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.