Tuesday, December 18, 2012


“Where the heck is Mount Dora?”  These were the first words I uttered when Elaine sent me the link for this race back in June.  For the record, Mount Dora is north of Orlando and east of Leesburg.  This was the inaugural running of the race, and it wasn’t very expensive to enter.  Elaine, Pam and Jen were all interested in participating, so we made the executive decision to sign up.  Jen offered to pay for my entry fee as a thank you for all the help and wisdom I had provided as she obtained her Master’s Degree (a very sweet gesture on her part).  We would later learn that quite a few of the Ocala Turtles had signed up for the race as well, including Robin.  I had originally signed up to do the full marathon; after discovering everyone else had entered the half, I decided to “downsize” and run with all of my friends.

Glenda originally entertained the idea of going with me to watch us run, but Rachel and her middle school band was playing in the parade at Universal Studios on Friday.  Glenda volunteered to chaperone the trip, so they left early Friday morning.  Lindsey came home Friday night from UF after taking her last final, so I decided to hang out with her and leave early Saturday morning.  The plan was to stay at Jen’s house, and drive to Mount Dora Sunday morning.  Jen lives about an hour north of Mount Dora, so I would take my car to the race and head home after that.  Jen and Robin would hitch a ride back with Pam and Elaine, who were running a half marathon in Palm Coast on Saturday night.  I got to Jen’s house around noon, and we spent the day shopping.  This was highlighted by a trip to Trader Joe's in Gainesville, which had just opened earlier in the week.

We woke up our usual early time and Jen made us both a fruit juice smoothie for the trip.  Robin arrived at Jen’s house around 5am, and we were ready to hit the road.  It was an easy drive to Mount Dora, but both Jen and I started to feel sick along the way.  I had to pull over to the side of the road and take care of some magical unplanned business in the woods.  Robin pointed out that there was a gas station across the street, but I figured the bushes would have some cleaner facilities (and I would be "one with nature").  When we parked the car, it was now Jen’s turn to “release the hounds,” as she threw up for a few minutes.  This clearly appeared to be smoothie related. With these pre-race festivities now out of the way, it was time to get our bibs and race shirts.

The starting line was at the Lakeside Inn, which opened in 1883, and has entertained President Calvin Coolidge, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and President Dwight D. Eisenhower.  There were 201 entrants in the full marathon, and 479 running the half298 runners will hit the pavement for a 5K later that morning. As we met up with Elaine and Pam, both Jen and I felt much better.

Having never been to Mount Dora, the scenery far exceeded my expectations.  It was a little hilly for the first few miles, but nothing compared to Gainesville.  I ran with Elaine; Jen, Pam and Robin ran together at a little slower pace.  It was very quiet and extremely peaceful.  The people were very friendly, and I was totally digging this race.  It was shady during the first eight miles, but it got pretty hot after that.  It may have been very challenging to complete the full marathon, as the temperature climbed into the mid 80’s by the end of the race.  We had a chance to run through some beautiful neighborhoods, with lots of spectators cheering us on.  We even spotted some of the other Turtles competing in the race, including Awesome Amy.

As we made the final turn to “bring it on home,” you couldn’t see the finish line.  This was because there was a pretty big downhill drop for the last tenth of the race.  This was way cool, as you had no choice but to sprint past the finish line!  The finisher medal (and race shirt) was very nice, and we later had a privilege to take a picture with former Boston & NYC Marathon winner Bill Rogers

After grabbing a victory breakfast at Perkins, it was time for me to make my three hours (plus) drive home.  This was a truly enjoyable race; one that I would welcome entering again.

Now comes the fun part…training for the Miami Marathon on January 27th.


Monday, December 10, 2012


As I was to embark in my second consecutive half marathon, it actually seemed weird not getting in the car to drive for many hours.  The city of Weston is only about 15 miles from my house, but the running gods got even with me and started the race at 6:20am!  I’ve participated in this event three previous times, but for some strange reason, I have one extra medal.  I’ve searched my memory (as well as my photos); the only conclusion I can come up with is that someone out there is sadly missing a medal from a past race. 

