Race Review: 2016 Miami Beach Halloween Half Marathon (10/29/2016), or: “In the chilly hours and minutes of uncertainty…”

blgfinishermedalSo on the morning of October 29th, 2016, I ran the 2016 Miami Beach Halloween Half Marathon, in what has become an annual tradition for us here at Hokeyblog. This particular race is almost always a fun ride; I say “almost” because the 2013 race — my first time — had some serious bumps in the road. And they weren’t the race’s fault; the city forced the race organizers to shift the course at the last-minute, making us run a mile on the beach and giving a 1 mile fake-out at the Finish Line.

I bring that up because, while the 2016 Half Marathon was as a fun time, there were situations outside of the race’s control that made it a lot harder and less enjoyable than previous years. And by that I mean the freakin’ weather. Yeesh.

The race elements and overall organization were mostly just fine, albeit with one issue I’ll bring up later in this review. Hundreds of runners showed up at Parrot Jungle Island, most of them in costume, and took off running down the MacArthur Causeway into South Beach, then up the pathways adjacent to Ocean Drive, up the boardwalk and back again, finishing in South Pointe Park. It’s a scenic route, providing dazzling views of the Atlantic Ocean as you find yourselves flanked by sexy vampires, sexy zombies, sexy superheroes, sexy anthropomorphic animals, and so forth. Say what you want about South Florida, but the people here are damned good-looking.

The limiting factor that morning was the wind, rain, and humidity. Gusts that blew upward of 30 mph off the coast meant that, for the entirety of the race, you were battling strong winds while running to and coming back from the turnaround point on the Boardwalk. The effort expenditure required to traverse the race distance was significantly amplified, and you could see it in the faces of the participants. And it wasn’t just the wind itself, but the sand blowing off the beach that pelted us so intensely that most runners were treated to a complimentary dermabrasion procedure, courtesy of Mother Nature. Yowch. There was some rain; it wasn’t particularly heavy, but the strong wind made it sting a little harder than it should have. And then when the rain stopped, the resulting humidity made the otherwise reasonable temperature seem oppressive.

So yeah. The weather sucked. Nothing you can do about that, and certainly nothing that its attributable to the race itself. This is the sub-tropics, after all.

Anyway, let’s take a look at my experience at the Miami Beach Halloween Half Marathon. Things started out at Parrot Jungle Island, where Boots dropped me off at 5:45 AM (the race was scheduled to start at 6:30). My usual running buddy Kristi was sitting this one out, and since we usually do a group costume together, I decided to eschew dressing up this year. Instead, just wore a Batman tech shirt.

Captain Cheapass this year...

Captain Cheapass this year…

On the way to the Start Line, I saw a big group of Rainbow Brites posing for a picture, so I had to grab a pic for myself. A large group of attractive women in costume together? There’s some things in life you NEVER pass up on!

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Gosh!

I headed over to the Start Area, which was filled with costumed runners, pulsing music on the sound system, and a general festive atmosphere.

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Raging egomaniac

Raging egomaniac

Then I bumped into my pal Jackie, who was decked out in her best Kryptonian duds. We posed for this pic, which in a single frame is loads more entertaining than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice:

"SSSAVE MMMMARTHA!!"

“SSSAVE MMMMARTHA!!”

Right about that time a funny thing happened: I was accosted by the Rainbow Bright brigade. As it turns out, they were also the group of Waldas from last year’s race:

The Waldas from last year

The Waldas from last year

One of them asked me, “Are you the blogger? Nia told us we had to find you and take a picture!” If I ever were to say no to an offer like that, feel free to hit me in the face with a frying pan.

My race highlight moment

My race highlight moment

What a moment. Alas, but it was all downhill from here…

Jackie and I went into the start chute and waited for the race to begin. So here’s our Start Line selfie! Because traditions!

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Finally the countdown started and the race had begun. I dialed up my latest Zombies, Run! mission: “Lullaby” (Season 4, Episode 11), high-fived Jackie for luck, and crossed the Start Line. It was on!

The 2016 Miami Beach Halloween Half Marathon

Let’s take a look at our race course, courtesy of Google Maps and my trusty Garmin 920 watch:

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In the exact same course as almost every year, the race took us 3 miles eastward on the MacArthur Causeway, then on a path adjacent to Alton Road heading south, curving around South Pointe park (past the Finish Line, which at Mile 4 seems almost like teasing), and northbound on Ocean Drive as we enter the heart of South Beach, right on the wide sidewalk with views of the beach and the sun rising over the Atlantic. Miles 7 through 10 are almost entirely on a narrow wooden boardwalk as we reach the turnaround portion of the race past mile 8. Then we return southbound on the same path, curving up and around South Pointe amphitheater before finally hitting the same Finish Line we passed at Mile 4.

