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Race report: Miami half marathon

If Sue was going to have a bad race, it was going to be my fault.

She wanted to use the bathrooms on site before lining up in the corral. I wanted to try and sneak in with her into her assigned corral instead of starting further back. (Note: This is not proper race etiquette. Do not follow my lead.) The lines were long, it was about 5 minutes until they were going to close off the walkways to get across the street, so we went into the mass of humanity known as the start line.

Sue kept thinking about having to go to the bathroom. I kept thinking that I was in awe ... in Miami, wearing a running skirt and short-sleeved t-shirt at 5:50 in the morning. I didn't have on six layers of clothes or a winter hat or gloves.

Whatever happens, I will just enjoy running in Florida.

The race began and we shuffled along until we hit the starting line. I then started my watch and Sue and I ran that first mile -- uphill over one of the causeways to South Beach -- together. I felt good. I was excited but trying to control my pace and not get caught up in the adrenaline of the race.

The plan was to run the first few miles at a 10:15-10:20 pace. I reached the first mile marker in 10:05.

A bit fast, yes, but I felt good. I also had the knowledge that I could back off a bit and still be OK. After that, Sue took off a bit faster as I settled into my 10:05 groove.

The first water stop was at Mile 3 and I took some water and made the turn around South Beach. By Mile 4 I had taken my first shot block of nutrition and put my sunglasses on as the sun began to rise. It was a bit cloudy, which was good. I checked my watch and it looked like I was doing about 10 minute miles. Good. On pace. Keep it loose and the plan was to pick it up around Mile 9.

I tried to take in some of the scenery -- the cruise ships parked in the harbor with their lights against the sky at dawn, the bright, colorful buildings and the general uniqueness of South Beach. I noticed an establishment which indicated you get both tattoos and sandwiches there. It made me smile, but then I bumped another runner who was passing me.

"Oh, so sorry," I said.

"You're fine," she replied with a smile. "Not a problem."

I was doing OK, trotting along, seeing who I could pass and smiling at those who passed me. But by Mile 5 and 6 I noticed that it was quite humid. And getting hot. But really humid. I could feel my hands starting to swell a bit. (Now I know that hot and humid sounds very nice to anyone in the Northern part of the country these days. And it is. But any runner will tell you, it's not always pleasant to run in ... particularly if you've been training in 20 degree weather or in climate-controlled gyms.)

Then came the 8.5 mile mark.

And suddenly, my quadriceps muscles felt like bowling balls. There probably is a better analogy, but that was all I had at the point. They were heavy. Really heavy. And feeling tight.

This was the point where the course turned through a residential section and a golf course. There was zero sideline support and I started to feel every bit of pain.

As we turned to start our journey back into the city, there were pockets of spectators cheering, which helped get my mind off my aching legs.

But they were still aching. I thought of one of the team cars in the Tour de France encouraging a rider by telling him to "settle into the pain." That's what I thought of. Settle into the pain. Apparently at about the same distance, Sue also started feeling the pain in her legs.

"I wondered, 'Is Amy suffering as much as I'm suffering?'" Sue would later recall.

The answer was a definitive yes.

There was still another hill to run since we had to go back over to downtown Miami and cross another causeway. Once into downtown, just past the 10 mile mark, were tons of people cheering the runners on. It was fantastic. My pace picked up. My legs didn't hurt so much.

Then ... nothing. The crowd didn't just thin out, it disappeared and we were left doing the bulk of that last two miles in desolate downtown Miami.

My legs were dying now and I was frustrated. My cardiovascular training could easily have picked up the pace but thighs were saying no way. I told myself to keep running. Just keep running.

I so wanted to pick it up in the last mile and race for my 2:05 finish, but 2:05 was out of reach.

The goal then was to be under 2:10.

Keep pushing. Keep pushing.

Finally, the break off for the half marathoners, who turned to the finish line while the marathoners kept going.

Finally, orange and white balloons.

Finally, a finish line.

I pushed as much as I could.

Final chip time: 2:09.53. My average pace time was 9:54.

I felt pretty darn good about that.

It was a PR from my half marathon in St. Catharine's where I ran 2:17.

Yes, I was seven minutes faster ... in only four months which included an off-seasons of little-to-no training, training in cold for a race in heat, training on a treadmill and not getting the pounding of the pavement, training through some emotional turmoil and self-created drama.

As I weaved my way through the finish chute picking up bananas, bagels and water (I missed the cookies darn it!) I looked for Sue.

I found her sitting down on a bench near an area of vendors.

She waived to me.

"Sue!" I yelled and waved back. I went to run over to her.

Then I realized that my quads had seized up.

The look on face when I went to run, then realized I couldn't, must have been priceless. Sue was laughing the rest of the day about it.

Sue's time, while completely respectable to me, wasn't what she was hoping for. Herm ran his marathon in 3:06 and was pleased with his run.

My coach was elated at my time and officially put me on a 24-hour vacation: no training, no thinking about training and no looking at my online workout account. (She can see when I log in and I'll be in trouble if I do!)

I am still absorbing this half marathon, because the physical recap is one thing, but the emotional impact is something entirely different.

Monday morning and my quads still hurt like heck -- a sure sign that my body and my soul are still processing the fallout Miami.

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