In a first for me, I’m not really going to flap my gums TOO much about a race review. At least, not as much as I normally do.
But that’s not to say that the 2016 Publix Fort Lauderdale A1A Marathon wasn’t a quality race that deserves an awesome detailed, thoroughly researched, and lovingly presented recap of the entire event. For that, you can go check out my review of the 2015 marathon. The fact of the matter is that there wasn’t all that much difference between last year’s race and this year’s, so I thought I’d just give you a basic summary of my experience and any noticeable differences I noticed this time around.
I will state a few things off the bat, though; the event also hosts a Half Marathon as well, which I ran in 2013 (as well as in 2012, but that during my pre-blogging days). Both races start together, with the marathoners breaking off to continue their 26.2 mile sojourn right around the Mile 9 mark. I generally love both races. The Half is my favorite South Florida half marathon, as the bulk of it is quite scenic (between Las Olas Blvd, A1A, and Birch State Park). The full is also a fine race, perhaps not as memorably scenic as the Miami Marathon, but infinitely less congested. Your mileage may vary, of course.
So let’s get the going gone with our summary, starting with:
The Race Expo was held at the Broward Convention Center the Friday and Saturday before the race. I decided to avoid the Saturday crowds by getting there Friday night around 7 PM, and that choice saved me a lot of aggravation. Getting into the convention center parking garage on a Saturday can be problematic, especially if multitudes of tourists also happen to be flocking into Port Everglades on their way to a delightful cruise getaway. On Friday night, arriving, parking, and getting into the center was a breeze!
I met up with Awesome Running Buddy Kristi, and we bumped into our friends Caroline, Brooks, Catherine, Nena, and many others as we traversed the aisles looking at merch and trying to glom as much free stuff as we could, like beer samples, frozen yogurt bars, vegan energy cookies made with spirulina, tortillas, power bars, juices, organic beef jerky, and anything else we could get our grubby mits on. I also think Spirulina sounds like the name to a 70s Italian progressive rock power trio, but that’s neither here nor there. We were in and out in about an hour and pretty much got to see and experience everything the expo had to offer with ease.
The Day Before
And not a whole lot happened here. Since I made it to the Expo on Friday night, I didn’t have a whole lot to do this day but simply hydrate, eat, and most importantly rest. The previous Wednesday I managed to do a serious number on my right calf and hamstring. While doing swim drills, I had pushed off the wall and felt excruciating pain in my leg. My calf muscle seized up in a brutal Charley Horse; the pain was so severe that I had to clutch onto the side wall until it passed. It was one of those Charley Horses where you can see your toes extend out at odd angles and the muscle visibly knots up underneath your skin. Ouch. I treated it the usual way, with RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) and stayed off the leg whenever I could. By Saturday I felt mostly fine; a wee bit stiff but good enough to run on.
The alarm went off at 3:45 AM. After the usual race breakfast of oats and peanut butter, plus plenty of water, I was shaved and out the door by 4:30. We picked up Kristi and drove down to the Start Area in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Boots dropped us off and went to go park near the Finish Line on A1A. Our FIT team photo was set for 5:30, and race start was at 6:00, but we arrived by 5:10 so we had a bit of time to mill about with our buddies.
Here are some more various Start Area pics:
After the ceremonial PRP, we lined up in the start corral (this was a mass start, with no assigned corrals). After the National Anthem, the race started in earnest, and at 6:03 AM our race began!
Let’s break it down by functional area, shall we?
Here’s our course map, courtesy of Google Maps and my trusty Garmin 920XT:
A fairly straightforward route, the race started in downtown Ft. Lauderdale and took us east down 2nd Street, curving onto Andrews and then further eastbound down Las Olas Blvd. Upon reaching A1A, it turned north for roughly a mile before detouring on Sunrise Blvd to take a full loop around Hugh Taylor Birch State Park. Exiting the park, the marathon course returned to A1A northbound and stayed there for 7.5 miles, passing through Lauderdale-By-The-Sea and Pompano Beach. The course then looped for 2 miles through a neighborhood just before the Hillsboro Beach area, and then returned to A1A, heading southbound for 9.5 miles to reach the Finish Line on southern edge of Fort Lauderdale Beach next to Bahia Mar.
The course was super-flat and very fast. The only real elevation was the Las Olas Blvd bridge, and that was pretty minimal by bridge standards. It wasn’t like the Rickenbacker or the MacArthur. Also, the construction issues that plagued the stretch of A1A between Sunrise and the Pelican Bay resort have been eliminated.
The weather was pretty close to ideal. The race started in the upper 50s and finished in the low 70s, with a significant amount of cloud cover throughout the day and very low humidity (by South Florida standards). Everything felt super comfortable and agreeable. The only detriment were some strong winds blowing, especially as we reached A1A. Thankfully, this only affected us during the northbound portion of the race while directly adjacent to the beach. Once the wind was blocked by towering condos on the northern portion of the course, any detriment was minimized. Phew!