As we already established, there wasn’t anything really different this year, except for the weather. While heading down the MacArthur, we didn’t feel much in terms of deleterious climate. Oh sure, it was breezy enough but hardly anything to worry about. The turn southbound (adjacent to Alton Drive) was its usual sharp turn onto an elevated curb, but there wasn’t too much crowding or local meandering about the race course. If anything, my only issue during this portion of the race was the wall of runners that surrounded the pacers. Guys, come on. You can be in front, behind, or even beside the pacer, but don’t crowd the course making it impossible for other runners to pass you.

Right in front of the now-defunct Starbucks on Ocean, I managed to find Boots who took some pics of yours truly:

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Blurry yes but I’m still mostly recognizable

The runner behind me thought she was an official race photographer and was miffed that I was jumping into his shot. Silly mortal!

We really started to feel the wind around Mile 4, as we got to the beach itself. There it started to blow pretty hard, and we could feel the sand tearing into our flesh at gale force. Yikes! But we weathered this Epidermopocalypse and soldiered on. I was running my usual Half Marathon intervals — run one mile, walk one minute — and managed to stay around the 9:40 min/mile range throughout. A little slower than my general half pace of late, but given the weather elements I was OK with it.

Anyway, one thing I did notice was that there didn’t seem to be enough water stops roughly between Miles 6 and 10. There was one Boardwalk water station for the entire three-mile out-and-back, and then another stop a mile south of the Boardwalk. There should have been another water stop at the turnaround point. A lot of people — your narrator included — were really starting to feel parched, and more than a few were heard wondering aloud where the hell the water was.

Jackie's post-race battle against the wind...

Jackie’s post-race battle against the wind…

The Boardwalk section is as it always was: a little narrow, sometimes crowded, very shaded, and loaded with people who aren’t participating in the race. Thankfully, they were mostly very respectful of the race and its participants, walking single file on the sides. Of course, bicycles are never allowed on the boardwalk, but this didn’t stop a few of your typical Miami d-nozzles. They were few and far in between, but enough to wonder if a little security on the Boardwalk would go a LONG way to keeping these jerks in line.

Otherwise, it was your basic run back to the Finish Line, with the usual detour taking you up and over the South Pointe Amphitheater. Having a sudden, sharp incline near the end of the race might seem sadistic to some, but given all the bridge training I’ve been doing in anticipation of the New York Marathon, I was in my element. My pace had slowed dramatically because of the strong winds and rain — miles 10 and 11 averaged just over the 10 min/mile mark, and mile 12 took nearly eleven minutes! I was pretty drained and tired; fighting against the wind was taking a lot out of me. Turning eastbound off Ocean onto South Pointe Drive was probably the gustiest wind corridor of the race. I could barely make any real running progress against those headwinds. A couple of spectators sitting out at cafes were cheering us on, and I turned and did my best Marcel Marceau, man-against-the-wind impression. Most of them gave me bemused stares. I don’t blame them.

Boots caught me again right before the turn to the Finish Line (the Finish arch was taken down due to the high winds, so the line itself was just a timing mat):

"Dig me!"

“Dig me!”

And then of course the money shot. Check out that makeshift Finish Line!

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I finished with a Net Time of 2:07:59, which wasn’t too bad, considering the weather. It’s still my 8th fastest half out of 34, but I also have to be honest here: I was completely DRAINED. My energy reserves were depleted and I was feeling the soreness, bigtime. That’s OK, though. At least I was done. I walked over and got my medal from a volunteer dressed as Iron Man, and the thing was a beaut. The Halloween Half Marathon always has fantastic looking medals, and this one was no exception:

blgconmedal

Afterward I walked over to Boots and cheered runners coming in as we waited for our buddies to finish. It seemed to get rainier and windier as the morning progressed, which meant it was going to be a hard finish. But a finish nonetheless!

Rainbow Brites bringing it home

Rainbow Brites bringing it home

 

No sweat! (The wind blew it all away...)

No sweat! (The wind blew it all away…)

There was very little food at the finish line; basically fruit and water. The free after-party at Nikki Beach had a full buffet spread for runners and their ilk, but we skipped out on that and did what we always do, post-race: beers in the park! (BYOB)

I wonder what caught Jackie's attention...

I wonder what caught Jackie’s attention…

I can’t say that the 2016 Miami Beach Halloween Half Marathon was my favorite year of the race, but the race organizers nonetheless put on a great event despite all the elements outside of their control. Rain is one thing — this is South Florida, after all — but epic gusts of wind just produces havoc for any and all runners. There was still plenty to enjoy, both before, during, and after the race. And even though I’m not of a fan of medals, the ones they produce always deliver. I’ll be back next year for sure. I’m hoping Mother Nature takes the morning off, ya know? Here’s the video: