Forty-eight freakin’ seconds.
This is not going to turn into one of those “for want of a nail” rants, because quite frankly those are not only played-out, they’re dreadfully boring to read. You don’t want to read it. And I don’t want to write it. So we both win here.
But to think about what you can do in 48 seconds…
Let’s dial it back a few. On Sunday, February 17, 2013, I participated in the 2013 Publix Ft. Lauderdale A1A Half Marathon, my seventh half-marathon. I ran the race in 2012, and really enjoyed it, so I figured doing it again this year would be a no-brainer. The course is extremely familiar; I’ve trained on A1A for about two years, both with Friends in Training and on my own. From the 17th Street Causeway bridge turning north on A1A to Atlantic Blvd, as well as all the way up Las Olas and back, I know these streets intimately well. They feel like home to me when I’m running. Which is *another* reason why I can’t stand ING Miami — even having grown up and lived in Miami-Dade the vast majority of my life — but let’s not even get into that right now.
We were blessed with ridiculously great running weather that morning. And by ridiculously great, I meant freakin’ COLD. South Florida-cold, that is. By the time Boots dropped me off near the Museum of Discovery and Science, it was in the low/mid-40s, with a wind chill that put it down almost into the 30s. The only thing I had to keep me warm was a white full-sleeve compression shirt, which helped. Not as much as I maybe would have wanted at the time; folks, I’m a lizard. Living in the sub-tropics for so long has left me cold-blooded and so susceptible to cold weather, it’s almost laughably absurd. If the A/C at home is set to less than 70 degrees, I have to sleep with socks on. Pathetic. I spent four years in Boston, too.
Moving on: Boots and I got a bit of a late-start, so I wasn’t able to meet (or find) my FIT buddies for pics and kibbitzing and what-not (although I did bump into my FIT buddy Jose. He was running the Full Marathon. Psycho!), so after hitting the Portos I made my way into the corral. This was the smartest move I ever made. People were huddling for warmth and, being close to the center, I had a natural organic barrier protecting me from the worst of the wind.
This was the view ahead of me at the corral:
…and behind me:
As an aside, I can’t even begin to tell you how dorky I looked (there will be pics). I was wearing the aforementioned compression shirt, my bright yellow FIT tank over it, regular running shorts, compression wraps just above both knees, compression sleeves on both calves… I looked like a nerdy Swiss hiker lost on his way to a Pride March. Actually, I take that back. Nobody going to a Pride March would ever look as gauche as I did. But it was all functional: the knee and calf compression kept me from getting injured, and the torso compression kept me from freezing to death. Besides every runner worth his or her salt (read: anyone NOT wearing the race shirt) knows that once you cross the Start Line, your body instantly starts warming up. This is so very true. So I wasn’t going to complain about the colder weather. I welcomed it. If you’ve ever broiled under a grueling sun with 80/90+ degree temperatures pounding down on you, these weather conditions were a godsend.
So anyway, the usual pre-race events went as scheduled. The National Anthem (instrumentally on the saxomophone) came at around 5:45ish, followed by the wheelchair athletes getting underway soon afterward, and at 6:00 AM the race started. At around 6:06 AM I set my Zombies, Run! to start playing Mission 22 (The Horde!) with my ULTIMATE! RUNNING! PLAYLIST! set to shuffle, hit the Garmin, crossed the threshold, and off I went.
I only had one real goal for this race: to beat my time from last year (02:15:10). That was it. I didn’t know if I was going to PR, I wasn’t planning on it (especially with the knee issues of late), but I planned to give it my all. That was it for goals. The rest was just going to be enjoyment of the race.
Or so I told myself, anyhow.
The race itself wasn’t particularly crowded — I think there were less than 3200 people out there running — but there was a lot of energy out there that morning. The course started by Riverwalk, off Himmarshee and SW 5th Avenue, taking us eastward before curving south on Andrews Ave and then onto a huge stretch eastbound down Las Olas. The so-called “Rodeo Drive of Fort Lauderdale” (eesh) looked pretty swell, especially as the sun began to rise in the horizon. The colder weather didn’t seem to slow anybody down, even if the almost irresistible smell of warm, freshly baked bread wafting out of Gran Forno came this close to bringing me to a screeching halt. Those people are so devious and mean! Continuing down Las Olas, I bumped into a cheering Meredith at the first water stop. Even after seven of these, it’s always cool to see a familiar face who knows your name! My spirits are high, and I keep on trucking.
Over the Las Olas bridge — where people still come to a dead stop in the middle of the street and start walking, sigh — we made our way northbound onto A1A. Right around here I saw Boots, which was great — except that she didn’t see me. At least, not until I almost passed her. She valiantly tried to run alongside me to take a picture, but that was silly. I stopped, posed by the Atlantic, and she took a few pics of me in front of the rising sun.
See what I mean? UBER DORKY!
Crowd support was pretty strong; even with the “bitter” cold and chilling winds coming off the Atlantic, there were plenty of people cheering on the sidelines. At this point I’m around mile 3, and we’re looking at mile splits of 9:45, 9:34, and 9:53. Not Earth-shatteringly awesome, but very good and on pace. The problem is, right around this time I’m starting to do the numbers in my head. “Hmmm… 13.1 miles at 9:45, let’s see, at 10 minute miles it would take me under 2 hours 12 minutes, shaving off 15 seconds per mile would net me an extra 3 minutes, etc. etc.” Playing the numbers. Worried about time when I should have been concentrating more on my stride, listening to my body, regulating my breathing, or even forgetting all of that and just enjoying the run.
