I’d signed up for the Miami Half Marathon as a tune up race for my scheduled Feb. 19 Austin Marathon run with running buddy John. I talked John into signing up for Austin as his last good chance at a BQ for the 2006 Boston Marathon. He was just short of his 3:30 BQ in Chicago with a 3:33. In closing the pitch of Austin as a good place for a final try at the BQ, I included myself in the commitment process.
Signed and committed to Austin in the second week of December, I knew I had to get training. This time we would include the missing pieces in our training: track work, hill work, more overall mileage. A couple of week into training and I’m starting to wonder if I’ve given myself enough time after a month layoff from my Chicago crash and burn finish. I’d skipped my usual Thanksgiving 10K, Santa 5K and December ½ Marathon. If figured I’d better set up a tune-up race to see how the training is going. Thus, the Miami Half on 1/29/06.
Wife, Salome, had signed up for the Miami Half long ago and had decided she wanted to spend the night in Miami to avoid getting up at 4 AM race day for the drive down. Thus, we checked into the Marriott Courtyard in downtown Miami on Saturday morning. The hotel was next to the host hotel and expo location. As we checked into the top 14th floor room, I noticed the sliding glass door was slightly open. When I attempted to close it completely, I noticed it wouldn’t close. I mentioned to Salome that we should get a new room, but she vetoed the suggestion saying the room being so high was secure. So, off we go to the expo.
We heard some interesting speakers at the expo. Burt Yasso spoke about race day hydration, pace and the expected winds coming out of the Southeast. He also discussed his Yasso 800s. GP Pearlberg, a running coach who focuses on running bio-mechanics. A very interesting and inspirational speaker who gave us form issues to focus on during the race. Finally, we heard Frank Shorter speak. His topic was what he calls the “2 Week, 2 Month Rule.” This rule states that it takes your body two weeks to adjust to a change in training, but 2 months to fully adapt to the change.
The other main focus of Frank’s talk was that as runners, we don’t run slow enough on our recovery or easy run days. He stated that resent research has shown that fitness comes not from running fast, but from running slow. In fact, Frank points out that the benefit of track work is not from how fast we run the splits, but on how quickly our bodies recover in the jogging lap. He advises training with a heart rate monitor not to see how high you get your heart rate, but to see when your heart rate is at around 120 bpm on the recovery phase of training. Slow runs should be run at this 120 bpm rate. He also advises checking your waking heart rate to see if you are overtraining. If your bpm is elevated, run slower in your training. Interesting perspective.
For dinner, we met up with Keith and Jana and Kathleen (son Alex’s Pre-K 4 teacher), her fiancé, John, and friend Denise. We ate at an Italian Restaurant on Ocean Drive with a guy dressed as a Roman Legion Centurion out front. Good wine, good pasta and good company. Both Jena and Kathleen are Pre-K 4 teachers, so everyone was on best pre-school behavior. Jana informed us of her desire to run an Italian Marathon, perhaps Florence. Sounded interesting. Everyone had decent goal times announce, but to a person announce that we each felt undertrained. We also expressed concerns about the blustery wind outside on South Beach.
Back at the hotel, we discovered that the crack in the patio door let in the lovely sound of traffic on I-95 into the room. I would gladly have traded the later wake-up time for sound sleep in my own bed back in Ft. Lauderdale. I would swear I didn’t sleep a wink, but I recall having at least one dream. Next year I either sleep at home, upgrade to the Intercontinental on the bay, or bring a good set of earplugs.
After a breakfast of bananas and Red Bull, it was down to the start area. Salome pealed off to do the Port-O-Potty Tango, while I headed to my corral. After the usual pre-race nervous chit-chat with fellow runners and a nice National Anthem on flute, the start flairs are fired. The winds for the three miles over to South Beach were in your face, but didn’t slow the pace too much. I was running 8 minute miles from my hoped for 7:30 pace, but figured that was BQ pace. I took a one minute penalty stop at a Port-O-Potty around mile 4 and hit the 10K mark in 50:08. Again, I hoped to be about a minute faster at this spot, but felt pretty good overall. The tail wind on the return run didn’t give me the push I’d hoped. I always find miles 8 to 10 the roughest patch of a half. This one didn’t disappoint. I found focusing on form at this point to be a good distraction. I made a second P-O-P stop; but once I hit the 10 mile mark I was able to consider it a 5K and picked up the pace. I pushed the last ½ mile and came in at 1:47:16. I threw my goal time of 1:40 out the window at P-o-P stop #1 and was pretty sure I’d blown the BQ ½ pace of 1:45 at P-o-P stop #2. However, my time put me at 65th in my age group which was top 17%. I’ll take it and make sure I do the P-o-P Tango before Austin. I’m sure the around 70 degree temps and wind didn’t help. But, no excuses. I obviously can not get too comfortable about Austin. On the plus side, I felt that I could have kept that pace up for the full.
I find Keith and Jana in the finish area. Keith ran a 1:28, and Jana a 1:41. I know they each wanted to run slightly better times, but I am always impressed with this couple. Great athletes that I’m glad to know.
Salome came in at the 2:10 mark, which totally threw me off. I was waiting about 20 yards from the finish hoping to get her picture, but she had stated an expected finish time of 2:25. When she came by, I was taken off guard and missed the photo op. I’m glad to miss the photo when it means she’s doing better than she’d hoped.
Kathleen took a miss-step around mile 8 and came in at 2:15. From the redness of her ankle and the limp she had post race, I’m surprised she finished. Salome gave up her emergency Alive and we advised her to ice and elevate as soon as she got home. Denise stayed at Kathleen’s pace and made sure she got to the finish line.
After making sure Kathleen hooked back up with John, Salome & I went to the stands to cheer in the marathon finishers. We missed the winners, but watched as full marathoners came in from about 2:50 through 3:20. We cheered loudly for the sub 3 finishers and kept it up for the next 20 minutes. These guys and girls looked like champions coming across the line. You really sense the joy of the runners coming in beating goal times or hitting that BQ. We didn’t know any of these runners, but high-fived their friends and loved ones in the stands. These people were inspirational. It give me renewed resolve to stay the course of proper training and nutrition.
When we got home, Salome showed son Alex (age 6) the nice spinning medal. Alex has run the kids fun run portion of our local St. Paddy’s Day run and has a couple of medals from them. He asked why he doesn’t have more medals. I’ve always questioned the giving of medals for anything short of a full marathon, so I offered mine to him. He had the biggest grin when I put it around his neck. I couldn’t have asked for a better ending of the morning.