Florida (2011 ING Miami Half Marathon)
February 3, 2011 5 Comments
Last year’s ING Miami Half Marathon was my first out-of-state half marathon and it was quite the disaster. The fun weekend with family aside, I spent most of the weekend with an upset stomach and awoke on Sunday to a 70-degree day with 97% humidity. By mile 5 I was reaching exhaustion and couldn’t keep up the 8:20 pace I had set out to do. Needless to say, I did not like my experience. I finished the race with a 1:57, my slowest half to date, and begrudgingly took my medal home.
So when my cousin Paula told me she wanted to run the race again in 2011, I was a bit apprehensive. Did I really want to risk a repeat of last year’s swampy mess? Or would Providence shine brightly in my favor? Since this entry is about the race, the answers to those questions should be obvious, but I didn’t register without a pinch of trepidation. After all, running can really suck under terrible conditions. Regardless, I went back along with my cousin and her family for the weekend in hopes of conquering the 13.1-mile distance with a faster time. Last year’s race did not adversely affect Paula’s love of running. She went on to finish the Tamarindo Beach Half Marathon in Guanacaste, Costa Rica in September and later the Rock ‘n Roll Los Angeles Half Marathon the following month. So while I was out to simply finish with a respectable time, she was looking to improve her PR.
We all arrived Friday evening and set up camp at my grandmother’s apartment on Brickell Avenue. My mom had recently given the entire unit its first facelift since the Bronze Age and I was happy to receive a tour. As my aunt showed me around the different rooms, I felt like I was an interested buyer at an open house. It was a very bittersweet experience. I’ve been visiting this place since birth and until a few years ago, the space hadn’t ever been changed. But mom did a spectacular job modernizing it, allowing nostalgic attachments to quickly fade. Check out the 12-year difference:
The next day, we visited the Expo for our race materials and strolled down Lincoln Road until we found an Italian restaurant for lunch. Though Paula and I can’t speak for the rest of her family, our meal was great and primed us for the following morning’s race. With a cab scheduled to pick us up at 4:50 AM, we went to bed feeling energized and ready.
Unfortunately, I picked the most unreliable cab company in history. Not only did the cab never show up, but the company’s number, which I relentlessly dialed upwards of 30 times, would answer once out of every eleven dials with a nondescript “Hello?” as if I were dialing my friends’ parents at 3 in the morning. They continued to reassure me that the cab was five minutes away, but all evidence suggested otherwise. By 5:30, I was an unstable combination of rage and panic, leading us to ask my aunt to drive us as close to the race start as possible. To our great surprise, there weren’t many cars entering downtown Miami and she dropped us off a short 10-minute walk from our respective corrals. Because of the last-minute contingency plan, I was denied the privilege of gear check and a pre-race bathroom break but at least I was in Corral E as the national anthem finished.
The race began at around 6:20 PM with temperatures in the mid-50’s and humidity hovering around 70% – a colossal improvement over last year’s conditions. By the time I reached mile 4 and entered South Beach, I was feeling great and not showing any signs of fatigue, which were more than apparent in the previous running. Because of this good fortune, I was much more aware of the course’s scenic beauty. I was able to enjoy the palm trees that split up the MacArthur Causeway, the restaurants that line Ocean Drive and the many families of spectators that exit their homes on Meridian Avenue to cheer. By the time I reached the Cheer Zone at Mile 11 to the sounds of crowds and my family, I was confident and running at a pace reminiscent of my summer half marathons.
The Cheer Zone is crucial in this race. Though there are always a few spectators to be found at any point in the race except on the Causeways, there is never a large, critical mass of booming shouts until this point. As more fans show up, they slowly push off the sidewalk and into the street, narrowing the road to only three shoulder lengths. This makes it look like you’re running faster (and truth be told, the rush of adrenaline does make some people actually run faster), which boosts your confidence, if only for a few hundred feet. In my case though, as soon as the crowds died down, I began to flag. It wasn’t a bonk by any means, but for the first time in the race, I felt like I had to try to keep up my pace.
You see, Chicago has been consistently recording temperatures below 20°F for the last month, which has relegated me to the treadmill for 90% of my training. In fact, my longest run prior to Miami was an 11-mile run at the gym (fortunately, TNT was playing The Dark Knight so I wasn’t bored out of my mind). Once past the Cheer Zone, conveniently located at mile 11, I entered territory not explored since early December. But like anyone who has a time goal in mind, I pushed onwards and made it to the finish in a respectable 1:41:42, knocking off fifteen minutes from last year and logging my sixth fastest time on a flat course. Paula, however, earned top laurels at the event by finishing in 2:05, fourteen minutes faster than her PR.
A few hours after the race, with a medal proudly in her carry-on and muscles glazed with PF Chang’s’ orange peel sauce, Paula left for Costa Rica with her parents and siblings. She and I are close to making this race an annual tradition. I don’t need to make a cost-benefit analysis to show that going to Miami in January is a perfectly timed escape from Chicago’s interminable winter – and the free accomodations definitely help. I don’t know about her, but I already jumped on the early bird special and signed up for 2012. Anyway, I spent the remainder of the day relaxing before heading back out to Chicago for what meteorologists were calling one of the worst blizzards in the city’s history. After that, it’ll be just under three weeks until the LIVESTRONG Austin Half Marathon in the Lone Star State. Onwards!