Florida (2012 ING Miami Half Marathon)

Represent!

I signed up for the 2012 ING Miami Half Marathon two days after running the 2011 race.  They got me with their registration blitz, where prices are ludicrously low for the first 500 registrants.  Plus, my cousin Paula and I had decided to make it into a little annual family tradition.  So it’s been on my calendar for an entire year, and the threepeat had finally come.  Would it be uncommonly cool?  Perhaps we’d get a repeat of 2010’s oppressive humidity?  Maybe it would finally rain?  With these uncertainties in my mind, I flew down to meet up with my mom, my aunt, cousin, and running compatriot Otter, whose medal addiction had drawn him to sunny Miami for the race’s famous spinning palm.

We were in the starting chute just minutes before race start.  We had gotten emails telling us that security would be “tight” in the corrals, but that turned out to be mostly hot air.  It seems no race can truly solve the problem of runners not sorting themselves correctly during the start.  There are never just one or two people who settle themselves into the first corrals and walk the race.  But this race, for some reason, elevates this discrepancy to an art form.  No matter where you are sorted, you’ll end up weaving sideways for the first two miles, dodging fast runners and skipping past walkers.

Third time's the charm

The first mile, as usual, is mostly uphill as runners tackle the MacArthur Bridge.  As I climbed upward, I felt a bit concerned.  The humidity wasn’t as punishing as it was two years ago, but it certainly wasn’t as deliciously crisp as it was in 2011.  Since I was expecting a slow first mile, I wasn’t surprised when I clocked an 8:27.  I was somewhat relieved when I felt a heavenly breeze cutting across the top of the crest.  It would accompany us for the rest of the eastward run toward Miami Beach, with palm trees to our left, enormous city-ships anchored on the right.  The morning sun had yet to make its appearance, but dim shades of blue were emerging from a distant cluster of baleful rainclouds.

The Miami Skyline from the Rickenbacker Causeway, picture courtesy of Otter

As I ran down the causeway, I was a bit nervous.  I was definitely sweating more than usual and I could feel the heaviness of the air as I slipped through it.  It didn’t help that my second mile was an 8:08.  I thought I had perfected the art of running a particular pace without the aid of a watch, but Miami’s conditions had thrown off my talent.  I thought I was running a 7:40, not an 8:08.  It’s rarely comforting when your perceived exertion is much higher than your actual output.  It instantly puts doubts in your mind and the psychosomatic effects can compound.

In spite of that moment of frustration, I still felt motivated to pick up the pace.  Once I reached the first water station around mile 3, I logged a validating 7:32 split.  But I was almost completely drenched in sweat, which is not a good sign so early in the race.  At that point, I knew I had to make a choice.  Do I scale it back and run more slowly to avoid an ugly finish, or be an idiot and keep running like this until I blow up?  I knew what could happen when the humidity climbs and hubris takes over.  But the soaking wet shirt aside, I felt great.  Should I abandon all conservatism and just go hard to test my limits, or play it safe and just enjoy the race?  The next two splits would answer these questions.

Mile 4: 7:47
Mile 5: 6:56

(Left to right): Mama, Me, Otter, Paula, Tía

Despite water stations being too crowded and chaotic, I blazed through South Beach.  It definitely helped that I started singing Yellowcard’s “Ocean Avenue” along Ocean Drive.  I remembered, with little fondness, the first time I ran down this particular section of the race.  As iconic and beautiful as it is, I couldn’t enjoy it because I was already heaving and struggling to move forward.  But even my daring confidence wasn’t enough to keep my pace consistent after I saw that 6:56 split.  I made a conscious decision then to slow down a bit because no amount of determination would keep that suicidal pace for another seven miles.

