26.2 mi. This was year 6 for the A1A race, I erroneously posted year 7 on Facebook. I had heard it was going to be a warm day to run, but in previous years I’d known it to be warmer, so I wasn’t concerned about that. If all went well as I planned and trained for, I’d be out of the heat before it could affect my time. How hot could it be right after 9am I figured?
A 3:30am rise and drive down was easy, there is no traffic at that early hour. Parking for $5 only 3 blocks form the start, that was easy too. I saw a few partiers leaving the Las Olas bar scene as I parked. They were as surprised to see me as I was of them! Austin and his parents followed me down to the area where the race started. He was excited and looking to peel significant time off his December 2 hour half. I visited the porta-potty before it got crowded, the banana and Eco-Drink made for a good stop here after the drive down. The gear drop was easy, the temp was low 60s and almost felt cold. I kept rubbing my arms to keep warm, legs were fine. I checked my shirt into the UPS truck with my other gear, this led to a heightened state of “chill” just before the race. I met up with Chiara, Adrienne, Suzanne, Scott Richards and Lisa Reiss. Picture time! I saw Erica & Rick, Gary Walk, Eileen, Janine and a few people that recognized me – but I wasn’t sure at quick glance who they were. Adrienne planned to pace with me at 7:40 and try for a better than 1:42 race. I was very calm and not anxious or nervous for the start. That was a good feeling, I was very mentally in control. We began, dodged a few people and had an 8:20 first mile. There were way less people in front of us now, so we could keep a good pace. We saw the 3:30 group drop behind us and the 1:40 pacers appear. Chiara was near us, so was Austin, at least for the first 3 miles. Once we entered the park at Sunrise Blvd, It was just Adrienne and I trying to keep pace with the 1:40 group. They must have seen some slight downhill early in the park and thought it was time for a 7:20 mile pace. Not me! Adrienne and I noticed this increase in speed and came back to a 7:40-ish pace in less than a quarter mile. Once out of the park the sun was up and now we ran North, into the leaders of the half marathon, they were heading right at us in the opposing lane. It’s exciting to see people you know – and plenty of them! John Reback in second, one of the Picciano brothers in 6th with a pack. Then girls, Janine Peart in second, Erica, Eileen, Kara, Dave Stone, Gary… Adrienne said she was tiring and that I should go ahead. Moments before that she was ahead of me, which had me thinking, “Isn’t it me that should be doing the pacing?” At her second mention to go ahead, I settled into the rhythm of the correct pace or slightly slower then I should be going. Good for the first half. I checked the time and saw that I was pretty close to on track for a 1:40 split for the half at 10, 11, 12 miles. All I had was a watch and a small printed list from Runnersworld.com to gauge how I was doing. Now, I saw that way less people were running north, surprising that I saw more girls doing the full than in years past. I passed a few people, they seemed ok and as if they were trying too hard in their early miles. Wrong plan.
At the half distance chip mats I checked in at 1:39:55, some well-timed pacing without a Garmin! I noticed and used all water stops which seemed like they were setup almost every .75 miles, or that’s what it felt like. I took only water, using the salt pills and gels at the right mile markers. We ran by the beach twice, facing a fair, easterly breeze which I was glad about. I saw the marathon leaders, (With no Ronnie Holassie in the group) running back towards me at 14 & 15 miles. That’s exciting for me to watch, they come at you and pass in another world than I’ll ever know. They look very efficient in their efforts to carry a 6 minute per mile pace so far. As I came north towards the turnaround neighborhood, I felt very good. No legs or lungs issues. Minor course changes had us see a drawbridge on A1A I hadn’t seen before. I gagged and coughed a bit eating a gel at mile 15, but quickly recovered. The guy I passed while doing so probably thought the extra effort to pass him cost me a bunch of energy. Nah, it’s coincidence, sir. I ran back through the neighborhood and towards home – a great feeling with 10 important miles to go. Now I was seeing good sized groups of people coming up at me, first the 3:30 pacers, the 3:40 pacers, 3:50 pacers – then Charlotte and the 4:00 pace group. It was easy to pick her out since I was looking for and expecting to see her anytime after the 3:50 people passed. I thought she was wise to stay back until this late in the race before showing her strength. When I saw her, I said as we passed,”It feels