improved.