The Weston Run For Tomorrow may arguably be the most boring half marathon I’ve ever participated in.  The course starts out at the Weston Town Center.  After that, you run west on Royal Palm Blvd. for four miles; then east on Royal Palm Blvd. for four miles.  You then head north on Bonaventure Blvd. for a few miles; then south on Bonaventure Blvd. to the finish line.  Having said that, I have been critical of those who don’t support their local races; it would be hypocritical of me not to be out there…running!  Maybe it is because I mostly run “lone wolf” style all of the time, and drive many hours to run a race with my friends, but I don’t get why someone would pass up a race right in their own backyard.

I left my house at 5am and got to the Weston Town Center around 5:20.  This is a really pretty shopping area, with a lot of specialty stores.  I found a parking spot right next to the bathrooms, which would prove to be convenient before the race began.  Similar to the Tom Walker Half Marathon last week, this was a very low budget race.  With an entry fee of only 40 dollars, my expectations regarding the shirt and the finishers’ medal were modest at best.  The race shirt was exactly the same as in previous years: long sleeve and cotton.

As I made my way to the starting line, it was still pretty dark outside.  I decided to try a 5-Hour Energy shot to see if it would enhance my running experience; in truth, I was praying that it would not make me hurl.  There were 417 participants in the half marathon, with 274 entered in the 5K.  Despite the predictability of the course, it was very flat with no real incline to speak of. The temperature was around 78 degrees when the gun sounded and very humid.  Thankfully, we were in complete shade for most of the race.  I had good energy during the entire run, but my finishing time was a few minutes off last week’s race.  After crossing the finish line (and grabbing my bogus medal), I walked around the expo for a little while and grabbed some chow before I made my way home.  I didn’t get much sleep the night before, and crashed out on the couch while watching football.

I take to the road next week, as I participate in my third half marathon in as many weeks.  Mount Dora, here I come!


Monday, December 3, 2012


Now that racing season is in full swing, this would be the first of three consecutive half marathons I have scheduled.  The Tom Walker Memorial Half Marathon is a race that is put on by the Florida Track Club and takes place in Bowlware Springs Park, Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail.  I’ve had this race on my radar for a few years now, even though it’s not the most glamorous race out there.  However, (a): it was only 35 dollars to enter, (b): it was in Gainesville, and (c): Jen was willing to run with me; what other motivation was necessary?

Since the Blue Moon Half Marathon last month, I did sneak in the Tamarac Turkey Trot, which of course is the race that started it all for me.  This is an annual Thanksgiving Day tradition, and Rachel and I once again met up with Doug and his two daughters to run this 5K.  In breaking traditions somewhat, Doug was driving to Cocoa Beach to do Thanksgiving with his sister and his parents right after the race; the post-race celebration would have to take place at a later date.

The Tom Walker Memorial Half Marathon was scheduled for a Saturday (as opposed to Sunday), so I left for Jen’s house right after work on Friday.  The original plan was to meet up with Lindsey right after the race and spend the day with her, but my cousin Fern was in South Florida for business (I have not seen her in over 16 years, since she lives in L.A.).  I decided to drive home right after the race, since Saturday night was probably the only time she would be free.

The start time for the race was 8am, which is kind of late for a half marathon.  Since Jen lives about an hour away from Gainesville, I still had to get up at 5am to make sure we were out the door by 6.  We got to the park around 7, and the temperature was 46 degrees.  I knew it would warm up during the run, so I wore a short sleeve shirt with compression sleeves. There were only 236 entrants in this race, and the shirt they gave us was as ugly as it gets (you win some; you lose some). 

The course itself was a paved trail that went through the park.  It was pretty much an out-and-back course, with not a huge amount of scenery.  There was a great deal of changes of elevation (not really hills per se), but it does kind of take you by surprise when you are used to running on flat terrain in South Florida.

I did make an astute observation during the race, which I shared with a fellow runner.  During the out-and-back portion of the race where you had runners going in both directions, it appeared as if those runners who were on their way back felt a sense of entitlement to more of the road, compared to us slower folks.  It was all I could do to stay out of harm’s way, even though I was all the way to the right.  The guy I mentioned this to just laughed, because he said he was just thinking the same thing.  Since I’m bigger than most people, the other runners would probably take more of the brunt of any contact if we were to collide.

