2021 A1A Marathon

The warmest year so far follows the best weather ever in last year’s event.

Year 16 in a row

The race was happily a “live” event, the first in a year with over two thousand people in South Florida. The expo was a pleasant surprise, it was in the Galleria Mall at the former Neiman Marcus store. A few vendors, samples, and plenty of people wearing masks. I can’t complain though, I wasn’t expecting the usual large vendor turnout. I saw a few people at the packet pickup, Steve Hoher, Mitch Goldstein, Linda Meyer, and Estella from Iron Soul. Maureen and I met Nicole and Fiona then took a driving tour of the “new” course they had planned for this year. The start and finish were to be at the traditional beach finish area, so both half and full courses were altered to make this adjustment for the covid protocols.

I drank Pedialyte and ate a salmon dinner early on Saturday night. I went to bed early, but didn’t fall asleep right off, I was awake until after 10 pm. I woke up at 3 am, took a quick shower and met Kim and Maureen at Northlake Blvd and I-95 just before 4 am. The drive was easy, no traffic or long wait to get into the parking at the Bahia Mar hotel.

Once on site, the “wear a mask” rule was being repeated often by the announcer. Even more, regular runners were poking about telling everyone to wear their masks – like somehow they were tasked with this enforcement duty? I was supposed to meet the Colavita Team folks for a group photo but a got crossed up with meeting others at the park restroom, so I missed that. I went to the restroom twice before the start which made me ready to run with no belief I’d have to stop on the course. The idea of having 20 runners start every 20 seconds may have looked good on paper to get an event permit, but it wasn’t a practical way to get 2000+ runners on course. We waited in a pack with masks on and crepy slowly toward the start line, where we were staged in an area by volunteers in groups of 20. Then we were moved forward and asked to stand on a painted “dot” on the ground until the announcer counted down from 10 for us to leave.

I ran with Kim and Maureen leaving the park. We passed a juggling guy that had a softball, basketball and a third object in the air as he ran. The first mile was southbound on A1A in the dark. We learned quickly that like always, people who were much slower or Galloway runners had left the staging area earlier than us. Now we had to run around them. The course turned into a neighborhood, one that we had driven the day before but in reverse order. Kim had a bright belt clip-on light that was helpful. The street was a narrow residential road, thankfully this didn’t last long. Mile 2 and 3 went by with us staying a small bit below the 7:40 pace. Before the 4th mile we passed by the start area again, hearing the announcer almost giving a “last call” for runners to get into the chute and begin their race. We ran on pace for the next few miles, seeing far ahead where the photographers were in the middle of the road. It was still dark as we passed Beach Place and the Westin Hotel pedestrian overpasses. And it was warming up, the humidity was weighing in early. We were on pace, and now Kim’s watch was registering the same mile split times as mine. We passed and took some water, gladly they used regular filled cups and not sealed bottles. As we passed the 5th mile, I guessed that when we got near the first condo building on the west side of A1A that we would see the lead half marathon runner on his or her way back. That’s what happened, the half marathon winner finished in a 1:09 time, over two minutes ahead of second place.

As we approached area where the road leaves the beach, Kim’s breathing was more pronounced and she wasn’t talking any more. That’s what I expected, as it was getting more challenging to keep our pace at the right level. I looked to feed any positives I could in my conversation – noticing cool puffs of breeze as “free air conditioning” and pointing out funny spectator signs. I know to keep the mood positive and do most of the talking when this is the case. We stayed together and I wanted to “seed” Kim with good things to remember for her last miles heading solo to the finish. I said,”If you had a dozen reps to do with the weights, you’d never stop at 8 and say I can’t do it.” She said, “No way, never.” I reminded her that from the large red condo building there were only 3 miles left to her finish line, and how we had already done 8 of the miles right in a great time. She was doing to work and breathing forcefully, I did believe I’d get a good report from her once I finished my race. We separated just after mile 8, my course had more miles to run north before I could turn around.