And so the game was on.  In most races, there is always a tacit fear of bonking, but you don’t entertain it until it’s inevitable.  This time, I was almost embracing the bonk, expecting it to show its dreadful face.  I therefore had to put in enough punishment early on to give myself a cushion at the end.  Ask any long distance runner and they will tell you that is a terrible idea.  Negative splits are the building blocks of a successful race strategy, not going hard at the beginning.  But there was a stranger running in my stead today, and he didn’t care.  The new mantra was, Can I run another mile at this pace?  Just one more mile?

Mile 6: 7:35
Mile 7: 7:29

Ready to "Run Famous" (whatever that means)

Alright, I thought.  I can still do this for awhile.  I was having to brush sweat off my eyebrows more often than I would like, but I somehow kept up the pace.  Water stations were no longer as messy as the first three were, mostly because the pack had thinned considerably.  Now that the race had ballooned to over 20,000 runners, it was imperative that the organization improve their early water stations.  Since the course is a circuit, runners are usually making left turns, so they’re mostly on the left side of the street.  However, the first two water stations were on the right side.  It’s therefore expected that everyone will dash right, get water, and then dash back left.  This could be solved by adding an extra water station on the left side, which is common in most races of this size.

Runners dashing for the finish line

But once on the Venetian Causeway, this was no longer an issue.  With the ocean on both sides of us, there was little obstructing the wind’s path.  That perfect breeze that cooled us down at the top of MacArthur was back, keeping me moving at a consistent pace without overheating.  I kept asking myself: is this the mile where it all falls apart?  Is this the beginning of that slow, painful crawl?  Is this where everyone else starts patting me on the back and saying “You can do this, buddy” or “Hang in there”?

Mile 8: 7:30
Mile 9: 7:36
Mile 10: 7:49

Though mile 10 was showing signs of decline, I still kept my head up.  I kept wondering, Am I really doing this?  Am I winning this game of chicken between me and the elements?  Since the last three miles are always the toughest, I couldn’t yet declare a victory.  But still, the thought that I could somehow finish under 1:40 in Miami was tantalizing.  I always discard fast times in warm temperatures because I believe I sweat more than the average person.  Over distance, the heat drains me of energy, which is why I high five Mother Nature when the mercury dips below 50 on race day.  But today it was almost 70, with the dew point around 68 degrees.

Mile 11: 7:26
Mile 12: 7:36

I was back in the game.  This was actually happening.  And once the course enters the mainland and passes the ING Cheer Zone, we’re almost at the finish line.  The last two miles cut through downtown Miami before turning back north into the finishing chutes.  Even last year, where the race was blessed with cool conditions, I started losing energy here.  But today I was unstoppable.  Even though I felt like I was leaving puddles with every footstep, I kept pounding the pavement to the tune of a 7:14 mile.  A sub 1:40 time was possible and I would have thrown my arms in the air triumphantly at this point were it not for one technical detail.

Javier Becerra rocking his debut half marathon

To explain it, I want to talk about a slight pet peeve I have.  I read a lot of race recaps because I enjoy hearing about different people’s experiences over the distance and what goes on in their heads as they tackle their running goals.  But it seems like a lot of them, mostly those who run with Garmins or other GPS-tracking watches, end up saying some variation of this sentence:

“My Garmin said I ran 13.23 miles, so I actually ran MORE than a half marathon!”

Most of the time, this statement isn’t true.  Unless you’re running in a small community race that doesn’t attract a sizable crowd and has lax standards for event production, you’re most likely running a standard distance course.  Races are measured very meticulously to meet USATF rules.  They wouldn’t just ballpark 13.1 miles and expect everyone to round down, especially not one with over 20,000 runners, a decent international elite field and considerable prize money.  Additionally, Garmins aren’t exactingly precise.  Although I love my Forerunner and am a slave to it, if I run near a building over four stories, it will interfere with satellites and alter my stats ever so slightly.  It’s meant to give you a pretty accurate picture of your pace and distance, but the numbers on it shouldn’t be read as gospel.  So while it may say “13.18” or “26.42,” unless you consistently ran on the outside of the course or zigzagged the entire way, you didn’t run that much extra.

Paula, focus!

But I will temporarily forget this pet peeve and hypocritically declare that the last 1/10 of a mile of this race was unequivocally NOT 1/10 of a mile.  I’ve run this race three times now and every single time, the distance between that thirteenth mile marker and the finish is considerably more than the required 0.1 miles left to finish a half marathon.  I typically run that last stretch in between 30 and 50 seconds, depending on how much snarl I have left in my game face.  So is it merely coincidental that I’ve run this race’s last dash in over 80 seconds all three times?

And that, my friends, is why I did not conquer the 2012 ING Miami Half Marathon in less than 1:40, but instead, settled for 1:40:26.  But truthfully, I don’t care in the least.  Though I did feel a tiny bit of disappointment as I saw the clock creep past 1:40, it was fleeting and instantly forgotten (that is, until this recap).  I had managed to throw down what was for me a fast performance in the face of questionable conditions and proudly earned the commemorative 10th anniversary spinning palm medal.  My cousin Paula, whose training was left by the wayside to make room for business school applications, finished her third Miami Half Marathon in 2:15 (and also got into an MBA program, so she was doubly successful).  Finally, Otter’s story for this race is one so steeped in disaster that I will not ruin it by telling it myself.  Though I doubt even he will sit down to relate it, as it seems that he’s almost abandoned his own racing blog.

With this race done, I am ramping up my distance in preparation for the Little Rock Marathon on March 4 and the blister I developed on my right foot during Miami will certainly do its best to stop me.

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Race Schedule & Results

This is where I’ll post the confirmed races that I will be running, followed by a chronological list of all my completed races, including cities and times.  They can be viewed by date below or by state.

By Date

2017 Race Schedule

July 23 – 29, 2017 – RAGBRAI (Iowa)
May 28, 2017 – Bike the Drive (Chicago, IL)
April 30, 2017 – New Jersey Marathon (Oceanport, NJ #47) – 3:41:08

2016 Race Schedule (click for year-end recap)

October 29, 2016 – Chicago Lakefront 50k (Chicago, IL) – 4:40:14
October 9, 2016 – Newport Marathon (Newport, RI #46) – 3:44:40
September 18, 2016 – Omaha Marathon (Omaha, NE #45) – 4:23:16
July 17, 2016 – Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon (Chicago, IL) – 1:34:48
July 10, 2016 – Mad Marathon (Mad River Valley, VT #44) – 3:42:19
May 14, 2016 – Ice Age Trail 50-Miler (LaGrange, WI) – 10:19:57
March 26, 2016 – Paleozoic Silurian Spring 25k (Willow Springs, IL) – 2:17:29

2015 Race Schedule (click for year-end recap)

November 14, 2015 – Veterans Marathon (Columbia City, IN) – 3:17:22
September 27, 2015 – BMW Berlin Marathon (Berlin, Germany) – 3:31:28
August 23, 2015 – Fort2Base 10 Nautical Miler (North Shore, IL) – 1:19:08
July 19, 2015 – Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon (Chicago, IL) – 1:39:12
July 5, 2015 – Media Maratón Correcaminos (San José, Costa Rica) – 1:34:37
May 9, 2015 – Fargo Marathon (Fargo, ND #43) – 3:16:07
February 15, 2015 – Lost Dutchman Marathon (Gold Canyon, AZ) – 3:41:08
January 25, 2015 – Lifetime Miami Half Marathon (Miami, FL) – 1:34:36

