After last year’s stomach problems, I was due to solve the issues and have a good race this time. Running on the Presenting Sponsor’s team, Colavita, meant we had a nice dinner Friday night and packet pickup was done for me beforehand. Since the past three times I drove in bad traffic to get to Deerfield Beach for the Colavita dinner, this year I had a new approach. My sister was working in Boca for the week. I could visit her on the way down before any traffic developed. Then I would go further south than necessary to the race expo. Then back up north driving along the run route to the restaurant. Like I need more familiarization with the course? (Sarcasm)
I was the only person on time for the 6:30 pm cocktail hour!
I decided to carry water with me and use “The Right Stuff” in the mix for the race. At first, I thought it was counter-intuitive – Why would I carry fluids on a course that has 18 water stops? Because if you plan on drinking water or “Body Armor” fluid (supplied on course) and supplementing with salt pills, that works. Yet I suspect the salt pills have been upsetting my stomach so this race would be a test to see how true this was. I would drink a 17oz portion of water & Right Stuff mix before the race. Then I’ll carry a bottle with me in a waist pack with the same formula. I carried another Right Stuff packet with me to refill the bottle later in the run. I can do this at any water stop.
For gels, I used the Maurten Gel 100. It is a peculiar product, with a consistency and thickness like jelly with no flavor. It’s meant to give you energy quickly without upsetting your stomach. That fit what I was looking for. I’m after a new solution that delivers energy on the fly without mixing up my insides. When I eat one, I feel like my mouth doesn’t know what to do with it. Do I swallow it like a pill? Swish it around like a liquid? This would be a test of that product in hopes it works well. Hopefully, this would pair well with The Right Stuff drink mix. If it does, I can use this solution in Boston this April.
I stayed with John in a beach hotel Saturday night. I had a good salmon dinner, water, and two Pedialyte bottles. The generic orange flavor is good for me, it has less “flavor” than the berry red. I drank one in the afternoon, then I finished most of another one after dinner. I kept the remainder left at my bedside if I woke up thirsty at night or in the morning.
Race morning was easy, I woke at 3:40 am, got dressed and walked the final mile of the course to the bus loading. This year, we had school buses as transport to the Start line. There was a line of runners already at 4:15 am, next year it would be better to arrive earlier. The bus ride went a roundabout way to the start area, we arrived still early enough where I didn’t have to wait for the porta potty line or bag drop. I saw a few people I knew and continued drinking the prepared Right Stuff bottle. I did a few restroom breaks, made it to the Colavita Group photo on time, and met up with more friends in the corrals. Getting there early is important, you can be relaxed and prepared. I had a Whole Foods water bottle with a spout to carry if I didn’t finish my mixture beforehand. This helped me avoid the first few water stops on the course which can be disorganized and crowded.
At almost the last minute, Kaitlyn found me in the 6-7 minute corral in time to start together. She originally wanted to shoot for 3:20 as a PR, but in the weeks leading up to the race, she said she thought she could run a 3:15. I said she should stay with me early and not make the classic mistake of starting out too quickly. She wanted to run with me for the first 10 miles, then speed up, then continue lowering her pace. A good plan but today was warmer than the recent training days we have really enjoyed this winter. She had a few gels and wisely wore a sun visor. Ok, let’s go…
The first mile was comfortable, no crowds as they launch groups every few minutes as “waves.” We were in the first group – so here we were doing a 7:37 first mile. Our goal pace was 7:40 – rarely do you get to keep goal pace in the first mile due to the crowds and folks starting out ahead of where their pace should have them. In the darkness of Las Olas Blvd, we kept on pace or slightly ahead of the goal. It was 68 degrees and I felt cool breezes on my forearms and shoulders. We went over the only hill on the course, the Intracoastal bridge and then we turned north on A1A. It was good to have Kaitlyn to chat with. Each year I’m usually with people in the first 8+ miles until the half marathoners turn back to finish their race. We ran through the park, each taking our first gel at the 5-mile mark. At 6 miles we left the park and this is where Kaitlyn picked up her pace. I could have stayed with that because she wasn’t surging ahead, but my plan for the day was different than hitting a PR.
This race was at the middle point of the Hanson’s Marathon Method training I am involved with for the Boston Marathon. I started mid-December after the Palm Beach Marathon. It is a gamble to interrupt the training that is going well to run a full marathon in the middle of the plan. I have the run streak of completing all previous 14 A1A Marathons, so that’s important to me. I think I can go at a good enough pace, 7:40 per mile, to finish in 3:20 and get near an Age Group prize for the day. I can recover for a week and get back onto the “cumulative fatigue” Hanson’s plan in 10 days.
I run north again on A1A and I saw Kaitlyn ahead of me mixed in with half marathoners. Then we get the race leaders and friends coming back at us heading south. They’ll be home before the sun can heat the day, I’ll still be heading north to turn around. I know this course very well, each turn, water stop, significant traffic light, and building. I have to stay on the manageable 7:40 pace until it heats up. Then work to stay on the pace when it’s warmer and challenging.
When we break clear of the half marathoners, there are two guys that look like they could be in my age group in front of me. One has a strange stride, his legs bent and looking uncomfortable. Think Dave, we are at MIle 10 and he’s ahead of you? I run behind him and another guy in black. A tall man with a “World Marathon Majors” jersey comes up next to me and passes by easily. I don’t get that too often, especially at Mile 10 near Commercial Blvd. I won’t chase him – although he looks to be in my group, maybe I’ll catch him later. I do pass the other two guys on the long straight A1A stretch between mIles 11-13. I am right at the 7:35-7:40 pace whenever I check my watch. Something about the course markings always seems off in the middle miles. I will be running tangents efficiently and I seem to have Garmin miles firing off way too early. They don’t match up with the course markings but I know how it equals out at the finish.
It’s second gel time for me at Mile 12. I wasn’t ready for one at 10, and I adjusted what I wanted to do with the remaining two I have. I’ll take another one at 18, then save one for mile 23 when I will face the sun and the most heat for the final 3 miles along the beach. I cross the halfway timing mat at 1:40 – that means I have done the correct pacing to not burn out. It has cost me less than half of my energy to get to this timing mat. Perfect! Next, I came out from behind the tall condominium buildings and I was exposed to more sun and heat for miles 13-14. I saw the first few guy leaders and at least three females heading back. No Kaitlyn, that meant I was close enough to her where I wouldn’t see her in the neighborhood. I hoped I wouldn’t see her at all. She took a risk in leaving earlier, hopefully 26 miles on the roads and in warmer temps wouldn’t break her pace.
I ran up to the turn around neighborhood, ran through that alone, and started seeing people I knew as I ran back. To be at mile 17.5 and see people coming up at me on their mile 13.5 is thought-provoking. They are going to have a tougher time than me in the heat. I’ll be able to finish before it gets too warm – if I keep this pace and the nutrition works. I took the gel at 18 as planned – they are good. I get a little energy from them, they don’t need water to wash down, and I don’t feel weird inside as a result. All along I use the Right Stuff bottle I brought, occasionally just taking a cup of regular water from an aid station too. Because those are cold and refreshing!
I ran the long straightaway on A1A back to the 20-mile mark, tucked in by the beach for a mile, then back onto A1A. I felt that my legs are heavier along this stretch, but my stomach and pace are still doing well. I pass a runner about each mile. Now I am back among the folks walking the half marathon – they are at the turnaround. Water stations are full of old cups on the floor and the “free beer” station between mile 21 -22 is in full swing. I stop at the aid station after mile 22 to refill the bottle and add Right Stuff for the rest of the run back. I haven’t seen anyone I know in a while. I thought Julie was coming on the course on a rental bike, maybe with John, since bikes were free at our hotel, but nothing. I find it’s important to watch the pace as I run along with plenty of walking half marathoners. I get to Mile 23 and take the last Maurten gel. I am fine on energy, I see my pace slipping a small bit, it’s not as easy as earlier, but of course it shouldn’t be. The big stomach pain from last year is missing. My legs feel equally used (right side and left side) and ready to chop off the final three miles. It’s definitely hot out and there’s no hiding from the sun. Julie on a rental bike finds me at Mile 24… I am controlling my breathing and pace so I don’t have much to say. I am working to get myself to each familiar landmark on the course – the Team Ft Lauderdale tent, Sunrise Blvd, my hotel’s overpass, then Beach Place, Las Olas, and the park. There aren’t any additional full marathoners I can see running up ahead of me, unless they are walking on the side with half marathoners. I get through the final street section and enter the park. When I look down at my watch, I see it’s just ticking over 3:19 elapsed time. I know I will finish with “3:20 – something” now, I choose not to sprint down the last straightaway under the Bahia Mar overpass to the end. I cross the line in 3:20:31 My streak is intact at 14 years and the training run in the middle of Hanson’s plan is a success.
One of the best events I do each year ends with seeing friends from all over finish their race and celebrate together. There are many Palm Beach Roadrunners in the A1A half or full marathon, plus spectators. It’s warmer than we would like but as fun as we remember in past years. Kaitlyn won the women’s overall title in a new PR of 3:06, she increased her pace as the miles ticked off and never faltered. We enjoyed a great band, plenty of beer and food, plus a Colavita Pizza truck making pies as fast as the oven could heat the cheese. I am thankful to be involved with Colavita each year for the race. I thank Linda Meyer each year for getting me a cool bib number. The weather is a test each year in any South Florida marathon. This was a good year at A1A for me!