like I’m leading the race!” By this I meant that there weren’t many people ahead of me in sight to run with or try to pass. She looked relaxed and ready to pick up her running. I did feel good at mile 16, which was probably at 8am. When she passed, I had good positive thoughts about running strong for the next 10 miles and if things felt well with 6 miles to go, pressing for a personal best. I checked my time against where I should be at mile 17 and was shocked to see I had just fallen 40 seconds behind in less than a mile! All that “feel good” about my pace went out the window, I realized I had to keep working at this and get to breathing and pacing more aggressively. I did not surge to gain the 40 seconds back, wisely I wanted to chop 10-15 seconds off in each of the next few miles. That worked. At 18 mi, I had 10 seconds gained. At 20 mi, I was only 12 seconds off the goal. With only the long straightaway of A1A ahead and not many people visible for me to catch, it was looking good. I took water every stop I could, crunching the paper cup to form a “V” and breathing with my nose into the cup so the fluid didn’t go up my nose. I put the iShuffle on at between miles 21 and 22 I think, but it really didn’t give me the mental boost I was expecting from my high energy music. At 22 miles the hashers were giving out beer, not for me this time, I’m in a hurry. If I can keep chopping 10-15 seconds off each mile, I’ll be done in a good time. Once you get to mile 23, there are no more large condos to hide behind. It’s sun-on-sun for my forehead, arms, chest and face. Glasses and visor help some, and I am not really affected by the warming. I know this is going well, to feel this in control this late in the race is great! I pass the Ft Lauderdale Runner club tent, all decked out in orange. Then Sunrise Blvd. That’s an important marker. I think how in years past I’d have to turn into the State Park and run it all alone with barely any support or fans. No more of that! Now I see walkers with half marathon medals heading towards me, they’re on the sidewalk with other dog walkers, bike riders, rollerbladers, yes it’s getting interesting now. The largest concentration of people are those walking the last few miles of their half marathon. We all head in the same direction, some with more of a purpose than others! The walkers are strung across the road, just wandering together and slowly making ground. I happily zip by them, seeing the overpass ahead for mile 25. Crossing under that, I feel my left calf muscle pucker and start to tighten as if to cramp. I alter my stride, that helps a small bit. More steps, shorter stride. It’s getting closer and I know I am at a pace less than 7:30/mile. I see only one other guy running like me, but he’s on the sidewalk and doesn’t look to be in the race. Closer to Las Olas Blvd, more cramping but I’m still on the pace. Across the final stripe of A1A and I see the park and its own beach overpass. You never really think about how long the jog is in that particular parking lot, but it is a pure 1/4 mile. Which on a good track interval can be a minute and seconds numbering in the teens, not today for me though! I stop to stretch my left calf to a five count, this has to get me there I thought. The right calf responds with some cramping, but it cannot keep me from running. I know I have a good time in the bag, let’s see how far and long this quarter mile really is. There are many people near the finish line chute cheering, which I think is very nice to see. They don’t know me, but I have to be a brighter option to watch than most of the other guys they have already seen ramble in. No black shorts and white t-shirt for me. I see Austin and also Travis Thompson in the crowd, they recognize me. I keep going on two heavy legs and run into a designated slot for full marathon finishers. Done! It worked again. A first half of 1:39:55, the second at 1:38:40. That’s what I was really after, a strong negative split totaling 3:18:35. My best time.
After the race I had beer, numbering in the several range, enchiladas and I took the bus back to the start line/parking area. I sat with the first and second place male marathon winners on the ride, this year they aren’t tall lanky runners, they have similar body styles to mine. First place was a 27 year old from Boca, second went to a 40 year old from Ohio. That’s encouraging – so would be their 2:37 and 2:42 times! I took my finisher’s medal to Broward hospital to hopefully cheer up Stephanie Goodrich, injured Friday evening in a bike accident. I met her friend and her mom, and barely saw her in the ICU. She suffered a bunch in a crash with a car on A1A. It will be a long road to recovery for her and I hope my small gesture brings a smile when she can realize what has happened.
To Boston –