This is the silly obsessiveness that I need to conquer. All I was thinking about was time.
Regardless, I am enjoying myself, even while doing ridiculous calculations in my head. The course takes a slight detour off Sunrise Blvd, taking us on a 2.25 mile loop around Hugh Taylor Birch State Park. This is probably the highlight of the race, as the entire park is shaded, quiet, and serene. It is unfortunately also quite narrow, with the dreaded “Five Runners Running Abreast” syndrome. I had way too much horizontal weaving on this race to get around gridlock. Still, those are minor complaints, as I enjoyed this stretch for the serenity and quiet concentration.
There were two events of note here: first, just around the 4.5 mile mark, I was afflicted with The Pee Break That Wouldn’t End. Honestly. I don’t remember consuming THAT much hydration, but all of it wanted out and sidelined me for about 40 seconds! GRR! On a more positive note, it was right around mile six when I started hearing a strange, popping, bouncy noise behind me that started to get louder and louder. What the hell was that? I turned around and there he was, Darren Weissman aka “Doctor Dribble”, running the A1A Marathon while bouncing two basketballs, attempting to set a Guinness World Record while raising money for charity. I’m assuming that photographer on a bicycle behind him was a Guinness representative. Regardless, it was cool to see him going for the World’s Record — which he indeed made! Good show, sir. Good show.
From that point on, the race was pretty straightforward. Exiting Birch Park. we continued 2.5 miles north up A1A, past Oakland to Galt Mile, where we looped around and started heading southbound back down A1A. Since it was an out and back, you got to see whatever buddies you knew were running the race, one way or another. This is always cool for a quick high-five or a shout-out to keep the spirits up; so thanks Mark, Brett, Bruce, Noemi, Monica, Sheri, and everyone else I saw who I’m totally blanking out on right now.
By the time I got to the 10.5 mile mark, I hit the second serious bottleneck of the day. Last fall when Hurricane Sandy was churning up the Atlantic, the resulting tidal erosion pretty much decimated the northern portion of Fort Lauderdale beach, severely flooding A1A around and mostly north of Sunrise Blvd. Much of the beach was gone, with waves crashing onto the street itself. Months later, there’s still much reconstruction about, which means significantly narrowing A1A. For a good mile, the available width of running space was severely restricted. At one point, it was barely able to fit more than two runners side-by-side. There was a lot of dodging and weaving, either onto the sidewalk or into the traffic of oncoming runners heading north. This was much more of an annoyance than an impedance, but it was enough of both.
Nonetheless, once I got past Sunrise it was a nearly 2 mile clear shot down to the finish line across from Bahia Mar. Right around here, I started getting numbers obsessed again. I wanted to hit 2:06 badly, the stupid competitive bug hit me hard. Somehow I knew that if I kept it under a 9:45 min/mile, I could do it. I checked my Garmin obsessively to see where my pace was. Physically I felt fine — my knees and shins weren’t acting up at all — and I continued pouring on my speed intervals regularly. My pace remained consistent; I wasn’t slowing down, but neither was I kicking it even higher.
By the time I passed the 13th mile, the course had taken me to the South Beach parking lot across from Bahia Mar. This was it. I tried to stop checking my watch, but without even realizing it I was checking it right as I crossed the Finish Line. I even forgot to do my usual Finish Line Gun Show/Keep Watchin’ The Skies pose! I clicked the stop button on my Garmin and checked my time.
Two hours, seven minutes… fifty-one seconds.
I missed my PR by forty-eight freakin’ seconds.
Now see, this is the wrong attitude to have. Obsessing over the numbers will forever leave you frustrated. Besides, my time was nothing to be ashamed of. It’s still my second best performance out of seven. With an average pace of 9:42 min/mile, that’s even faster than when I ran a 10K last May. Heck, I even ran the first 10K of the race at just over 56 minutes. And even more, my pace was extremely consistent throughout. Check out these splits:
So other than the Mile 5 break, there wasn’t a whole lot of deviation from the 9:42 average. This is a GOOD thing. It means I was managing my energy and stamina levels properly. I didn’t burn out at the beginning and tire out at the end. I didn’t injure myself. It was a good, strong race.
But I’m human, and I like the Quantitative Results, and I want them to show VICTORY!! Well, they did. When I hit my PR last November, I never stopped once (except for water stations and to take my electrolytes), and in this race I stopped for nearly a minute or so. For all intents and purposes, I pretty much ran just as strong a race last Sunday. And that’s coming off a few mild but significant injuries that are still there, albeit much less inhibiting.
So it’s all good. Stop obsessing over the numbers, kid. That’s the only way I done goofed at this race. Everything else was way solid.
We didn’t stick around much after. I was freezing, as I no longer had the running activity to warm me up, and I was covered in sweat that was chilling me to the bone. Boots parked the car on A1A and Las Olas, so I limped up A1A to meet her at the lot. On the way I managed to bump into Bob Dozoretz, our amazing speed coach and running guru.
“How’d you do?” he asked me.
“I did good,” I replied, “but not quite as good as I wanted to do.”
“Well, at least you looked good doing it!”
“I KNOW, right??”
My humility knows no bounds. Here’s the video: