2020 A1A Marathon

This was the 15th running of this event, and it proved to have the best weather conditions of any previous year. The A1A race weekend was 3 weeks early, the result of swapping dates with the Miami Marathon due to the Super Bowl being in town. I was a member of the Colavita Team again, they are the Presenting Sponsor. This amounts to a great dinner on Friday night at Luigi de Roma in Deerfield Beach, a nice lululemon singlet, and fun people to share the experience with. This year, Kaitlyn Kelly was added to the team, she ran the half marathon. The dinner was good and it was nice to connect with everyone both Friday and Sunday morning.

We took a team photo on the morning of the race…

Sunday’s race for the first time in a few years had me driving down from home on Sunday morning. I rode with Kim, she was using today’s race as part of her training for the Two Rivers Marathon festival in 8 weeks. A number of us are on the same schedule with the hopes of a Boston qualifying time in cool conditions up north. The ride to Ft Lauderdale downtown was easy and the paid parking was smooth. We went to the bag check and restrooms as soon as we arrived. It was 54 degrees out with a wind from the N/NW at 8 mph. I had to make some decisions about what I’d wear in the race. My fingers were ok, but I knew in a headwind they would get cold. To run in the singlet alone would be my best decision, as temps at 9 am were still expected to be under 60 degrees. If I was cold I’d deal with that – so I chose no gloves and only a cotton throw away shirt to wear before the start of the race. All of this proved to be good decision making.

The race began on time after we took some photos on the Science Museum steps. I saw some of the pace team runners I knew and was feeling very calm and good about this race. My goal was to start at a 7:40 minute per mile pace for the first half, then look to run faster to the finish in the second half. I looked to get slightly under a 3:20 finish time with a negative split. This, I figured, would serve as a good example of how to dole out one’s energy in a marathon. I have two terrific ladies training with my ideas for their first-ever marathons. They each have a goal of achieving a BQ time in their first attempts at the distance. So my impetus to do well is magnified.

If I am the coach, the guy that “writes the book” on how to succeed at marathon running, I had better show well. I have to create and execute the plan as advertised. I cannot fail and command respect.

I ran with Brenda Lips, who was at the Colavita dinner and said she wanted to get a 1:40 half marathon finish time. I said I’d be going that pace for her first 8 3/4 miles, before the course splits and she ran to her finish line. This was good, as we started with each other and ran those miles well-paced side by side. I noticed the three week change in race dates when we made it to the ocean and A1A – and didn’t see a sunrise. We entered Hugh Taylor Birch Park and still no sun. The dawn and sunrise was delayed until we had almost left the park.

My prep plan for this race included a salty and smaller than usual portion of salmon and quinoa for Saturday’s dinner, this was made and eaten before 5:30 pm. I went to sleep early, having started drinking CVS Adult Pedialyte formula before bedtime. This new product contains more salt than the child product. I drank half of that before bed. I filled the remainder up with water mixed into the other half as my drink for the car ride down. I had the belt bottle filled with The Right Stuff solution and 16-17 oz of water. And I made a carry bottle of the same – using a Gatorade 24 oz bottle with the bright orange easy-to-use 90 degree spout on top. I packed 5 Maurten gels into my Nathan 10k belt pack, the intent was to eat one every 5 miles. At pace this means having one approximately every 35-40 minutes. If I really wanted one at Mile 25 or before, I had one for that, too.

Running with Brenda was good, we ran the first mile in the most crowded section in 8:12. She was concerned about this, already 30+ seconds off perfect pace, I assured her that this is normal and a better way to begin a race. We settled into a pace between 7:37 and 7:42 – at that speed she was comfortable. My watch seemed to be delivering more accurate “on the mile” pace reports, so I announced each time what we were doing and gave positive encouragement as a result. Mile 2 and MIle 3 were in the dark on Las Olas Blvd. We kept our cadence up the hill of the Intracoastal bridge, and came down at a nice pace, too. On the way to the park we saw Ricky Montez at the Sunrise Blvd turn, it’s always good to get that mental rise from seeing fans you know! Once in the park I ate my first gel, that was easy. The Maurten gels don’t have much of a distinctive taste, and I can get one in my mouth and swallow the jelly-like contents without water. I chased it with the cold water from the next aid station located past Mile 5 in the back of the park. Once out of the park and on A1A again, I always look for the half marathon race leaders heading back. This time it was a guy running all alone. I later learned he finished in 1:11, considerably ahead of runner #2. I saw Rick and Erica, Cliff and Kaitlyn, Nikki and Alicia. Then it was split time, I encouraged Brenda and reminded her to take the “cleansing” deep exhale breaths to relax her shoulders. She thought that was a great tip – and after the race I asked her about it. She said she did a few with loud exhales, she wondered if those around her noticed.

It’s never a big crowd after the half marathoners split off in the this race. There were a few guys and one girl I saw running north towards Mile 9. I still had my throw away shirt wrapped around my hand, I was switching it off with the Gatorade bottle to keep my fingers warm. I ate the second gel at Mile 10, easy again and washed down with cold water from an aid station on the little mile-long beach road segment near Commercial Blvd. I tossed that cotton shirt neat the aid station at Mile 11. My times at each Mile 9, 10, 11, 12 were good. I was 25 seconds slow for my total elapsed time at Mile 10, so I picked up pace to arrive as close to 1:40 for the half marathon as I could. I came across the half marathon mat at 1:40:04. Shortly after the half marathon timing mat I tossed the handheld Gatorade bottle into an aid station garbage can. Now I moved on to sipping the belt mounted bottle of Right Stuff as my supplement water. It felt good to run with both hands empty!

It’s my strong belief you should be able to run the first half of your marathon without expending half of your energy.

The next 5 miles bring you up to the course’s turn around point in what I have always referred to as “the neighborhood.” Then we run back to the halfway 13.1 mat, which at that point is almost at Mile 18 heading back south on A1A. I have always found something peculiar about the mile markers in this section. I came to Mile 13.1 at very close to perfect timing. By Mile 15 the pace chart and Garmin said I was 70-80 seconds behind schedule as compared to Mile 14 sign and Mile 15 sign placements. It’s impossible that I would have run two consecutive 8:15-ish miles and not have noticed a slowdown. Either way, I kept a good pace with a plan of adding speed slowly, starting at Mile 19.

I took the third gel at Mile 15, even though it seemed like I had just eaten one. I know the importance of feeding on schedule even if you’re not ready. You can’t go back and rectify that oversight later in the race. The run back to the A1A section that bends off the water was good, I was feeling confident and strong. I passed a few people and lined up for the long straightaway. It begins after Mile 18 and leads back to the large overhanging tree, then to Mile 19, and finally the turn at Mile 20. This year a Publix tent with a DJ was placed there, a good addition to the course. I went thru that turn knowing it’s one mile until I’m back out on the big road with traffic and… a slight tailwind. I ran mostly alone and took the fourth gel in this stretch of road. Coming out of that relatively quiet area and passing the Mile 21 sign, I knew it was the right time to add more speed. Nothing on my legs felt overly labored. I did feel the miles on my upper leg muscles, my feet may have been scrunched into the skinny Nike shoes, but I had no reason to “be cautious” and hold my pace. The weather was still cool and I had two miles ahead where I would be able to hide behind the tall condos from the sun.

This is what you always hope for – to feel this good, this late in a race.

There was a guy with a very high cadence ahead wearing the day’s olive colored race shirt. I caught him and said, “Hi” and kept going. Soon after that I saw the half marathon turn around signs, so that meant I was nearing Mile 22 and still all in control. I passed a girl around the Mile 22 aid station, and I ran way outside the cones where some half marathon walkers were entertaining the “free beer” tent and their offerings. I sipped my belt bottle and Right Stuff fluid often enough, it still had a good amount left. I remembered that this time last year, I stopped at this same Mile 22 aid station to make a third Right Stuff mixture. I wouldn’t need that today.

Once I got into the sunny Mile 23 section, I ran a very good mile to the next mile marker sign, just past the familiar orange “Team Ft Laurderdale” run club aid station. I chose the inside-most lane next to the cones where no other half or full marathoner was running, Everyone else was on the far left near the curb. If they were giving me half the road, I was using it and staying as tight to the turn tangent as I could. I believe running the straightest path possible during the race is a good thing to occupy your mind with when you run alone!

Mile 24 and 25 went well also. The long stretch between Mile 24 and the Sunrise Blvd traffic lights went by quickly. I saw Anna Warshaw and her husband walking back on the sidewalk – she recognized me and said, “Go Dave” as I went by. I saw two guys ahead of me running side by side, tall, each with grey hair. I imagined them to be in my age group so I made sure I passed them with authority – fast enough so they didn’t think about giving chase. Next, near the Westin Hotel overpass, I saw a gal with the name “Coogan” on the back of her shirt. I asked if she was part of the Coogan family from Massachusetts. she said “Yes.” I mentioned that I saw some of the Coogans doing well in the NB indoor meet on Instagram, she replied with, ‘Yes, the kids did great!” I ran past her, then I tried to outpace a tall guy in a dark shirt until he made a right turn and ran up Las Olas Blvd. He wasn’t in the race. My final mile was done in control and in a speedy manner, which felt great. I didn’t know how far under a 1:40 half I was, but I ran even faster down the final 800m of the beach park straightaway. I waved at a few people I heard call my name and passed under the finish arch with a 3:17:23. This meant that my second half was completed in 1:37:19. Today was a solid negative split goal achieved!

I won a 3rd Place prize for my age group. 1st place went to a guy finishing in 3:13, second place was only 45 seconds ahead of me, but I didn’t see or know that. I was happy with the race regardless of if I won an award. It’s good to win something however and be seen by Chip and the Colavita folks as doing well and representing their brand positively. I’m thankful to be included each year with their group.

The others training for our same goal race in Pennsylvania also had good times in the half marathon. Daniel with a new PR of 1:32, his wife Elisa did her first running on the road half marathon, Kim had a 4 minute PR with a 1:48, Maureen was happy with her even paced effort and 1:44 finish. Brenda almost made her 1:40 goal time, finishing in 1:41. Nina Montez and Regina Goolsby qualified for Boston – today was a good day for a race!

~ dm

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