Tuesday, December 13, 2011


For me, to say that this was the most highly anticipated race of the year would be a major understatement.  Not because it was part of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series, or that it was taking place on Miami Beach.  Not even because Pitbull would be putting on a concert after the race.  This event would signify the first time that my running buddies from Ocala would be making their way to South Florida to run in my backyard (figuratively speaking).

Jen, Elaine and Tasha (Jen’s friend) had signed up for the Latin Music Miami Beach Half Marathon with me, and would be staying at Stately Wayne Manor for the weekend.  It seemed like ages that we entered this run, but after the debacle last week (better known as the Palm Beach Marathon), the weekend had finally arrived.  The ladies drove down on Friday afternoon, and arrived at my house around 4:30.  Glenda and Rachel had gone to Orlando for a band trip, but would be back Saturday night.  I gave them the guided tour of the Sawgrass Mills Mall, and later dined at P.F. Chang’s.   

We woke up Saturday morning and made our way down to South Beach.  The expo was held at Lummus Park, which is located off Ocean Drive between 5th and 10th Street.  It was cute how Elaine, Jen and Tasha were acting like they had left Mayberry for the first time on a road trip to Raleigh.  It took a while to park, but it was good that we scouted out the parking situation the day before the race.  The expo took place right on the beach!  How cool is that?  The race shirt was amazingly nice (not cotton) and the merchandise store had some great gear.  The ladies bought me a shirt in appreciation of my southern hospitality for the weekend.  Vendors were out in full force, with plenty of protein bars, coconut water and gels for the taking.  After lunch, dinner, and yes…even more shopping, Jen and Tasha stayed up late catching up with Glenda and Rachel.

My alarm ran at 3:15, and it was finally race day.  We left the house at 4:30 and got to the parking garage around 5:30.  There were 3,680 participants entered in this race, and it was exciting to see just how many of them were there as early as we were.  We took our obligatory pictures before the race, and made our way to the starting corral.  The gun sounded exactly at 7, and it was interesting how they controlled the flow of the race.  You are put into a corral based on the time you expect to finish.  Corral 1 went first, and they waited a few minutes before they let the second corral start.  We were in the fourth corral, so we didn’t really wait that long to get going.

The course took us down Ocean Drive and Alton Road.  We eventually made our way to 1-95 (Julia Tuttle Causeway), which goes over Biscayne Bay.  Elaine stopped several times to take pictures, and I had a camera in my running belt as well.  After we got off the Julia Tuttle Causeway, we ran a bit through some unsavory neighborhoods, but plenty of water, gels and fan support.  We came full circle, as we made our way back by running on 3-95 (MacArthur Causeway) to the finish line at Lummus Park.  What is cool about running on the MacArthur Causeway is that you can see all of the cruise ships in the Port of Miami, as well as the Miami skyline.

Elaine and I finished a few minutes ahead of Jen and Tasha.  This was Tasha’s first half marathon, and she was pretty sore when it was over.  Elaine and I ran a strong race, but Jen was a little bothered by the heat.  I was pleased with my time, and felt great after it was over.  They gave the runners towels soaked in ice water as they crossed the finish line, and even had ice baths for those in dire need.  The medals were really nice, and they even had enough for all of the finishers (imagine that). All the vendors from the expo were there again on race day, and we grabbed even more SWAG. 

It was now time to be entertained by the musical styling of Pitbull.  Even if you are not a fan, you have to be impressed that such a high profile musical artist was signed to give a concert on the beach for a crowd of around 2,000 runners, family and friends. Pitbull performed for about 45 minutes, and we made our way back home after that.  Elaine saw the boutique “Dash,” and made me turn the car around so she could get out and take a picture.  Such a tourist! 

When we got home, the ladies showered and made the drive back to Ocala.  The race itself was first class, but the memories from the weekend were priceless!


Tuesday, December 6, 2011


How can a race be so much fun and enjoyable, yet suck at the same time?  The answer is to surround yourself with good friends (and food) while you are trudging through the tsouris.

The Palm Beach Marathon is a race that has been on my radar for a few years now. Living in South Florida, you are pretty much limited to this race, the Miami Marathon and the A1A Marathon.  I decided that this would be the year that I would enter, especially since I’m totally over doing the A1A Marathon.  I was hoping that between Elaine, Jen and Pam, I would have a running partner.  Despite my constant nagging and begging, all three of them decided to take a pass.  I wasn’t going to bail out, but I really didn’t want to run another marathon “lone wolf” style.  Pam told me that Chuck, one of the members of the Turtle Running Club of Ocala, was entering the race.  This would be the 300th marathon of his career, and some of the Turtles would be running as well to help him celebrate.  I put a posting up on the Turtle’s Facebook page to see if I could run with them; Lisa and Terri entered the full, with Robin and Toni taking on the half.