2014 Race Schedule (click for year-end recap)

November 1, 2014 – Indianapolis Monumental Marathon (Indianapolis, IN) – 3:22:14
October 5, 2014 – Maine Half Marathon (Portland, ME, #42) – 2:14:05
October 4, 2014 – New Hampshire Marathon (Bristol, NH, #41)3:37:54
September 20, 2014 – Air Force Marathon (Dayton, OH)4:47:34
July 20, 2014 – Rock ‘n Roll Chicago Half Marathon (Chicago, IL) – 1:32:33
June 21, 2014 – Bighorn Wild and Scenic Trail Run 50k (Dayton, WY, #40) – 7:27:51
June 7, 2014 – 13.1 Marathon (Chicago, IL) – 1:29:42
May 11, 2014 – Delaware Running Festival Marathon (Wilmington, DE, #39) – 3:37:59
May 10, 2014 – Maryland Half Marathon (Fulton, MD, #38) – 1:41:08
May 3, 2014 – Shiprock Marathon (Shiprock, NM, #37)3:28:03
April 6, 2014 – Go! St. Louis Marathon (St. Louis, MO) – 3:31:53
February 2, 2014 – Lifetime Miami Marathon (Miami, FL) – 3:55:57

2013 Race Reports (click for year-end recap)

November 17, 2013 – Philadelphia Marathon (Philadelphia, PA, #36)3:25:28
November 2, 2013 – Moab Trail Half Marathon (Moab, UT #35)2:19:22
October 6, 2013 – Portland Marathon (Portland, OR, #34) – 3:48:51
October 5, 2013 – Leavenworth Oktoberfest Marathon (Leavenworth, WA, #33) – 3:56:41
August 24, 2013 – North Country Run 50-Miler (Manistee, MI) – DNF
May 11, 2013 – Ice Age Trail 50k (LaGrange, WI) – 5:16:45
April 20, 2013 – Garmin Marathon in the Land of Oz (Olathe, KS, #32) 3:46:18
April 14, 2013 – Cerros de Escazú Trail Run 21k (San José, Costa Rica) – 3:07:31
March 24, 2013 – NC Half Marathon (Charlotte, NC, #31) – 1:31:13
March 16, 2013 – Paleozoic Trail Run 25k (Willow Springs, IL) – 1:56:13
February 24, 2013 – Rock ‘n Roll New Orleans Marathon (New Orleans, LA, #30) – 3:23:12
January 13, 2013 – Walt Disney World Marathon (Lake Buena Vista, FL) – 3:38:40

2012 Race Reports (click for year-end recap)

December 15, 2012 – Hoover Dam Marathon (Lake Mead, NV, #29) – 3:35:47
November 18, 2012 – Williams Route 66 Marathon (Tulsa, OK, #28) – 3:27:01
October 21, 2012 – IMT Des Moines Marathon (Des Moines, IA, #27) – 3:25:12
September 30, 2012 – Run Crazy Horse Marathon (Hill City, SD, #26) 3:54:38
August 26, 2012 – Peapod Half Madness Half Marathon (Batavia, IL) – 1:36:14
August 18, 2012 – Leadville Trail 100 Crew (Leadville, CO)
July 22, 2012 – Madison Half Marathon (Gravelly Mountains, MT, #25) – 2:08:30
July 21, 2012 – Idaho Falls Half Marathon (Idaho Falls, ID, #24) – 1:47:22
July 8, 2012 – Media Maratón Correcaminos (San José, Costa Rica) – 1:40:57
June 16, 2012 – Grandma’s Marathon (Duluth, MN, #23) – 3:45:46
May 20, 2012 – Marine Corps Historic Half Marathon (Fredericksburg, VA, #22) – 1:32:01
May 5, 2012 – OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon (Indianapolis, IN) – 1:32:19
April 28, 2012 – Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon (Louisville, KY, #21) – 1:30:47
April 7, 2012 – Oak Barrel Half Marathon (Lynchburg, TN, #20) – 1:33:58
March 4, 2012 – Little Rock Marathon (Little Rock, AR, #19) – 3:39:05
February 12, 2012 – Mercedes-Benz Half Marathon (Birmingham, AL, #18) – 1:34:39
January 29, 2012 – ING Miami Half Marathon (Miami, FL) – 1:40:26
January 21, 2012 – Polar Dash Half Marathon (Chicago, IL) – 1:41:56

