The last time I ran a marathon in Miami, it was 2004. ING wasn’t a sponsor. The race was maybe slightly larger than Palm Beach’s marathon. That means 600-800 marathon runners, and 2500 half marathoners. The rain blew in at mile 16 that year, yielding some crazy conditions that included sidewards rain and wind squalls that chased the volunteers from their water stations. Self serve with cups blowing and cars beeping at us wasn’t an ideal situations for that race…
I was glad to be included in the pace runner roster for this race. The decision to drive to the race that morning and park in the belly of the American Airlines Arena was a good one. Five dollars had us wisely positioned right by the start/finish line. This was convenient when we arrived, we came early expecting traffic. It really proved beneficial after the race. No long walk for the car, or a need to wait for the peoplemovers or Metrorail. Nice! I drove with Jessica, Jesse Hall and Steve Chin.
I ate well at the dinner, and was sure to drink plenty of water. I slept average, waking once in the middle for a water break. I woke up feeling still thirsty – a sign that things were different today. A sign I ignored. I purchased another Nathan 10k waist pack at the expo, in that I stored some money, my iPhone, my car key fob, a PowerBar gel and the hotel room key. Missing was a mini M&Ms container with Succeed pills. Why bother with those I thought, two weeks ago Jessica and I ran the Disney Marathon in under four hours without electrolyte pills, not a worry. This 4:10 pace would be even more relaxed. Unfortunately, Miami was considerably warmer than Disney. I should have had a few salt tabs for this one.
The corrals were closed off to runners until too close to the start of the race. People were asking and wondering why we couldn’t let them in, or why we were inside the corrals and they couldn’t join us. I explained that as pacers, we were not organizing the race, just pacing runners for the distance. Once the corral E opened, a good group of people found me and stated their intents. I met many half marathoners looking to score 2:05 or better. A few folks with deftly ambitious goals hung around and started with me. One of these guys was named Larry. He wanted to get a 3:45 but thought starting with me and surging at 8 miles would be the formula. I cautioned him against this strategy, saying he would have a better experience running even splits. I met many of my runners, most did not have the names printed on their bibs – that made it tough to keep track of who was with me or not. I felt not having time enough before the start due to the corral closures hampered my ability to learn about the group I’d have for the day. Plenty ran with me or right behind me, but I didn’t get to meet all of them and get their names. I met Sandra, she was from Zurich, she planed on running with me the whole way. Lee and another gal in a black top wanted a good “near 2 hour” finish. Fabilio or Flavio (sp) was an eager 16 year old running his first half marathon. He wanted to run the full, but the rules say he must be 18 for that. I did the briefing I know works well – telling the group that water was at mile 3, how to lace the shoes, why we run straight pace, how the first few narrow miles will be slower but we will be on track before we leave South Beach. So we started with that, a bit warmer than most expected, my friends at home a mere 75 miles north had 58 degree temps for their runs, I was receiving texts of good luck and their weather reports prior to the start.
My miles (from memory, no GPS on board) were like this – using a differential from perfect:
mile – differential
1 – 50 secs slower than the goal
2 – 45 secs slower than the goal
3 – 45 secs slower than the goal
4 – 20 secs slower than the goal
5 – 12 secs slower than the goal
6 – 4 secs slower than the goal. Larry dispatched himself to work his way up to the 3:45 group. I cautioned him to wait and slowly pick off those miles, he was definitely going too fast in my opinion.
7 – on pace! this was near the golf course on Miami Beach. I told the group we’d do this before mile 8, gradually putting ourselves in the right place without ever knowing we were doing it.
8-11 – on pace. I had my group drinking through the water stops like triathletes. They really enjoy learning how to do this well!
12 – 15 secs ahead of pace – I think the roaring crowd in the echo tunnel beneath MetroRail and live bands perked up the crowds, the runners and the pace. Plus, it was light out and you could see the city and it was exciting!
13 – half way – 20 secs ahead of goal. Most of my group were half marathoners. Those that looked really good I told at the split to “go get their prize and run to the finish.” Little Flavio I dispatched at mile 12 and said he should go for it, he was in great shape and happy as could be to finish a half. The rest I joked with, saying we were making the “hero’s turn” with only a quick jaunt to Key West and we’d be back in two hours and five more minutes. They do like being distracted with my offbeat humor!
14-16 back to goal
17 – 3 secs slower than goal
18 – on goal (This is where my last full marathoner peeled back and slowed pace despite my encouragement – Sandra faded)
19-22 – on goal, I was running solo or with a spanish lady that didn’t speak any English. We found, caught and passed Larry, puckered from his attempt to join the 3:45ers.
23 -24 -Running solo with a tall guy in black shorts following my pace. I went to the men’s room under the Rickenbacker Causeway and told him I’d take less than 20 secs to rebound, which I did. He went ahead and stayed ahead, I did not see him even though I crossed the 24 mi mark on pace. Jessica came from behind and ran with me for a mile, telling me of her CPR rescue effort – WOW! I noticed calf spasms and cramping, she carried a faster pace to catch up to me, so she kept that going and ran slightly ahead.
25 – on pace but experiencing uncharacteristic cramps now on both calves and the beginnings of upper leg muscles. I’ve never had that, not in ultras or 35 mile training runs, which I do in South Florida without Succeed pills. I kept rolling but I was now working to stay on pace – up the small bridge that leads to Bayside Miami and the finish line. At the top of the bridge, my stomach let loose, I pulled over an threw up water, no colored fluids and pieces of pineapple from the Mile 16 aid station. Ugh. Now I was in trouble, my time was slipping away. In an effort to keep good even pacing, even while alone, I left myself with no cushion. I did not want to sprint for risk of aggravating the both legs of cramping that I was doing a good job of suppressing. I ran it at 4:10:48 – late. Historically I have never puked in a race on the course before – very odd. Only after the finish line at Miami in 2004 did I have a similar problem with stomach, I attribute that to an excess of the sugary Gatorade drinks that year. Jim’s words at the finish were true – a rookie mistake made in not treating any marathon with a respect for the distance. I small infusion of my salt pills at mile 8, 16, 22 would have solved this issue.
We run, we learn, we run again!