The race itself was very pleasant and extremely peaceful.  It started to get warm about three miles into the run, so I removed the compression sleeves. My back had been bothering me all week, but it felt good throughout most of the race.  My finishing time was not as good as Blue Moon, but I didn’t run as hard as I did for that race.  Jen’s finishing time was better than both Blue Moon and Space Coast (which she ran the week before), so she was very encouraged.  We didn’t stick around for too long after the race, as I needed to hit the road, and Jen had a baby shower to go to.

In which may unfortunately become a reoccurring race theme, the battery in Jen’s car had died (Pam wasn’t around so we couldn’t blame her).  Fortunately, the first people we approached had cables, and we were on the road in a matter of minutes.

I enjoyed the race, but I don’t know if I would pencil it on my calendar in the future.  It was a long way to drive for a race so low budget, but I would definitely run it every year if I lived up in the area.

Next week, only a 15 minute drive to the Weston “Run for Tomorrow” Half Marathon.

running apps

Monday, November 5, 2012


I have to admit…running has changed for me since my “Four Marathons in Five Weeks” adventure earlier this year.  I don’t quite know how to explain it, but it seems as if I have totally lost my mojo.  I’ve been training just as hard, but it’s been more of a chore than something I enjoy.  I don’t know if the five marathons I did this past running season burned me out, but I definitely have not embraced my running since the last marathon in February.  The obvious exceptions are the times I run with Jen, Pam and Elaine.  Once football season started, I’ve had the opportunity to run with them on the weekends.  Elaine and Pam had been in training for the New York City Marathon, and I joined them for a “casual” 20-mile training run a few weeks ago.  I’ve even run through the “mean streets” of Belleview with Jen at 4am, which was both exciting and scary at the same time.  It became obvious what was missing…I needed to start racing again! 

It’s been a long layoff between races, with the only motivation during the dog days of summer is to keep you in race condition.  That only carries so much weight, as you drag yourself out of bed at 4am to bang out 15 miles in 85-degree heat (even before the sun comes up).  As Jen, Elaine, Pam and I planned out our race schedules, it seemed as if December would be the target month for me.  I really wanted something sooner, and Jen made a couple of great suggestions.  The first was obvious: The Tom Walker Half Marathon.  This run takes place in Micanopy, which is on the outskirts of Gainesville.  The second was even more intriguing: The Blue Moon Half Marathon.

The Blue Moon Half Marathon takes place in Palm Harbor, which is in the general vicinity of Clearwater.  Since the race was on the same weekend as a Gators football game against Missouri, we could drive from Jen’s house early Sunday morning, which would only be two hours away.  Jen had participated in this race before, and the entry fee was very reasonable.  My only sacrifice to enter this race and the Tom Walker Half Marathon (from a financial standpoint) was to give up the Florida/Georgia game in Jacksonville, which turned out to be a good decision.  Since I run at least 13.1 miles every weekend, I’m always trained for a half marathon; all systems were a go!

This would turn out to be a weekend that everything seemed to fall into place.  For starters, the Gators game started at noon (thanks to a loss to Georgia the week before).  This combined with Daylight Savings Time ending (spring forward; fall back), we would at least be guaranteed a decent amount of sleep.  We started tailgating around 8am on Saturday morning, and after enduring another poor performance by the orange and blue, we hung out at Lindsey’s apartment for a little while.  We got back to Jen’s house around 7:30, and I was asleep by 10.

My alarm was set for 3am, but I was already awake when it went off.  We were out the door by 4am and on our way to Palm Harbor.  I woke up with a really bad tension headache, which was probably due to sitting in the sun during a noon football game without a hat (the Ibuprofen and coffee didn’t seem to help).  The fog was really thick the whole drive to Palm Harbor and it seemed as if we were the only car on the highway.  We arrived around 6am in one piece, without a single deer crossing the road.

Since we could not pick up our race packets until 6:30, we stood in line and watched the race volunteers set up their tables.  There were a total of 641 participants (293 for the half marathon and 348 for the 5K), but you would have thought they were preparing for the Boston Marathon.  Can you say overkill?  When we finally got our race packets, I was pleasantly surprised to see that this was arguably the nicest race shirt I’ve ever received.  After some pre-race photos, it was now time to start the half marathon.

