Thursday, December 29, 2011

Triple Crown

An invite to Miami Beach for a seminar triggered the Florida racing calendar check. Two possibilities: Mangrove Marathon in Cape Coral, and Inaugural Latin Music Rock and Roll Half Marathon in Miami Beach.

Because Florida’s heat, I was hesitant to register in either one of them. I have faced most of the weather elements, having run in snow, hail, 60mph winds, 20F… but I have never run this distance at high 70’s. Though I know I needed to run slower, I was concerned and fearful of dehydration, hyponatremia, and all those things related to a hot day race. Specially, because when you are a Seattle inhabitant, you never experience situations like those, and not knowing how to deal with them really worried me.

Mangrove Marathon was tempting. I could check Florida in my 50 states quest as complete. But logistically, it wasn’t too appealing. Race location was 2.5 hours of where I was staying while Rock & Roll Half was at 2 miles. Also, as I am training for Houston (January 15th) I want to put all my efforts on Texas. It seemed a no brainer.

In order to triumph over my “heat” fears, I clicked the register button the last day of online registration with the note to self: Go and Learn It. As a “heart rate strategy” runner I should not be too concerned as the effort should dictate my run and pace.

During my Miami visit, I took the opportunity to visit close friends from childhood, high school and college. I had a fantastic time. On Saturday my good friend Chucho and his wife China took me to the expo at the beach (first shock) to pick up my packet. It was a nice afternoon at high 70’s with a nice ocean breeze; nice for a stroll by the beach but not sure for running a 13.1. After the expo, they invited me to my carboloading dinner and dropped me at my hotel. I prepared all my racing gear, bib, chip, and after a shower, went to bed with the normal non-sleep hours before a worrisome race.

Race start was scheduled at 7 am, so I left my hotel at 5:45 and jogged the 2 miles to get there. When I arrived I was drenched. It was 77 F/25C. If this was at dawn, I could not imagine how it would be when the sun came out.

I had half a bagel and a banana, talked to some locals, joined the Half Fanatics for the photo, went to the bathroom (nice ones in the lifeguards’ headquarters) and at 6:45 am went to my corral, #3. Worth to mention that I didn’t recognize a single face (imagine that). After the national anthem and the announcement that Shalane Flanagan was among the elite running the course, Celia Cruz’s song “La Vida es un Carnaval” hit the speakers, to prepare for the start of the race. This song is a salsa song that my son and I always dance together. I definitely was in a Latin Music Race and felt moved. Back to my roots.

3 minutes after the first wave we were set to go. The race started in South Beach, 11th & Ocean Drive. We turned left to go over to Washington St. I was absorbing everything I could absorb from the pretty urban development that Miami Beach has become. I was trying to drop my heart rate to 150 but was stuck at 162. I could be in trouble if I didn’t get it down, but it was really hard to achieve. At mile 2 I am still in 160, and I knew what was coming would not be pretty. In my climate, I normally run the first 3 miles at ~80% between 148 - 152. Here I am at 88% in a hot race just at the beginning with a slower pace. We turned on pretty Alton Road, to direct ourselves to I-195 to go towards Miami City. This is the first time ever that I ran on a freeway. Though the extreme right lane was closed and reserved to runners, I was very cautious and wondering what would happen if a distracted driver, driving at 70 mph, swirled the steering wheel.

This portion of the freeway (causeway), over Biscayne Bay, was nevertheless beautiful. Miami City skyline to the left, and the gorgeous bay to the right. Miles 4 to 6 were good, I got a sort of impulse and ran those miles really good. We took exit 2B and entered in 2nd Av. Though it was not an attractive area, it had a lot of volunteers and people cheering for us. Volunteers had hoses connected to fire hydrants so we could just take a quick shower and refresh ourselves. At mile 7 I started to feel spent. Heat had got me, and I needed to slow down more.

The run took us through the Arts District of Miami City, and I continued absorbing the architecture, the landscaping and everything so different from my home town. Just before mile 10 we climbed the A1A, another freeway (causeway) that would take us back to Miami Beach. Here we ran with the nice view of cruise ships, Watson, Star Palm and Hibiscus Islands.  After leaving the viaduct over the water, we entered back in Alton Road, for the final mile. I felt that sense of satisfaction. I was about 10 minutes slower of my regular range, but that was not as bad as I thought. When we got to Ocean Drive with 1st street, I knew it was now one kilometer to go, and indeed the 20K sign was there. Finish line was located at the beach by Ocean Drive and 6th, so 6 more blocks, and I would have a hot half in my pocket. At 5th my heart was pumping, and though I had my max heart rate of 183 I was not able to get the speed that I normally get at the end of my Halfs in cool weather. My pace was 10:20, which was pretty good considering the new experience. I saw the crowd; we left the street, to start running on the beach, sand beneath my feet. I crossed the line at 2:23 getting 14th place out of 87. Got my rock and roll medal, and as my third Rock and Roll of 2011 (Arizona, Seattle, Miami) I got the Triple Crown.

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