During my run with the Turtles (in Ocala) the week before the race, Terri decided that she was okay with my pace and agreed to run with me.  Later that week, she told me that Chuck was having a dinner celebration the night before the race, and invited me to attend.  Since I was planning on being in West Palm Beach to pick up my race packet at the expo, it was a no brainer (not that I needed an excuse).

I started out the weekend by running the Jingle Bell Jog 5K with Rachel on Saturday morning.  It was a good last minute warm-up for the marathon on Sunday, and it’s one of the few 5K races that Rachel and I run together.  After about a three hour power nap, we got dressed and made our way up to West Palm Beach.  The packet pickup and expo was at The Harriet Himmel Theatre at CityPlace.  This is a really beautiful area, with lots of amazing shopping (if you’re into that kind of thing).

The excitement quickly turned to disappointment as I picked up my packet.  The race shirt was made out of cotton.  REALLY???  REALLY???   A cotton t-shirt for a full marathon?   REALLY???  Fortunately, they were selling commemorative tech shirts for the race, which actually had the course map on the back of the shirt.  Sadly, joy turned to despair, as I needed a shoe horn to squeeze into a double-XL.  The expo itself was pathetic, but I did have a nice conversation with the iFiteness girl (see my previous post “26.2 With Donna – 2/13/2011”).

After some power shopping with Glenda and Rachel, it was time to meet the group at the restaurant.  Chuck had chosen Il Bellagio at CityPlace for us to dine, which specializes in Italian cuisine.  I had never met Chuck before, but recognized him instantly.  Then Lisa, Robin, Toni, Terri, and Sharon rolled in with the rest of Chuck’s friends and family.  There were eighteen of us in total, and the food and conversation was excellent.  We probably could have hung out all night, but we needed to get what little sleep we could squeeze in before the race.  Chuck then presented us with t-shirts he have printed up to celebrate this milestone in his running career, which blew away the shirts they gave out for the race.  We agreed to put the shirts on before Chuck crossed the finish line, and then take a group photo.

I woke up 3 a.m. and rolled out of the house around 4:15.  I got the parking garage at 5:15, and met up with the Turtles shortly after that.  There were 2,106 runners entered into the race, with 532 competing in the full marathon.  This was down 763 from last year (2,869), probably because of the crappy t-shirt.  We took some pre-race photos, and were now ready to get down to business.  It was very windy, with the temperature around 73 degrees when the gun sounded.

The first part of the race was really pretty, as we ran on the beach and through some really upscale neighborhoods.  I took my one and only potty break at the three mile mark, and Terri decided to walk with Chuck for a little bit.  I continued to run with Lisa, who is considerably faster than me.  She can probably complete a marathon in four hours, but decided to do a slower pace and keep me company.  It was all good for about the first seven miles, but the flaws of the race became glaringly obvious after that.  As we approached one of the water stops (which are stationed every 1.5 miles), we were shocked to discover that they had run out of water!  REALLY???  REALLY???  With runners depending on hydration to get them through 26.2 miles, how can that happen?  Fortunately for me, I always carry a water bottle in my running belt; this would not be the last water station to come up bone dry.

Around mile marker eight, we were now out of West Palm Beach, and running in “crack town” Lantana (no disrespect to any residents of Lantana).  Even worse, the police were having a little trouble keeping drivers off the course itself (I guess the cones they put up weren’t a strong enough message).  Physically, I felt fine, but I was starting to get a little winded.  I was having trouble keeping up with Lisa around the seventeen mile mark, and it was at that point where she took off and left me in the dust.  I really appreciated her staying with me for as long as she did.

The last eight miles seemed to take forever, but it was obvious how much the extra training I’ve done this year has paid off.  The temperature was now up to 79 degrees, and a lot of the participants were walking it in.  As I crossed the finish line, Robin, Sharon, Toni and Lisa (among others) were there cheering me on, and I felt great physically.  My time was very respectable, and I was thankful to receive my medal.  Why you may ask?  As if the bogus t-shirt, lack of water and poor scenery weren’t enough to discourage you from entering this race again, how about the fact that they actually ran out of finisher medals!  REALLY???  REALLY???  Our running buddy Chuck was about to complete his 300th marathon at age 73 and get interviewed by the local television station.  Oh, by the way…he wasn’t going to receive a medal.  REALLY???  REALLY???  On top of that, the medal itself looked more like one you would give a finisher of a 5K race (just like the t-shirt).  Toni and I gave one of the race officials the business about it, but they promised to mail the medals out to those who did not receive one within a few weeks.

As Chuck approached the finish line, we quickly threw on the t-shirts he gave us and prepared to take our group picture.  Terri finished shortly after that, and she was equally pleased to find out they did not have a medal for her as well.  We hung out for a bit after that, but the Turtles had to get back to Ocala, and I had an appointment with an ice bath.

Overall, hanging out with some amazing people totally overshadowed how poorly organized the race was.  I was pleased on all levels, but doubtful if I’ll ever enter this race again.  That is…unless they up the level of the t-shirts.