Jen’s back had been bothering her to the point of having to see a doctor earlier in the week.  I tried to slow down my pace to stay with her, but she told me not to worry and just take off.  The course was very pretty, as we ran through some very nice neighborhoods.  We also ran on a running/bicycle trail, but apparently no one told the bikers that there was a race that day…awkward!  The course also took us along the water a little bit, which always makes it that much more scenic.  I was really feeling it, and my pace was very strong and consistent.  I started getting a little tired around the nine-mile mark, but I refused to let myself slow down.  I caught a second-wind after that, and I was impressed on just how many runners I passed in the last three miles.  In fact, I passed two runners in the last one-tenth of the race.

As I crossed the finish line, I was really proud of my performance.  I did not PR the race, but I did have a negative split.  As I waited for Jen to “bring it on home,” I realized that my mojo was now back.  Nine months without any kind of race (even a 5K) was way too long.  I’ve also decided that I may concentrate more on half marathons instead of full marathons, as the training is not as intense.  My next marathon is Mt. Dora, but I may downgrade the race to the half.  That being said, I’ve been known to change my mind, especially when the adrenaline is flowing.

Racing season has officially started!


Thursday, May 3, 2012


I’ve often told my children that a nickname is something that is usually bestowed upon you; sometimes for very disconcerting reasons. I’ve told them is very difficult to fight off a nickname, so the best thing to do is to embrace it. Although I consider my nickname to be “Jbone,” another nickname has surfaced and is gaining even more popularity, especially among the running community.

It started on April 3, 2010, which was the day I ran my first (and only) Ultra marathon (read my post “Ultra Marathon, Ultra Disaster”). Because of the dehydration I suffered during the race, I crossed the finish line with my shirt covered in salt. Thanks to Elaine and Pam, “Mr. Salty” was officially conceived.

Although this salt episode was an isolated incident, the nickname has grown in popularity to the point of my friend Jen calling me “Salty,” her husband Dan creating lyrics for me (“I’m Salty and I Know It”), as well as the entire Turtle Running Club of Ocala affectionately referring to me as “Mr. Salty.” I have really learned to embrace the nickname, and try to use it as much as possible. My usual 13.1 mile run on Saturday mornings is now officially known as the “Mr. Salty Half Marathon.”

It was time to get my spring fix of Gators football by going up to Gainesville to watch the Orange & Blue Debut. This is the spring practice game the University of Florida plays where the first team offense goes against the first team defense. The game takes place in the Swamp and is open to the public. Most major universities put on an event like this, which hopefully fills you with optimism for the upcoming college football season. Jen and her husband Dan graciously offered to let us stay with them, and we planned to do a run on Sunday morning with Pam, Elaine and any of the other Turtles that would be willing to come out. This would not be any ordinary run; this would be the inaugural “Ocala Mr. Salty Invitational.”

Glenda, Rachel and I drove up to Gainesville ├╝ber early Saturday morning. The game was scheduled for 1 pm, but Friday night was the first night of Passover, and you know how that goes. We got to Gainesville around 9:30 am, did some shopping, and met up with Lindsey before going into the stadium. Our close friends Paula and Bill always get us tickets in the Champions Club, which means food and air conditioning. The game itself was mildly entertaining, but it’s the tradition and the company that makes it exciting.

After the game was over (an even more shopping), we said our goodbyes to Lindsey and made our way down south to Jen’s house (which is about an hour away from Gainesville). We decided to have dinner at The Villages, since Glenda had never been there before. Pam and her husband Joe would join us, but Elaine and her husband Joe could not make it. We had dinner at Lighthouse Point Bar & Grille, walked around for a bit, and then drove back to Jen & Dan’s house. We made the executive decision to start our run at 6 am instead of 5 am, based on the amount of alcohol consumed at dinner that evening. Pam had earlier suggested that we run in her development, since Elaine lived there as well. Pam kind of lives out in the boondocks, but I was just happy to be running with my friends, and was looking forward to the new scenery.