I ran on the familiar side street (Palm Ave) that leads to Lauderdale By the Sea and the Mulligans I suggested we should meet at once the event was over. My turnaround was almost at the end of that street, then it was running back south into a breeze for miles 10, 11 and 12. Before mile 12 I had already finished the disposable bottle I had carried with Maurten drink. I wanted to start using the bottle I had been carrying on my waist belt. I tried it and that drink was already warm, even having been frozen overnight. It did live outside the freezer for the hour long drive down, the hour plus wait to start, and the near hour and a half I had been running already. My stomach wasn’t happy with the fluid going in, or my attempts to use regular water from the aid station. Somewhere south of the Oakland Park Blvd condo buildings, I began having nauseous feelings. I purposely took some off of my pace, which wasn’t labored, but it didn’t help. Before the 13th mile I stopped on the sidewalk by the beach and heaved a few times, all without really having much of anything to send back up. That burning sensation of bile running up your throat and dripping out as I coughed… not good!

At this point, I knew I was in trouble and I wasn’t half way done yet. I was on the exposed sun beaten path heading south. This was going to be a long slog home.

I saw Alan Harding, owner of Accuchip Timing, at the south turnaround of the marathon course. He said, “Hi Dave, looking good.” I replied with, “I don’t feel any part of good right now.” He said a bunch of marathoners were getting to this point on their run and stopping – just going to the finish or their cars or whatever. I stopped to pee on the side of a building out of sight, then got back on the course to head north again.

Now it was really warming up. I had problems breathing hard, I attribute that to all of the heaving I was doing when I tried to take in more fluids. I didn’t dare try to eat a gel, water or the liquid Maurten wa sall I tried. I kept alternating between short runs and walks. Walking through aid stations, running again, walking again, up off the beach and behind some of the tall buildings. I tried to run when I was in the shade of the buildings and walk when I was in the sun. I didn’t think that out too well, it probably would have been better to do the opposite!

I made it up to the half marathon turn around again, and continued north. The turn off A1A onto Palm Ave is within eyeshot of that, so that made me feel a little better. I knew once I was up there at the north end of the marathon loop that every step from there back would be towards the direction of the finish line. I saw Mitch Goldstein, he was moving well. My guess was he was maybe a mile ahead of me. I wouldn’t be making up any ground on that, I had to keep a rhythm of running and walking forward, that’s all I could think of. At the turnaround I switched bottles to a Right Stuff mixture. When I tried that, it was warm and not going down any easier. The positive was that since I was mixing in frequent walks, I wasn’t cramping, at least yet.

I saw Gary Walk as I made my way heading south. My guess was I was at mile 21 and he was at approximately mile 18. I asked him how he was doing, he said not good. I made the “cut off” motion with my hand near my throat and said – Yes, me too, not having a good day. He would drop out shortly after at mile 20, opting to take a ride back to the finish on the back of a Broward County Deputy Sheriff’s Harley. It’s Walter all over again!

I came south on A1A with the Galloway-like effort of mixing runs in with the walks I was doing. They were getting longer, but I knew I was closing in on the place where I knew I had 3 miles left or less. Those three miles are the warmest on the course. Every year. Usually I am well prepared for this section, I bit down hard knowing I’d have to focus hard. But with most that ability already gone, I did the walk-run-walk again for most of that segment also. I remember thinking, “I have a little more than 4 miles left with the race clock at 3:15. Can I make it home before 4 hours?”

It was a slow finishing slog for me on the very popular Beach Place and Las Olas area. With less than a mile to go, I took a minute to realize that this was the warmest day for this race in all of its 16 years. The finish line chute area wasn’t crowded as it usually was. I saw the time on my watch zip past 3:59 and I saw how close the finish line was to me. I didn’t have to sprint, probably because I didn’t believe it would be that close. When I crossed the line and stopped my Garmin, my final time was 3:59:59.

Finishing up

The race’s timing had me at 3:59:57, which on this day was worth a 2nd place age group award. The winner finished in 3:53:xx. It was more of a “survival award” for not walking off at the halfway point for me. I was happy to be included on the Colavita Team again, and I’m hoping the race and all its associated activities snap back to normal for next year’s event. Including my performance!

One thought on “2021 A1A Marathon

  1. Wow, what a tough run!
    They have been having in person races in New Hampshire with the same rules as Florida.
    I really want to run a race with other people, but wont until I get a shot.
    When ever I mention one of these races my wife gives me one of those looks.
    All that heat and humidity sounds pretty good here in Boston.
    We are in the middle of a 36-hr snow storm! Not a lot of snow expected but a lot of cold.
    Andy

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