I originally wasn’t planning on running the Allstate 13.1 Fort Lauderdale half marathon, if for no other reason than I thought it would get in the way of my full Marathon training. I’m still prepping for the big event that goes live two months and a day from the time I’m typing this sentence, and I still don’t think I’m anywhere near ready for it. So why run, say, 13 miles on a Sunday morning when I could be out trying to tackle 16, 18, or 20 — something closer to the actual mileage I’ll be attempting? But I’m following a training program, and I trust it. Given my performance at the 13.1 last Sunday, I think that level of trust has been more than justified. I had a BUTTKICKIN’ day.
How buttkickin’ are we talking here? Well let’s start with the fact that I did NOT contract food poisoning or accumulate any other particularly nasty digestive disorders during any part of the run, from the pre-race burrito-glyco-load to the post-race where’s-my-damn-chocolate-milk comedown. No sirree bob! The entire body mech was operating a peak efficiency. I think this had to do with the fact that this was the first Half-Marathon before which I didn’t face a single moment of anxiety. Perhaps because this was my sixth Half, and I’ve got the routine down to a science: (1) Wake-up early, (2) Hydrate, (3) Eat sensibly, (4) Prep all your gear the night before, and (5) Get a good night’s rest.
That’s it, really. It quickly becomes a easy matter of habit, to the point where you hardly even think about it. And ever since I joined Friends in Training, a most awesome running group if there ever was one, I’ve been doing this very same routine every Friday night. So prepping for this run felt like getting ready for another just Saturday morning.
The pre-race machinations were straightforward enough. I hit Runners Depot in Davie around 12:45 Saturday afternoon and picked up my registration packet. The tech shirt was fairly nice looking, but I prefer the duo-toned attire they offered up at ING, A1A, and Sarasota. Plus, even as an XL, it still felt a bit snug. I’ll chalk that up my own girth rather than a tailoring flaw. I was in an out of registration in a flash, but I did not appreciate having to pass by several tables of vendors aggressively hawking their wares to you. I DON’T need new running shoes, thank you very much, and if I DID, I certainly wouldn’t buy them THE DAY BEFORE THE RACE. “No new gear on race day!” No exceptions.
I spent the rest of the afternoon chilling with some friends doing rather geeky things, and met Boots for dinner at Moe’s around 6. The big carb load consisted of a Homewrecker burrito (sans jalapenos, habaneros, or anything remotely spicy or acidic), chips, and two rather undistinguished chocolate chip cookies. Then it was straight home, pinned the bib onto my shirt, got all my gear together, popped my favorite palindrome to help me ease into the arms of Morpheus, and by 8:30 PM or so I was out like a light. I got almost a full eight hours of sleep before race day — this is unheard of for me. For a natural insomniac, it’s positively mindblowing. But I popped out of bed at 4:15 the next morning like a jackrabbit.
By about 5:30 or so we had gotten to downtown Ft. Lauderdale, and Boots dropped me off at the start line on 1st Avenue by Riverwalk (she continued on and parked right near the Finish line on the beach, where she didn’t have to pay a dime AND we didn’t have to take a shuttle back to the start area). Judging by the sea of yellow shirts, there were already a bunch of FIT peeps on the scene. It’s actually kinda cool to have a bunch of people to chit-chat with before a run. Usually I’m just standing solo, which given my loner-ish nature is just fine by me, but I appreciated the change of pace. [And on a side note, yes I am VERY loner-ish. Not anti-social by any means, but more, shall we say, environmentally self-attuned? Like I always say, I am NOT an extrovert, I am an introvert with a nervous disorder that compels me to interact with people. It’s weird. I know…]
Soon after there was the ceremonial PRP, a bunch of posing for pictures with the group, downing of the first GU and a 5-Hour Energy Drink, the national anthem (performed instrumentally on trumpet), and we were good to go. The 5K runners took off first, and soon afterward we were off. I loaded up ‘Zombies, Run!’ Mission 5 on my phone, hit my Spotify POPTOPIA playlist, plugged in my earbuds and hit the asphalt hard.
So again, I’m not doing a mile-by-mile breakdown of the entire run. I’ve run these Fort Lauderdale streets enough times to make them second nature to me, so I knew what I would be hitting: a fast, mostly-flat course. My training intervals are 5:1 run/walk, but for races I always do 6:1’s. We looped around the Riverwalk area twice and then headed east down Las Olas towards the beach. There were only two real inclines: the allegedly haunted Kinney Tunnel on Federal, and the Las Olas bridge. The tunnel was new, but we run over the Las Olas bridge twice every Saturday. Running bridges aren’t so much a challenge as they are an obstacle which force you to alter your running form. Running up: lean into it to alter your center of gravity, but maintain your pace. Running down: use gravity to your advantage but still maintain the same pace. The sum energy displacement is the same as if running over a flat path. More energy going up, less energy going down, but never breaking pace. A bunch of runners chose to walk up it and high-tail it back down again. Not the way I would approach it, but you have to run your own race.
Right around mile 3.7, FIT had a water station set up, so it was great to get some cheers and encouragement from the volunteers there, especially from Brett, our Group C running coach. From there it was over the aforementioned Las Olas bridge and north onto A1A, and THAT is where the Big Challenge of the day hit.