Since Jen lives almost 30 minutes from Pam’s house, we left around 5:30 am. It was way cooler than I expected, with the temperature around 60 degrees. In true tradition, I was not prepared for the colder weather, and I was underdressed compared to everyone else. Besides Jen, Pam and Elaine, Joe (Elaine’s husband) and their friend Danielle joined us for the inaugural “Ocala Mr. Salty Invitational.” As chilly as it might have been, I was not cold at all, and was really pumped to run with my friends. As is always the case when we all run together, our pace is typically very slow. This is due in part to excessive talking, laughing and urinating. We took a very extensive guided tour of the neighborhood, complete with commentary from Elaine and Pam. Danielle left us at the four mile mark, and Jen took a different route at that point as well (she wasn’t sure if she wanted to run the full 12 miles as planned). After eight miles, we decided to cut the run down to ten miles, since we all agreed that it felt as if we were running all morning long.

Jen met us back at Pam’s house, where Joe (Pam’s husband) gave me a crash course on cleaning my Keurig coffee maker. We then headed back down to Jen’s house where we met up with Glenda and Rachel. After a quick breakfast and shower, we made our way back home to South Florida.

This may have been the first of the "Mr. Salty Invitational" runs, but I’m certain it won’t be the last.


Friday, February 24, 2012


It’s over…it’s all over!

After months and months of anticipation, speculation, and apprehension (not on my part), it was now time for what will probably be my last marathon of this year’s racing season.  The 5 Points of Life Marathon isn’t one of the biggest or even one of the best marathons out there, but it does offer something that will forever be near and dear to my heart…it is in Gainesville.  This would be the fourth year in a row I have entered the 5 Points of Life Marathon, and it is the scene of both my best finishing time and my worst finishing time.  Gainesville is my home away from home; running through the streets gives me an adrenaline rush that no other race provides.  I would need all the adrenaline I could get, as I was determined to set a PR (personal record) during this race.

After a week of light running and recovery from 26.2 With Donna last weekend, I left Saturday morning around 9:30 am.  I would be staying with Lindsey and her roommates (Marisa and Mallory) this year instead of my friends Paula and Bill.  I picked up Lindsey at 2:30 pm and we made our way to the race expo.  With only 861 participants (168 running the full; 693 running the half), the expo was once again very small.  However, I was able to score a pretty nice “I Run Gainesville” running shirt, which I decided to wear for the race.  We had lunch at BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, and did some shopping at the Oakes Mall.  It was there that we ran into “Awesome” Amy, who is a member of the Turtle Running Club of Ocala.  We had discussed running together for the race, but she was obligated to run with some of her friends who would probably be running a slower pace than I had planned.  After shopping, we went back to Lindsey’s apartment, watched the Gators basketball game against Arkansas, and then went to dinner at Blue Highway Pizza.  I went to bed around 11:30 pm, as the ladies embarked on a marathon of their own…nonstop episodes of Dawson’s Creek.

I woke up at 5:00 am, which was like sleeping in.  The race started at 7:00 am, and I was only ten minutes away.  The temperature was 70 degrees, which was 40 degrees warmer than last week in Jacksonville.  There was a 70 percent chance of rain, but it was just warm and humid when I left Lindsey’s apartment.  I met up with Amy and her friends, took some photos, and made my way to the start line.  It was strange running a marathon without either Elaine, Jen or Pam, but I just used this as motivation to make them proud of my finishing time.

This marathon has more hills than any other race I compete in, including Ocala.  After three miles (and one potty stop), I was already soaking wet from the humidity.  The first part of the race takes you west on Newberry Road, then a right turn on 43rd Street, and another right at Milhopper Plaza back towards downtown Gainesville.  Mile ten puts you on the campus of the University of Florida, where you get to run through “The Swamp,” down Fraternity Row and past Lake Alice.  This is the point where the half ends and the real adventure continues.

For the next two miles, I literally saw one other runner.  This is one of the disadvantages of running in such a small race, as you sometimes wonder if you are the only one running.  Fortunately, I know the course pretty well, and they have made significant improvements over the years to have more volunteers directing the runners.  I would be passing Lindsey’s apartment at mile 15, so I called ahead on my iPhone and asked her to bring me a soda, a bag of M & M’s and the camera for an action shot of me.  When I got to her, I was greeted with a can of Diet Mountain Dew Code Red, but no chocolate or camera.  Lindsey offered to run back to her apartment and get the other two items, but I couldn’t afford to wait that long.  Besides, I was grateful that she rolled out of bed as early as she did (9:30 am) to accommodate me.

I was pretty beat at this point, but I was keeping a steady pace going.  I still didn’t see any other runners, but lots of encouragement from the police officers directing traffic.  I was now entering what I consider the worst part of the race.  From mile marker 17 to mile marker 22, you run west on Williston Road, which is best described as a highway.  This five mile stretch from hell is as boring as it gets.  To make matters worse, there was a 30 mph headwind to add to the misery.  It was so gusty at points that you had to walk until the wind died down.  I did pass several runners along the way, as they were struggling as much as I was.  The wind really took its’ toll on me, and it was apparent that today would not be the day for the PR I was hoping for.

Once I made the right turn on NW 34th Street, the wind was now at my back.  I did have to endure a brief shower, which actually cooled me down a bit.  I was able to pass a few more runners during the last four miles, but I was pretty spent when I crossed the finish line (despite how happy I look in the photo).  I missed my PR by only seven minutes, which was also the third best time for me in a marathon.

After a shower and then lunch with Lindsey, I made the drive back to Coral Springs.  I had never been so tired driving home after a race, and actually considered staying at Lindsey’s apartment one more night.  I downed a Rockstar on the drive (250 mg of caffeine) and eventually caught a second wind.  When I got home, I saw that my Facebook page was blown up with congratulations and people telling me what an inspiration I was for completing four marathons in five weeks.  I actually get very humbled when I get complemented like that.  I do realize that not everybody could accomplish what I have, but in my mind, it’s what I do.  That being said, I was verklempt when Pam posted on my Facebook wall: “So proud of you. It's an honor to say I run with you!”  

I’m grateful that I held up as well as I did physically, and I want to thank everyone who has supported me from the time I announced my intentions, until this last race.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Three down, one more to go!

After a much needed week off from the marathon circuit, it was now time for 26.2 With Donna in Jacksonville.  Unfortunately, I actually had a cause for this year’s race.  My first cousin Ricki was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and I planned to run in her honor.  Lots of folks have told me how touched they were by this gesture on my part, but I’m thinking it was the least I could do.  I was running with Jen and Pam, and this would be Pam's first full marathon since knee surgery last year. 

I left early Friday morning and made a pit stop to pick up Jen at her house in Belleview. From there, up to Jacksonville. Pam would take her own car, since she planned on staying over Sunday night, and we would head home after the race.  We met up around 3:30 at the Palms Retro Hotel.  Pam’s running friends from the Marathon Maniacs and the Running of the Ears (ROTE) were staying there as well. With only ten rooms in total, you could say that we had taken over the place.  At this point, the forecast for the race was lows in the mid-forties and highs in mid-sixties.  Little did we know how quickly and how drastically that was going to change.

After we checked in, we decided to go to the expo.  It wasn’t very crowded, since most of the runners typically go on Saturday.  I picked up a pink running shirt to wear for the race, and reacquainted myself with my friend from the iFitness booth.

From there, we met up with the Marathon Maniacs and ROTE at Taps Bar and Grill for dinner.  It was at this point where we saw that it may be just a wee bit colder than expected for the race.  Make that MUCH colder!  It was now expected to dip into the mid-twenties on Saturday night, with a race time start of around thirty degrees.  Clearly, I needed to do some last minute shopping.

After breakfast Saturday morning, we took a tour of the Anheuser-Busch Factory.  It was interesting, and the beer didn’t suck either.  From there, we took a short trip to the Premium Outlet Mall in St. Augustine.  I picked up a pair of throwaway sweat pants for seven dollars (thank you Bealls), and even found something to give Glenda for Valentine’s Day in the Nike Outlet store.  We ate an early dinner at Al’s Pizza, sang happy birthday to one of our running buddies staying at the hotel, and then off to bed.

