The walk from the hotel to the starting corrals was less than a mile. It was 5:30 in the morning. By the time my friend Sue and I made our way into the starting gates, we were already sweating.
This was going to be one long run.
The ING Miami Marathon and Half Marathon experienced one of its hottest and most humid days in its eight-year history. Humidity at the start of the race, at 6:15 a.m., was 93 percent. I trained my long runs in hot, sweaty gyms on treadmills but unless I moved the treadmill into the sauna there was no way to prepare for a 13.1 mile race in this kind of weather conditions -- at least while training in Buffalo in January.
We started the race with the intention to run hard and run smart. And survive.
Sue stayed with me for the first four miles and we kept a solid, moderate pace. At every water stop I took in water and gatorade and every 35 minutes or so took a gel. I worked hard. I kept a positive attitude. I felt qualitatively stronger, fitter and more prepared that last year. Whereas last year I started to ache in the eighth mile, I didn't start to really struggle until the 10th mile. My legs held out longer.
But when it fell apart, it fell apart hard. By Mile No. 10 I started to experience the chills -- a sure sign that my body was being deeply affected by the humidity.
By Mile 11 my quads were done. With less than a mile until my finish line, my legs ... just ... would ... not ... go ... faster. Despite my mental toughness. Despite my cardiovascular fitness. Everything had been sucked out of my body.
I crossed the finish line in 2 hours and 13 minutes -- slower than my time from last year and below my desired outcome I had set for this race during my training. The pain, the dehydration, the disappointment in my time all came out in tears in the finisher's chute. This would take some recovery time.
Perspective and reflection came in the few extra days of relaxation and vacation in Miami.
What was so frustrating, so disappointing, was that the result did not match my effort.
As I replayed the race in my head, there was no instance I could point to that I did anything wrong. No place where I could have picked up the pace, no place where I went out too fast and burned myself out for later. Perhaps I should have had a heavier hand with the gatorade rather than diluting it with water, but that would only have made me hurt less and perhaps gained me a minute. My mental chatter was strong and positive, quickly shouting down the whispers of doubt that came through my mind. I was prepared. I was strong.
I controlled everything I could. And so in essence I did achieve my goal. I did everything that was within my power. The outcome, the final time, that was not in my control.
Sometimes the result, the outcome, doesn't match up with your effort. It happens.
And so in the end, I'm pretty darn happy with the race -- because I ran strong, I ran tough and I finished.
On to the next challenge. And probably an early sign-up for the 2011 ING Miami Half Marathon. I still have some unfinished business in South Florida.