Lots and lots of wind. Headwinds. Both ways, north and south, it didn’t matter. It was blowing pretty hard and made the last 9 miles or so just that much more… interesting. Otherwise, the weather was pretty goshdarn nice. A cool, humidity free (for So. FL) morning, mostly sunny with just a few clouds, and the breeze (it was a only a breeze until we got to the beach) was really refreshing. Until we hit the wind tunnel, these were great running conditions. But a race is no fun if it doesn’t offer up SOME new challenge other than just getting through the miles on their own. So you just buckle down, lean into it, and keep running.
And MAN did I run. I don’t have my split times yet, but I reckon I did the first 5K in about 28 minutes or so. I was concentrating on keeping my pace steady, even, and quick but not over-exerting myself. Somehow, I was doing 9 minute miles and not feeling winded or drained. The winds on A1A slowed me down, but I kept a solid pace going. Here’s where all the Speed Training I’ve been doing every Tuesday night on the track has helped tremendously. I was able to regulate my pace and pour on bursts of speed when needed, then bring it down to maintain energy, overall increasing my pace without blowing out my energy reserves. Every time I hit a mile marker, I checked my time and found I was consistently doing sub-10-minute miles. Whenever I felt my body starting to sag a little a bit, I could pour on the speed to keep the momentum going.
Speed Training: it’s faaaaaaaaaaantastic!
Boots was stationed on A1A and Poinsetta, with instructions to snap pics of anyone in a yellow FIT jersey. Being the amazing photographer she is, she was able to capture pics of many team members. And of course, lots of me with it 🙂 It’s always a quick morale boost; and I needed it, because from this point it was just an up-and-back on A1A, 5 miles north up past Oakland, with a turnaround next to the Publix before Galt avenue and then about 4 miles south back to the South Beach Park finish line. Not much in terms of variety, but the course is flat and fast. And of course, WINDY! Another boost came from fellow FIT members (I’d reckon there were a good 40 of us out there); the constant cheering and encouragement, both giving and receiving, helped keep confidences up and spirits high.
This is probably the first run (outside of Disney races that didn’t involve sudden spontaneous barfing on the course) that really felt effortlessly fun and upbeat, more like a massive group training than a race. That’s probably more my perspective than anything in and of the race itself. Again, familiar territory, familiar people, and a clear cool morning. The more I ran and became aware of my time, the more excited I got as I realized I was most likely going to hit a PR. My previous best was 02.12.55, and I was looking to easily clear 02.10. When I hit the last mile, I did what I always do, which is run straight through without stopping. I crossed the finish line without my usual GUN SHOW flex and checked my watch: 02.07.13. Later on my official time was listed at 02.07.03 — I did it! I shaved nearly six minutes off of my best time and did better than I possibly imagined! My last half was Disneyland on September 2nd, just a hair over 2 months ago, and thanks to the dedication, training, and speed work I put in, I made a pretty notable improvement in my time!
I was very pleased. 🙂
After getting “knighted” with my brand-new medal (my 8th of the year), I grabbed a bottle of water and hobbled my way over to the Publix tent. I grabbed a banana and two awesome choco-chip cookies and sat by the FIT tent, waiting for Boots. I struck up a conversation with a fellow runner who was a hardcore marathon’er and chatted with a few other excited FIT members. Boots finally met up with me and we decided to skidaddle. It was nice to have our car right there, and soon we were back home. After a celebratory breakfast and a well-needed shower (and a quick nap), we caught up with some shows we missed during the week and went out to see SKYFALL, the new James Bond flick (long story short: FREAKIN’ AWESOME. Review to come shortly…), and with that we ended a most fantastic Sunday.
And now let’s look at our stats, shall we?
I tell myself to not get hung up on the numbers, but we know that’s never gonna happen. That said, let’s take a look. Overall, I was 695 out of 1828, which puts me in the top 38%. That’s definitely my highest placing for a Half, outside of the Disney races (in which I place much higher, due to the high volume of walkers and people who stop and take multiple pictures). In comparison, I was in the top 55.2% at ING Miami last January, 48.7% at the Fort Lauderdale A1A in February, and 45.9% at the First Watch Sarasota in March. For Men, I ranked 460/885, which is top 52.0% (compared to 67.1% ING, 58.6% A1A, and 61.7% Sarasota). For my division (Men 40-44), I was 90/150, which is top 60% (71.9% ING, 63.0% A1A, and 72.6% Sarasota).
So clearly I think I’m doing something right. Which means, there’s zero time to get complacent. Time to buckle down, stick to the plan, and keep training hard. The 13.1 Fort Lauderdale is my last race of the year, and I look back at the progression with a sense of accomplishment, but with an even stronger urge to just keep moving. I’ve now run about 98 miles competitively this year. By the end of March 2013 I plan to hit half that distance. And then, and ONLY then, maybe I’ll finally embark on attaining my true goal: becoming a race car driver/dance instructor/astronaut/orchestral tubist. Wait are tuba players called tubists? Or is it just tuba player? Ahh I forget…