I woke up at 3 am on Sunday morning determined not to let the cold weather get the best of me.  I put on a short sleeve compression shirt, followed by a long sleeve compression shirt, followed by the pink running shirt I picked up at the expo, topped off with a throwaway sweatshirt.  On the bottom half, I was rocking my compression sleeves on the calves and thighs, shorts and sweatpants.  I took one step outside and…BA-BAM!!!  It was freaking cold!  We left the hotel at 4:45 and caught the shuttle bus to the race village.  We had close to a 90 minute wait until the race started, and everyone tried to huddle up around the portable gas generators to keep warm.  Pam hooked me up with a pair of throwaway gloves and even had hand warmers to put inside the gloves.

It was finally time for the race to begin.  There would be a total of 6,356 finishers, with 1,793 competing in the full marathon (4,563 would complete the half).  This was clearly the coldest race I have ever participated in, but it wasn’t too bad once we started running.  I of course had to take my traditional bathroom breaks early and often, but no issues like those encountered in the Miami Marathon (thank goodness).  I was wearing the hoodie from my sweatshirt over my hat, and didn’t take it off until we were a good 15 miles into the race.  If you’ve read my post from last year’s race, you know that we run on the beach from mile marker five to mile marker eight.  It was magnificent last year; it was torture this year.  Just picture a scenic beach run…not a cloud in the sky…30 degree temperature…and wind gusts up to 20 miles per hour blowing in your face (not to mention sand).  Pam’s hat kept blowing off her head, and she collected an eyeful of sand for her troubles.  Once off the beach, it was a little easier to run, but it was still cold.  This is a beautiful race, with fantastic crowd support.  Around the 14 mile mark, we ran past a house where the owners created their personal version of a winter wonderland.

This was where the race really became interesting. We caught up with an older guy who was running the race in a pink skirt. This was not as unusual as it sounds, since it is a race where all of the proceeds are used to help cure breast cancer. What was unusual was that the guy was running with a beer in his hand! Now Pam and I have been known to take a few sips of a brewsky during a race, but running with a longneck in hand? Not only that, the dude was picking up brews from spectators along the way (I saw him drink seven, not counting how many he may have consumed during the first 14 miles of the race). He told us that he had been in a nasty car accident and this was his first race back. I chalked up the beer drinking during the race to a possible celebration of life, sine he told us how happy he was to be looking down at the pavement, rather than being flat on his back looking up at the sky. Then out of nowhere, he proceeded to tell us a story about a three-way he once had with his best friend and his girlfriend. TMI!!! He now officially transformed himself from running/drinking buddy to running/creepy guy! It was pretty awkward after that, but I must admit he was very entertaining. We tried our best to lose him, but he wanted to stay with us and tell more creepy stories.

It was around the 19 mile mark that I finally felt comfortable taking off my sweatshirt. The temperature was still in the thirties, but the sun was out and we now had the wind at our backs. I felt great physically, but was very happy to finally cross the finish line and put this race behind me.

The final stop in the quartet takes me to Gainesville next week for the 5 Points of Life Marathon.


Thursday, February 2, 2012


Two down, two to go!
This was the weekend of the most highly anticipated marathon of my career.  First and foremost, not only were my Ocala running buddies coming down and staying with me for the weekend, but this would also mark the first time my good friend Pam would be running a race with me in South Florida.  In addition, the ING Miami Marathon would be the largest race I’ve ever participated in.  In total, there would be 19,986 runners, 3,945 competing in the full and 16,041 running the half.  After the Ocala Marathon last weekend, I had a good seven mile recovery run on Wednesday.  It was now time for the ladies to make their way down to hot and humid Coral Springs.
Pam, Jen, Terri and Toni arrived at my house around 6 pm Friday afternoon.  After a quick tour of Stately Wayne Manor, we headed down to Las Olas Blvd. for dinner and sightseeing.  Glenda’s business partner Gary has a condo right on the intercostal on the 28th floor, which provided several picture taking opportunities for the ladies.  We woke up pretty early Saturday morning and headed down to the expo, which was held at the Miami Beach Convention Center.  The expo was huge, and the race shirts were excellent!  I purchased two add-on water bottles from the iFitness booth, but did not ask the salesperson for a demonstration to make sure the bottles would be the only thing not bouncing up and down.  After a couple of hours of shopping, we took a trip to FIU so my guests could see where I work.  We grabbed an early dinner at Sweet Tomatoes, and went to bed around 8:30 pm.
I woke up on Sunday morning at 2 am.  No…you did not read that wrong.  The start time for the race was 6:15 am and I didn’t want to take any chances of getting caught in traffic.  We left my house at 3:15 am and parked at Bayside around 4:10 am (it’s amazing how little traffic there is when you get to a race two hours before it begins).  Bayside is right next door to the American Airlines Arena (home of the Miami Heat), which put us as close to the starting line as you can possibly get.  We walked through Bayside for a little while, and of course hit the bathroom several times.  We made our way over to the American Airlines Arena around 5 am, and met up with the Marathon Maniacs, Half-Fanatics and Running of the Ears for a quick photo session.