2011 Race Reports (click for year-end recap)

December 11, 2011 – Holiday Half Marathon (Pomona, CA) – 1:37:18
November 6, 2011 – ING New York City Marathon (New York, NY, #17) – 3:54:00
October 9, 2011 – Bank of America Chicago Marathon (Chicago, IL) – 3:57:16
October 1, 2011 – Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Relay (Lake Buena Vista, FL) – 2:00:42
September 4, 2011 – Tupelo Marathon (Tupelo, MS, #16) – 4:31:30
July 10, 2011 – XTERRA Trail Run (Columbia, SC, #15) – 2:34:43
June 26, 2011 – Stratton Faxon Fairfield Half Marathon (Fairfield, CT, #14) – 1:48:37
June 10 – 11, 2011 – Madison to Chicago Ragnar Relay (Madison, WI to Chicago, IL)
May 28, 2011 – Traverse City State Bank Bayshore Marathon (Traverse City, MI, #13) – 3:40:59
May 1, 2011 – Cincinnati Flying Pig Half Marathon (Cincinnati, OH, #12) – 1:37:24
April 17, 2011 – Horsetooth Half Marathon (Fort Collins, CO, #11) – 1:51:52
March 27, 2011 – Media Marathon Internacional Costa Rica (San José, Costa Rica) – 1:54:13
March 20, 2011 – Publix Georgia Half Marathon (Atlanta, GA, #10) – 1:39:56
February 20, 2011 – LIVESTRONG Austin Half Marathon (Austin, TX, #9) – 1:40:32
January 30, 2011 – ING Miami Half Marathon (Miami, FL) – 1:41:42

2010 Race Reports (click for year-end recap)

December 12, 2010 – Damascus Bakeries Tucson Half Marathon (Tucson, AZ, #8) – 1:32:06
October 10, 2010 – Bank of America Chicago Marathon (Chicago, IL) – 4:05:22
September 12, 2010 – Chicago Half Marathon (Chicago, IL) – 1:38:43
September 5, 2010 – Disneyland Half Marathon (Anaheim, CA, #7) – 1:38:40
August 21, 2010 – Madison Mini-Marathon (Madison, WI) – 1:44:29
August 1, 2010 – Rock ‘n Roll Chicago Half Marathon (Chicago, IL) – 1:49:06
June 13, 2010 – North Shore Half Marathon (Highland Park, IL, #6) – 1:41:01
May 30, 2010 – Boston’s Run to Remember (Boston, MA, #5) – 1:41:13
May 8, 2010 – OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon (Indianapolis, IN, #4) – 1:40:32
May 1, 2010 – Wisconsin Half Marathon (Kenosha, WI, #3) – 1:43:53
April 11, 2010 – Go! St. Louis Half Marathon (St. Louis, MO, #2) – 1:46:35
January 31, 2010 – ING Miami Half Marathon (Miami, FL, #1) – 1:57:09

2009 Race Reports (click for year-end recap)

October 11, 2009 – Bank of America Chicago Marathon (Chicago, IL) – 4:03:21
September 13, 2009 – Chicago Half Marathon (Chicago, IL) – 1:51:04
June 7, 2009 – 13.1 Marathon (Chicago, IL) – 1:47:58
May 17, 2009 – Magellan Developments Spring Half Marathon (Chicago, IL) – 1:49:34

