The morning was nice, I met Jeff and Cammie at the finish line area with designs of parking a car at the finish and one at the start. I arrived at the Sheraton Yankee Clipper about 5am, too early for someone to be manning the parking structure. I parked in the valet lot next to the garage. I called Jeff and Cammie letting them know it was a bit fouled up traffic wise. They had already found themselves caught at the 5am raising of the 17th St Causeway drawbridge – ugh!
We drove to the start, upon parking Jeff realized he didn’t have his bib so he drove back to my car. Cammie and I went to the start area, did a porta potty visit and collected around the start area. The fire trucks displayed the large USA flag and pushcart athletes assembled ready for their early start. I looked for familiar faces but many of my A1A regulars were not running this year. We found Sky Bakker, attempting to beat his 2:53 PR with a stretch goal of 2:49 something hanging out there, too. I told him I though today was his day, we seldom get South Florida weather this good for any of our races. My nose was clogged, I didn’t want to take a decongestant, so I’d breathe however served me best. Right now, that wa s out of my mouth only. I saw Ron Daniels who signed up way in advance for this race and was looking to just finish a half marathon today. I ran with a t-shirt to throw away and a run singlet under that. The familiar Billy Bones National athem on saxophone and we were off!
I started and ran with Cammie a short bit, then I remember the 2+ mile run east on Las Olas. I was running solo within my first mile, and so noticeable is the silence among the runners in the first three miles of this event each year. A dark water stop at mile 1, then another at mile 2.75, right before the Las Olas bridge. My first mile was 8:03, about 30 seconds off. That would be easy to make up, no rush to gather that time back in. This bridge was the only hill on the course, and was where Jeff said I passed him running up. I didn’t see him, I saw the faint beginnings of sunrise over the water. There was a slight breeze, one that kept the 57 degree air perfectly cool over my skin. I carried a 16oz water bottle so I didn’t need to bother with the first few crowded water stops. Good plan, that idea is a keeper!
Once on A1A, I found that miles 3 & 4 came quick, the sun was coming up and I was at Sunrise Blvd ready to turn into the park. I saw Walter and Teresa on the corner, I spotted them almost too late to say hello. I hoped they’d still be there at the exit to the park when I came out. I missed water at mile 4 and at the entrance to the park. I kept the correct gel and salt pill formula going, making sure at the far part of the park that I got a drink. I concentrated on keeping pace minus a few seconds, figuring the road was going to widen once I was out of the park. That’s where I could run free of crowds and half marathoners. I did see Walter and Teresa again at the corner, Teresa took a far off picture of me toting my t-shirt in hand. I took it off before mile 6, and decided to keep it to be an oversized handkerchief. This stayed with me until mile 22 or 24, where I tossed the shirt on the stand holding up the mile marker. Now it was time to work and concentrate. Soon I’d see the half runners heading back towards me and then it would be the long run up to the Inlet bridge and Mac Donald’s convenience store.
I ran behind Helen and heard her talking to a friend. She wanted to better her 3:24 current best, and although we wanted to meet at the start line, we didn’t connect. She ran with me for miles 7, 8 and some of 9, then she fell back. I saw John Reback in fourth place, where he ended up finishing. Then I saw and greeted Chad and Hamed, then I peeled away from the big group to join with the few going 26+ today. Our first water stop around mile 9 was manned by one lady – peculiar I thought. I ran next to a guy and girl for awhile, then passed them both. I came upon other runners after doing some long strides up the road, keeping an eye on my pace which teetered between 7:0-something and the 7:30s. I ran the Galt Mile well, missing the familiar water station in the middle. I’d remember that for the way back! Up into the middle miles where I saw Jessica waiting for her other pace runner at 3:30. I passed the 13.1 timing mat at 1:38:01. So close to perfect timing I thought. Now to do once more what I had already done and I’d be very happy!
The run up the long part of A1A was spent mostly alone – with a nice breeze from the NW cooling me. I ran around the bend of mile 14 and saw the race leader, then a few minutes later – Sky! He looked great and in full command of his stride. I told him he was in second overall, he said, “For now” as if to hint he would go catch the guy several minutes up the road. Good for him, it wasn’t warming up, he was making the most of his day. I kept that thought and wanted a good “intermediate” time for this race. One that I’d be happy with but that would also springboard me into a good 7 weeks of training for Boston. Keep this pace and I’d have it!
Into the turnaround neighborhood I passed a few people near Mac Donald’s store, saw a recently killed cat on the sidewalk I thought was sleeping. I made sure I kept stretching my legs by altering my stride along the way. At mile 16 I saw I was 45-50 seconds sower than my pace band said I should be. I decided to run and watch my pace on the Garmin, but not make any more references to the pace band and where I was “supposed” to be. I wanted to just run as I felt. I didn’t put on the music, something most A1A races would have me do for this last, straight, ten miles home. I wanted to concentrate and feel what was going on. I ran next to and finally passed the guy in the green shirt that clicked when his shoes hit the ground. Then I ran with and passed another guy in front of him with an Autism cycling jersey. I hope he finished well, he was personable and talking to many of the runners and volunteers. I felt my left quad low by the knee sore but certainly bearable. My calves were tightening and feeling strained. I stretched them in stride and kept going. No stopping at water stops, this is where many people faltered off pace. And once they slow, they stop and their running day unravels – I’ve seen it in pacing others. I was not stopping at all today!
The last 7 miles were good work. Running the mid 7s pace was ok, my legs were getting heavier and my hips were creaky. I stretched my arms around as if doing freestyle swim stroke, that keeps things rolling forward better. I drank at every stop, I saw less and less people in front of me. Once near the half marathon turnaround, now there would be half marathon walkers on the course. I kept going well, passing a few other full marathoners before I got to the final “sunny” 5k This part of the course is good, I know it well. I keep near pace even as I see some 7:40 readings sneaking in. I haven’t checked my overall time against the pace band since mile 16. I am doing good, I have to keep it going. In a message early this morning from fellow pacer Kristen, she said I was athletically ready for a big achievement. With this kind of encouragement and belief coming from someone that doesn’t even train with me, I figure I cannot report back with anything but good news. That keeps me working hard and smart. I’m always looking to run the tangents of the road. I’m getting water at each offering and passing half and (the rare) full marathoners I see. This will be good because at 24 miles, I am in control of everything. I won’t sprint home, but I will be finished very soon! I make the 25 mile mark at the Westin pedestrian bridge. It’s tough, but I’m not cramping even as I feel my pace slow. I see 7:50s, mixed with 7:17 as I glance down. There is now less than a mile to go with the Publix banners calling out every quarter mile. Finally I reach the beach parking lot and leave A1A. Now just two laps around a high school track – the 26th mile is done. I see Sara from work calling my name on the right side. I am alone in the finish chute with several meters to go. The race clock reads 3:18 something, I was near 2 minutes off that all day, I’ll finish good! I cross the line but don’t shut off the Garmin until I’ve made it. I look and see 3:16:01. Whoa – I really did it well today! Officially my finish was 3:16:03, a big day. I made some magic in the last ten miles, almost matching my first half split time to the second. In pacing, it’s tough to be within the 30 seconds on the right side of your goal. I couldn’t have engineered down to the step finishing this close to perfect pacing at any distance!
I won a 2nd place age group prize. I wasn’t close to the first place winner, who finished in 3:00 even. It’s my last race in Florida in the category, so I felt good performing well. Next up – Boston! I wore new Skechers Ultra shoes, their second marathon in three weeks. They felt good, no leg impact issues during the race. I laced them up properly so they felt good even after the run. They aren’t as light as the Go Run I had used, but the cushioning is very well done!