Tuesday, January 29, 2013

MIAMI MARATHON - 01/27/2013

I set a PR for least amount of potty breaks during a race!  Now I know this is the last thing you would expect me to start this post off with, but if you remember last year’s restroom debacle (you may need to go back and revisit), this was quite an accomplishment.

In many ways, the ING Miami Marathon reminds me of WrestleMania.  The hype for this race starts a year out, as most of my running buddies register that far in advance (they offer a tremendous savings on the entry fee if you are one of the first 200 to register).  With Pam, Jen, Robin, and Lisa jumping on that special, it was an absolute go for all of us (Sharon would later register as well).  In addition, it is the one time that the Ocala Turtles make the trek down to South Florida and spend the weekend with me.  With that being said, I consider the Miami Marathon the “Granddaddy of Them All.”

With both Jen and Pam having the day off on Friday, I took the day off as well.  They left early that morning, and the plan was to go to the expo as soon as they arrived at my house (in hopes of avoiding the big crowd on Saturday).  The other Turtles would be leaving later that day, and spending the night at the home of Robin’s friend in West Palm Beach.  We made it to the Miami Beach Convention Center around 2pm, and were pleased to see that the expo was pretty empty.  We shopped for a few hours, and made it out of Miami right before the 5pm rush hour traffic began.  After meeting up with Glenda and Rachel for supper at Sweet Tomatoes, I then spent most of the evening providing technical support to the ladies (they both brought their laptops down south with them).  We slept in as much as we could on Saturday (8am) and spent most of the day shopping at the Sawgrass Mills Mall.  Lisa, Sharon and Robin went to the expo, and we all met up at my house when they got back.  We did a somewhat early supper at Tijuana Taxi Co., as we would be leaving for the race on Sunday morning earlier than usual.  Documenting my races in this blog allows me the luxury of going back to see the “game plan” from prior races.  Last year, we left my house at 3:15am, and arrived at the American Airlines Arena at 4am with no problems at all.  Under the category of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” that would be our strategy this year.

Although getting up ├╝ber early for a race this large is not my favorite thing in life to do, it does have its advantages.  There’s virtually no traffic on the road at 3am, and parking is literally no issue.  This is certainly helpful when driving into Miami for an event of this size.  It’s always interesting seeing people at Bayside that early in the morning first leaving the clubs; their day is coming to an end, and our day is just beginning.  I don’t know which of us had a more puzzled look on our face as we stared at each other, wondering why we were up and about at 4am.  There were 19,952 participants in the race, with 16,039 running the half and 3,913 taking on the full.  Getting to our corral was a mission, but we were in place about an hour before the start of the race.

Once the gun sounded it only took us 19 minutes to get to the starting line.  I say only 19 minutes because last year it took us well over 40 minutes.  I took my first of what would be only two potty breaks right away, and we were off to a good start (it's always breathtaking to see Biscayne Bay as the sun rises in the morning).

Since Pam and I were running the full, we stuck together the entire race.  Lisa was also participating in the full, but she is way out of our league in terms of speed (she had qualified for the Boston Marathon just a few weeks ago; I qualified for the Boston Marathon in my dreams).  The temperature was already 72 degrees when the race began; we could only hope for lots of cloud cover throughout our time on the course.

One of the cool things about running a race more than once is that it lets you relive memories from years past.  As we passed certain landmarks along the way, it reminded us of what was taking place last year (mostly stopping and going to the bathroom).  We ran a fairly consistent pace for the first 13.1 miles, and only stopped to snap a few photos along the way.

The sun stayed behind the clouds, and we were both running very strong.  During the second part of the race, Pam started to develop blisters on her foot.  She was in obvious discomfort, and wasn’t really sure at the time why she was hurting.  I started to get a little tired during the last four miles, but I met up with the "Man of Steel" at mile marker 22 to give me some inspiration to finish up strong.

By the time we hit the Rickenbacker Causeway, the sun was out in full force.  Determined to finish strong, we struck up a conversation with a couple from Canada, who were competing in their first marathon.  When we told them how many marathons we had completed, they told us what an inspiration we were to them…now that’s pressure!

Crossing the finish line, we could see ourselves on the big screen to our left.  Although I have been on television countless times, I must admit it was pretty exciting.  The finisher medals were outstanding (as always), and we met up with the rest of the gang at the car (no dead batteries this year).  Glenda was gracious enough to order pizza for us; after a shower and a change of clothes, my buddies were on the road back to Ocala.  I’ve already registered for the race next year, and was happy when Elaine text me to say she had registered as well.