By State

Alabama (#18)2012 Mercedes-Benz Half Marathon
Alaska
Arizona (#8)2010 Damascus Bakeries Tucson Half Marathon, 2015 Lost Dutchman  Marathon
Arkansas (#19)2012 Little Rock Marathon
California (#7)2010 Disneyland Half Marathon, 2011 Holiday Half Marathon
Colorado (#11) 2011 Horsetooth Half Marathon
Connecticut (#14) 2011 Stratton Faxon Fairfield Half Marathon
Delaware (#39)2014 Delaware Running Festival Marathon
Florida (#1) – 2010 ING Miami Half Marathon, 2011 ING Miami Half Marathon, 2011 Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Relay, 2012 ING Miami Half Marathon, 2013 Walt Disney World Marathon, 2014 Lifetime Miami Marathon, 2015 Lifetime Miami Half Marathon
Georgia (#10) – 2011 Publix Georgia Half Marathon
Hawaii
Idaho (#24) – 2012 Idaho Falls Half Marathon
Illinois (#6) – 2009 Chicago Spring Half Marathon, 2009 13.1 Marathon, 2009 Chicago Half Marathon, 2009 Bank of America Chicago Marathon, 2010 North Shore Half Marathon, 2010 Rock ‘n Roll Chicago Half Marathon, 2010 Chicago Half Marathon, 2010 Bank of America Chicago Marathon, 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon, 2012 Polar Dash Half Marathon, 2012 HalfMadness Half Marathon, 2013 Paleozoic Trail Run 25k, 2014 13.1 Marathon, 2014 Rock ‘n Roll Chicago Half Marathon, 2015 Rock ‘n Roll Chicago Half Marathon, 2016 Silurian Spring 25k, 2016 Rock ‘n Roll Chicago Half Marathon, 2016 Chicago Lakefront 50k
Indiana (#4)2010 OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon, 2012 OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon, 2014 Indianapolis Monumental Marathon, 2015 Veterans Marathon
Iowa (#27)2012 IMT Des Moines Marathon
Kansas (#32)2013 Garmin Marathon in the Land of Oz
Kentucky (#21)2012 Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon
Louisiana (#30)2013 Rock ‘n Roll New Orleans Marathon
Maine (#42)2014 Maine Half Marathon
Maryland (#38)2014 Maryland Half Marathon
Massachusetts (#5)2010 Boston’s Run to Remember
Michigan (#13)2011 Traverse City State Bank Bayshore Marathon, 2013 North Country Run 50-Miler
Minnesota (#23)2012 Grandma’s Marathon
Mississippi (#16)2011 Tupelo Marathon
Missouri (#2)2010 Go! St. Louis Half Marathon, 2014 Go! St. Louis Marathon
Montana (#25) – 2012 Madison Half Marathon
Nebraska (#45)2016 Omaha Marathon
Nevada (#29)2012 Hoover Dam Marathon
New Hampshire (#41)2014 New Hampshire Marathon
New Jersey (#47)2017 New Jersey Marathon
New Mexico (#37)2014 Shiprock Marathon
New York (#17) – 2011 ING New York City Marathon
North Carolina (#31)2013 NC Half Marathon
North Dakota (#43)2015 Fargo Marathon
Ohio (#12) 2011 Cincinnati Flying Pig Half Marathon, 2014 Air Force Marathon
Oklahoma (#28)2012 Williams Route 66 Marathon
Oregon (#34) – 2013 Portland Marathon
Pennsylvania (#36)2013 Philadelphia Marathon
Rhode Island (#46)2016 Newport Marathon
South Carolina (#15)2011 XTERRA Trail Run
South Dakota (#26)2012 Run Crazy Horse Marathon
Tennessee (#20)2012 Oak Barrel Half Marathon
Texas (#9)2011 LIVESTRONG Austin Half Marathon
Utah (#35)2013 Moab Trail Half Marathon
Vermont (#44)2016 Mad Marathon
Virginia (#22)2012 Marine Corps Historic Half Marathon
Washington (#33)2013 Leavenworth Oktoberfest Marathon
West Virginia
Wisconsin (#3)2010 Wisconsin Half Marathon, 2010 Madison Mini-Marathon, 2013 Ice Age Trail 50k, 2016 Ice Age Trail 50-Miler
Wyoming (#40)2014 Bighorn Wild & Scenic Trail 50k