The Fort Lauderdale A1A Marathon and Half Marathon is a reasonably sized race event. While 4,000 runners were participating in the Half Marathon, only about 750 were involved with the Full Marathon. This meant that you were certainly surrounded, but not crowded, by runners throughout the first nine miles. But after us Marathon runners split off, we had all the elbow room in the world. Certainly more than any marathon runner could ever need.
Crowd support was certainly more prevalent during the half-marathon portion of the race, especially on Las Olas and the stretch of A1A between Sunrise and the Finish Line. Still, there were definitely cheering spectators throughout the Marathon portion of the race (north of Sunrise on A1A), just not as frequently as earlier. Still, let’s thank the local homeowners on A1A for their generosity; the snacks, beer stations, and support throughout helped keep our spirits up.
There were plenty of hydration stations set up at regular intervals throughout the course, and I always make a habit out of thanking the volunteers at every stop. Unfortunately, I did notice a difference this year; several of the water stops were not sufficiently staffed. More than once I had to stop and grab my own water or Gatorade, and sometimes there just weren’t enough filled cups ready for runners, resulting in stops, confusion, and, unfortunately, some runner collision and frayed emotions. There were some repeated events of water being poured into Gatorade cups and vice versa, and you had to ask the volunteer exactly what they were holding (as they were not announcing it themselves). I appreciate all the hard work they do, but this needs to be rectified for next year’s race.
Most of the entertainment was situated along the beach portion of A1A. This included bands, DJs, singers, steel drummers, and so forth. After that, you were left to your own devices… or sadly, in the devices of some d-nozzle running with a loud Bluetooth speaker. I mean, *LOUD* loud. And he was blasting CHER’S GREATEST HITS. This, I believe, is a violation of the Geneva Convention.
I had a good race for the most part, but I was worried about the calf and hamstring giving me agitas. Sure enough, I started feeling it around Mile 19. Up until then I was running very consistently, averaging around 11 minutes per mile, not feeling like I was significantly pushing too hard nor slacking in any capacity. It was a steady, even, comfortable race pace. But around Mile 19, I was starting to feel a tightness in my right hamstring and, later on, my left calf. I figured the left-side pain came from compensating for the right-side pain, but who knows about these things. My energy began to sag, the pain getting more pronounced as the miles continued. By Mile 21, I told Kristi to continue on without me, as I could no longer maintain pace, and I really wanted her to PR (which, at 4:48, she totally did, knocking a good eleven minutes off her previous PR!)
I actually managed to run Mile 22 faster than Mile 21, but my soreness translated into sharp pain and my low-energy levels translated into sudden exhaustion. Mile 23 took 12:49 to complete, as I walked a portion of it. Mile 24 went a little faster at 12:13, but Mile 25 took 13:12. While the pain was still there, I was able to regain enough energy to finish Mile 26 at 11:56. During that last mile I saw so many cheering friends from Friends In Training, Hollywood Run Club, and the 1K Run Club calling me out by name, that I felt a renewed confidence and urge to run and finish strong. Or as strong as I could anyhow. I was in agony. This pic that Boots captured sums it up perfectly:
I crossed the finish line with a time of 4:56:31, which made it a bit of disappointment for me, although it shouldn’t have. This race was supposed to be little more than a training long run for the Rock ‘N’ Roll New Orleans Marathon at the end of the month, so I went into it with no expectations except to get my miles in and just enjoy it. Still, I’m a competitor by nature and for the first 22 miles I had consistenly run at a good, solid pace. And then the bottom fell out. Rats.
Then again, this was still my third fastest marathon out of ten, and my third time coming in under five hours. I even ran it seven minutes faster than I had the previous year! So what did I have to be grumpy about, exactly? Nothing. It was all good.
After getting my race bling from my pal Rosa and a hug from my buddy Tracy, I could barely move. Kristi met me in the chute, and I made my way to the medical tent and nearly collapsed, although I managed to get to a chair and immediately applied ice to my calf and hamstring while Kristi went to get me some water and Gatorade. I stayed their for a good ten minutes before I was able to get up and meet Boots and the rest of our buddies waiting for us. We brought a cooler filled with a twelve-pack of Shock Top Pretzel Wheat Beer. It was ice cold and as absolutely delicious as it sounds. The perfect drink after a long, hard race. Nectar of the Gods.
Despite my initial disappointment with my own performance, I still view the 2016 Publix Fort Lauderdale A1A Marathon as one of the best races in South Florida. It’s fast, low-key, enjoyable, and fun. The volunteer/staffing issue at the water stops definitely needs to be resolved, but other than that everything went very well. Maybe next year I won’t injure myself 4 days before the race from too much overconfidence in the pool. But that’s all on me. As far as local South Florida marathons are concerned, this one makes for a good alternative (or addition) to the Miami Marathon in January. You can’t go wrong with either, but I like this one a bit more due to its smaller size and more easygoing logistics. That’s all for today. Here’s the video: