The 12 hours prior to the start of the race were a little chaotic. Shannon and I shacked up Saturday night by the Miami airport. That afternoon, we decided to take a “dry run” and head into the city. The objective was to get a little more familiar with where we would park in the morning, as well as give Shannon an idea where she could hang out during the race. We also wanted to check out and get a bite to eat in the Bayside marketplace. Our drive in was pretty easy and we found the parking garage listed on the Marathon website as a race morning option. We then continued on to the marketplace and before long it was a zoo. Not only was there the marathon runner crowd but there was also a Miami Heat basketball game downtown. As I was trying to find a place to park, a guy motioned that there was something wrong in the front of my vehicle. I looked out and noticed I had a flat tire on the rental car. Nice. So I pulled into a bus parking zone to change it. After getting the spare tire on, we parked and had dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. Shannon and I aren’t necessarily fans of theme restaurants and were hoping to get a taste of some local flavor, but we didn't have time to spare. Dinner at Hard Rock was good however and we felt comfortable with where we needed to go in the morning. So we headed back to our hotel and made plans for Avis to meet us there at 8:30 PM and provide us with a new car. Avis unfortunately didn't show up until after 10 PM! They sent over flat bed truck with a new rental. I figured they would a dude drive over a new car and drive mine back. Instead it was a major production in the parking lot with rotating lights, a beeping truck and a cuban dude yelling "Avis no give me inforn-mation!" So after getting that taken care of I finally headed off to bed. However, the jumbo jets that just about scrapped their landing gear on the hotel roof made it difficult to ease into a tranquil relaxed state. If you watch the TV show Lost, it was like the opening scene of the series played over every 15 minutes.
Here’s how close the planes were to the hotel:
In addition to the air show outside, there was a presumably large individual stomping around all night in the room above us. The hotel was clean, the upgraded suite we had was awesome, the proximity to the race was great, but now I know why the room rate was so cheap! So Shannon and I rested in bed for a few hours, but wouldn't exactly call it sleep. Shannon said to me "Heck you slept in a sack suspended between trees in the woods before the VT ultra. This shouldn't be bad for you." Good point.
At 4 AM on race morning we received our wake up call, got ready and headed out. As we approached the street we needed to turn onto to get to the parking garage we had scouted out, we noticed the road was blocked off. Uh oh, we can't get there from here! We noticed some runners parking on the street, so we looked over to scope things out. As Shannon looked out her window she got a full view of a skinny, pasty white, guy's ass. Nice! Dude was changing right there by his car. As Shannon worked to remove that visual from her brain, we followed the traffic which routed us away from our planned parking area. Immediately there was gridlock and confusion as nobody looked like they knew where they were going. So I asked a cop how to get back to the garage listed on the race web site. "You can't!!" he yells back. Ok, thanks douche! The traffic was jammed up trying to go straight so I ditched off into the right lane and went the way no one else was going. It was a great decision. It took me right to a parking lot next to the Bank of America tower. It was perfect. It was only a 10-minute walk to the start and just a few blocks away from the finish. It also was right next to the on ramp to the highway. We really couldn't have planned it any better.
Finally, Shannon and I made our way to the start and I lined up in the first coral behind the seeded runners. The race started right in front of the American Airlines Arena which looked pretty cool in the dark lit up with neon lights.
I decided my race strategy would be to hang for awhile with Bruce, the 3:20 (7:37 Pace) pacer, and then break from the group, pick up the pace and go for a 3:15 (7:26 Pace) finish time. The temperature at the start felt comfortable in the mid 60’s. It only took me 30 seconds after the gun went off to cross the starting line. With over 10,000 runners it was crowded the first few miles of the race. Starting out in the dark at 6:15 AM was pretty cool. The beginning of the race routed us past the Port of Miami where many cruise ships were lit up and provided nice scenery. The first mile was casual at an 8:15 pace. I picked it up after that and hit the 10K point in 47:23 for an average pace of 7:37. Around mile 8 Bruce said he had to make a bathroom stop, so he handed me the stick with the balloons used to identify a pacer. I must’ve picked up the pace a bit because I heard a runner in the pack say “He’s not running the pace!” I guess they were correct, because from the 10K point to the 13.1 mile point, my average pace was 7:19. Bruce caught back up, took back the stick and we pushed on. At 10.5 miles there was an ING fan cheering zone. For a quarter mile, there were spectators all dressed in orange, waving pom poms, clanging cow bells, banging thunder sticks, screaming and cheering. It was awesome and provided a boost! I crossed the half marathon mark at 1:37:49 for an overall average pace of 7:27. I was only 38 seconds behind a goal of a 3:15 finish. I saw Shannon at the halfway point and gave her reassuring thumbs up.
I felt good but wanted to ensure that I stayed that way so I eased up a bit. At mile 15 I missed snagging an energy gel. There were so many people grabbing for gels at the same time my hand didn’t come out of the scrum with one. Bruce however, noticed I didn’t get one, so he sacrificed his and gave it to me. Thanks! Perhaps I slowed up a little too much over this stretch, since my pace over the next 5.5 miles was only 7:33 per mile. So after reaching the 30K mark in 2:19:43 (Overall pace of 7:29), I was now 1 ½ minutes behind the 3:15 finish goal. Uh oh, time to pick it up. At mile 25.5 there’s an incline up this small bridge. It was just enough to break my rhythm and cause a struggle. As I hit this point Bruce caught up to me and provided some much needed words of encouragement. (I’m not sure what happened to the 3:20 group he was pacing?) He stayed with me and made sure I continued over that crest and finished strong. As I came around the final corner and had 100 yards to the finish, I saw Shannon cheering on the side. The look on her face was priceless. She the expression of "Holy crap he did it!" I think she was more excited than I was. I ended up running the final 7.5 miles at a pace of 7:17 and crossed the line in 3:14:46 for an overall average pace of 7:26. Overall I finished in 117th place out of 2,714 runners. Finishing in under 3:15 is a PR for me and qualifies me to run the Boston Marathon. I registered today!
It all came together for me in this race. I trained hard and came into the race well prepared. The weather provided perfect running conditions. I had Shannon as an excellent support crew. I didn’t start out to fast and kept things in check throughout the race. I utilized the aid stations and kept hydrated. And then Bruce (the 3:20 pacer), sacrificed a gel for me and provided some words of encouragement to finish strong. As they say “Every dog has his day.” This past Sunday in Miami, it was mine.