We decided to make our way to our corral at 5:30 am.  By this time, the streets were packed, and the excitement of the race was starting to kick in.  To see so many people in one place out in the street ready to run was quite an adrenaline rush.  When the gun sounded for the start of the race, it took us close to 30 minutes before we crossed the starting line.

While in line, there was only one thing both Pam and I could think about…just how bad we had to pee!  I can literally drive four hours from my house to Ocala and not stop once, but I can’t run three miles without having to water the lilies.  Less than one half mile into the race, I told Jen and Pam I needed to find a bush and take care of business.  After a very satisfying drainage, I was back on the road again.  I did not see the ladies, so I figured they just started walking (the rule here is to walk and stay to the right).  After about five minutes, Jen called me and asked where I was.  Apparently, they were still waiting for me, not knowing that I had run ahead.  I waited for them to catch up to me, but this debacle probably cost us close to 15 minutes.  Pam still had to go, but the Porta-Potty line at the first water station was pretty long.  When we got to the second water station, Pam could not hold it any longer, and told us to keep running without her.  Since she was only doing the half marathon, we reluctantly ran ahead.  Less than a mile later, I of course had to duck into the bushes once again, and now Jen had to go to the bathroom.  The next water station (around four miles into the race) had no wait at all, so Jen checked into the Hotel Port-O-Let.  This gave Pam an opportunity to catch up to us, and we were ready to run together again.

We had now run over 3-95 (MacArthur Causeway) and were heading towards South Beach.  This part of the race was similar the Latin Music Miami Beach Half Marathon, but it changed once we headed away from the ocean.  We were running past a golf course with "real" bathrooms, and I once again had to visit Uncle John.  This time, something took place I’ve never experienced in a race before…I had to "drop a deuce.”  Under the category of “more information than you need to know,” I had more paper work than a traveling salesman!  This delay probably set us back yet another ten minutes or so, and quite frankly, it was starting to get a little frustrating. I had so much more energy than I did last week in Ocala, but I could not take advantage of it.
After running on Miami Beach for a few more miles, we made our way towards downtown Miami.  It was at the 12 mile mark that we separated from Pam.  At that point, Jen and I tried to formulate a game plan to make up for all of our delays.  How’s this for a plan…RUN FASTER!!!  The race took us through Coconut Grove and past Cocowalk.  It was here that we caught up with Chuck and Terri.  We were also now running with a woman who was entertaining us with her stylized rendition of “Borderline” by Madonna.  Of course, I joined in with the chorus, and changed the name of the song to “Finish-Line,” complete with my own original lyrics.  She then broke into Pitbull, which brought back memories from the Miami Beach Latin Music Half Marathon.
As we made our way down Brickell Avenue and towards the finish line, it started to sprinkle a little bit.  We were very fortunate during the race, as the sun really never came out.  Jen, Terri and I crossed the finish line holding hands, and I had never felt as good physically after a marathon (despite our miserable finishing time). 

We met Pam and Toni back at the Bayside parking garage, only to find the battery had died in Glenda’s car.  AAA came to the rescue, and we were on the road and back to my house.  After a quick pizza lunch (thanks to Glenda), the ladies showered and hit the road back to Ocala around 4 pm.  The weekend lived up to all expectations, and we all signed up for the race again next year (including a few more of the Turtles).  I guess we’ll have to build an additional wing to the house!

Next up, 26.2 With Donna in two weeks.