Monday, January 30, 2006

RR - Miami Marathon

Race Report
ING Miami Marathon
Sun, Jan 29/06
# 255
3:33:36 - 3AG

I planned this marathon as another training run/marathon in my training program to reach peak shape for the inaugural Sarasota Marathon in March. The Everest Marathon and trip had set my training program back by about two months because of the lack of training during the trip and the illness following the trip. But the good news was that all that rest had enabled me to finish 2005 healthy and injury-free.

Miami was to be the first marathon in the program that I would ‘race’. I had two goals:
1) to run the first 20 miles at a sub 8-min pace
2) to finish in 3:35 -/+ 5 minutes

I set out on Sat morning to drive to Miami. I drove south past Naples and across ‘Alligator Alley’ to SoBe (South Beach). The trip is about 240 miles via Interstate/Freeway and Alligator Alley is a 90-mile Toll way across the Florida Everglades with no cops so I was able to let the Allante/red rocket loose and it refused to go under 100mph on the Toll way. I arrived in SoBe in 3:15! I had booked a cheap hotel in SoBe – the Henrosa! It was located on Collins Ave in the Heart of SoBe and one block from the beach. A bargain at $108/night compared to $300 that a friend paid for a Marriott Courtyard one block from the start line in downtown Miami! And I was sharing the cost with Frank- a friend from Siesta Key who I guided through the Boston Marathon in 2005 after he had his quadruple bypass. He was running the Half. If we overlooked the holes in the wall, the cracked and peeling paint and the mold in the bathroom it was a luxury room in a great location!

After checking into the hotel I drove to the convention center in downtown Miami to pick up our race packets and quickly remembered why I hate Miami. It is too big, too congested, too hard to find your way around and too expensive!
I ran the inaugural Miami Marathon in 2003 and remembered how poorly organized that race had been. Thankfully they had resolved and improved many of the issues. The registration/packet pick up was well organized. The expo had some good exhibits and vendors with good discounts – I spent over $100 on tights and race shorts that I needed.
Loaded down with my goodies it was time to return to our luxury hotel to meet Frank. He had been attending a medical conference in Ft. Lauderdale and drove down from there.
We were to meet another friend and member of the MTC (local running club) for dinner. Gerald’s family lives in the Miami area so he brought his whole family to join us for a traditional pasta dinner at a restaurant in SoBe. We enjoyed a great dinner and wonderful company. But it was time for the two old farts to retire to bed early since the 6am start meant a 4am wake-up call.

Frank was worried about getting a taxi to the start line around 5am. No need to worry! When we left the hotel about 4:45am Collins Ave was buzzing with people still partying or arriving back at their hotels after partying all night. Our luxury hotel was located near the 6-mile mark of the course so it was a short ($18) taxi ride to the start line. That was still a better option than trying to drive into downtown Miami and find parking near the start line. There were two races – a Marathon with 6,000 runners and a Half with 8,000 runners. Both races started at 6am in front of the AA Arena on Biscayne Ave. There were two holding pens/chutes – the marathoners lined up in corals on the east side of the road and the half marathoners on the west side.

It was dark and a typical winter morning in Miami – a temperature of 70F and 70% humidity. The good news was that there was a 20mph wind to make it feel cooler and the forecast called for cloudy skies and a high of 75F so it wouldn’t get much hotter during the race! In the inaugural race 3 years ago there weren’t enough Porto-Johns and I barely made it to the start line and had to jump into the last coral. I was determined not to let that happen this year. I was seeded in the 2nd coral and snuck into the 1st coral with the Big Dogs. Even so when the race started we were boxed behind 1000+ runners and it took 8:30 to reach mile 1. However the course opened up as we crossed the Macarthur Causeway to SoBe and I passed mile 3 in 23:59. The 20mph wind coming off the Atlantic Ocean was in our faces so I tucked in behind a group of runners and drafted until we headed west across the Venetian Causeway back to the mainland. I reached mile 10 in 1:17:49! I was on pace and felt good. At mile 12 I passed two old farts who looked like they were in my age group and I pushed the pace to leave some distance between us and passed the Half in 1:42:59. I knew then that I couldn’t run that same pace for the 2nd Half but decided to hold my sub 8-min pace till 20 miles and do another gut check.

I passed mile 16 in 2:05:54 but by mile 17 my legs started to tire and my pace slowed to 8:10s over the next 3 miles. However I still reached mile 20 in 2:38:40. I had achieved my 1st goal! There was no need to do a gut check – my legs were screaming at me that they were sore and tired and had no more 8-min miles left in them! I figured that if I slowed to an 8:30 pace I could still beat 3:35 so I decided to run easy for the next two miles to see if my legs could recover? That strategy only lasted till mile 21 when one of the old farts I had passed at 12 miles blew by me. Maddog wasn’t ready to accept that crap so he responded by lowering the hammer and catching the guy near mile 22. I ran beside him for about ½ mile and learned that he was a Canuck from Halifax, NS – and he was 68 years old!!! We had lowered the pace to 8 min/mile so I told him that he would win his age group, wished him “Good Luck” – and I am almost embarrassed to admit this – but I dropped back and let him go because I knew I couldn’t hold that pace for another 4 miles.

I decided to try to keep him in sight in case he faded before the finish line. I actually owe him some thanks because I would never have run as fast as I did over the last few miles if I hadn’t been trying to stay with him. My strategy almost worked as he faded and I closed within 100 feet at mile 25. But then – WHAM – I ran into that invisible WALL that many runners talk about. Almost knocked me flat on my ass!
There was absolutely nothing left in my legs! From experience I knew that energy fumes and sheer willpower would carry me the final mile. So I sucked it up and accepted the pain but it was a lonnnnnnnggggggg and painful mile at a 9:20 pace to cross the finish line in 3:33:36. I had to be satisfied with my time because I achieved my 2nd goal but I was not happy with my performance. I was hurting – my legs were stiff and sore – confirmation that I am not yet in peak condition and not yet ready or capable of breaking that mystical 3:30 BARRIER!
There were no race results posted at the finish line (?) but I later learned that I had finished in 3rd place in my age group and I was happy that my Canuck friend had indeed won his age group. Hope I can run a 3:32 when I am 68? My only disappointment came when I checked my past logs and discovered that I had finished the race exactly 20 seconds slower than 3 years ago. Damn – I am getting slower!!!

Frank was waiting at the finish line. He had finished the Half in 2:09:27 and he was not happy either because he got boxed in for the first 3 miles and it took 36 minutes to reach mile 3! We returned to our luxury hotel for a hot shower. I really wanted a hot soak in a tub but our luxury room did not have a tub? After a shower we walked over to Miami Beach for a photo op and to check out the young hot bods and naked breasts. There were some of each! It was time to return home. The red rocket made the return trip to Sarasota under 3 hours so I could jump in the hot tub for a much-needed soak and a few beers.

Now my concern is whether my legs can recover during the next week to ‘race’ another training marathon next weekend in Ocala, FL. The weather should be better/cooler but the course is tougher. I have run this marathon a few times and like the course – narrow, two-lane roads with lots of rolling hills through the horse country of Florida. I don’t believe I am ready to break 3:30 yet and I know I will have to fight for every minute – even ½ minute – as I try to get closer to the mystical barrier!

Stay tuned for the next report!

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