Some great friends, beautiful weather, a picturesque course, and seven women staying at my house.  What more could a dude ask for?


Monday, January 21, 2013

OCALA MARATHON - 01/20/2013

“A lack of preparation on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.”  These are words that I could have said to myself during one of my many internal conversations, especially once I realized that the Ocala Marathon was the week before the Miami Marathon.

After doing my four marathons in five weeks last year, I vowed to check when these races were taking place.  Not so much to see if I want to participate, but rather to better plan my training schedule.  That being said, I really had no intention on running the full marathon in Ocala this year.  This was mostly because I didn’t think anyone else would want to run the full with me.  During the Mt. Dora Half Marathon, Elaine and I discussed what the plans would be for Ocala.  I was surprised that she was considering doing the full, especially since she and Pam would be participating in the Goofy Challenge the week before.  I really like this race, but I was kind of taking a break from full marathons this year; whatever she decided would be just fine with me.  When she told me that the “check was in the mail” for the Ocala full, I knew that I would have to accelerate my training.

Besides the fact that my lower back has been really sore for the past month, I felt totally unprepared to run a full marathon.  Maybe that’s something that comes with the territory, but doing a 20 mile training run the week before the race (instead of tapering) made matters worse.  Magically, my back started to feel much better, and I was now brimming with confidence and excitement for my first marathon in eleven months.

I left for Ocala early Saturday morning and drove right to the expo, which was once again held in the Paddock Mall.  Jen was meeting me there, and we were going to drive to Gainesville to visit Lindsey (and a trip to Trader Joe’s).  As much as I love the Ocala Marathon, I’m sorry to say that calling this expo pathetic would actually be showing them too much kindness.  To make matters worse, they did not have my registration (I mailed it in, as opposed to registering on line).  To their credit, they did not give me a hard time at all.  They took my information, and said they would contact me if they needed me to mail out another check (southern hospitality at its finest).  After looking around as much as we could, Jen and I went to Gainesville for the rest of the day.

Elaine was gracious enough to invite me to stay with her on Saturday night, since she and I were the only two entered into the race.  Jen, Pam, Robin, Sharon and Lisa were coming down to run the Miami Marathon the next week, so they decided to sit this one out.  Rather than going out for supper, Elaine prepared pasta and salad, and invited Pam (and Joe) and Jen (and Dan) over as well.  In maybe one of the worst kept secrets of all time, Pam told me she would be running the full Ocala Marathon, as she signed up earlier in the day.  I was very excited to hear the news (I kind of knew already), and was really looking forward for the race to begin.  I was just hoping that my back would hold out.

We got to the Paddock Mall (where the race would start and finish) around 6:30am.  509 entrants (111 for the full marathon, 262 for the half marathon and 136 for the 5K) would be participating this morning.  Each event starts at a different time, as to not create a major stampede (insert sarcasm here).  Eddie would once again be running with us (as he does every year we do this race), but he is not on Facebook; we can never tag him in any of our photos.  Once the horn sounded, we were off and running!  Of course, we had to stop after two miles to take a photo at my favorite landmark.

You could not ask for more pleasant race conditions.  It was around 60 degrees at the start of the race, with total cloud cover.  I ran with a short sleeve shirt and took off my compression sleeves after about three miles.  I was feeling very good, with minimal back pain.  Unlike most races, the time seemed to fly by pretty quick.  When we reached the ten mile mark, it felt as if we had only ran five miles.  The volunteers who work the water stations in this race are always friendly, enthusiastic, and hard working.  The Ocala Turtles were volunteering at mile markers 11 & 19, and of course gave us the kind of reception that actually wants you to keep running.  Naturally, we had to stop and take our obligatory picture at mile marker 20 (I don’t know why).

It did start to get a little warm towards the end of the race, but I’m pretty sure the temperature never got hotter than 73 degrees.  As we crossed the finish line, I don’t think I’ve ever felt better (physically speaking) after any marathon.  Our times were not the best, but at least there was food still left for us to eat (and the cones had not been picked up from the course).  As we made our way to the car, the awards ceremony was still taking place.  Elaine and I stood in shock as we heard Pam’s name called out as the second place finisher in her age group.  Dumbfounded, Pam had to run back to the stage to collect her award.  To think she made up her mind to sign up for the race the day before.

With nothing but positives from this race, I am really looking forward to Miami.