Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Miami Tricks

Miami, January 2009: A naive group, diverse in age and race, crashes into South Beach for a weekend of fun, sun and oh yeah, a half marathon. The result: lots of fun, lots of sun, generally terrible race performances. Friday night was apparently too hard on us, and about half of the crew was unable to function following Sunday's race. We vowed to come back the next year and make it better.

Miami, January 2010: A huge group bombards Ocean Drive, intent on making it even sweeter than 2009. The result: fun (not as much as 09), questionable weather, even worse race performances. Seriously, what's going on?

Miami, January 2011: Our smallest and least diverse group yet descends upon Miami Beach for the third time, hoping it will, in fact, be the charm. Here's how it went...

Thursday - Arrive in MIA with Barf and Zero. Make our way to the hotel. Ricky Gervais guested in the opening of The Office, signifying how great the weekend was going to be. Following dinner we hit The Clevelander and the mojitos were flowing. Late night end up at Mansion where Busta Rhymes is performing, apparently it was Rick Ross' birthday and they were celebrating. Get home very, very late.

Friday - Beautiful day. Go for run, then Ocean's 10 for dinner and post-dinner fun. Band is kicking. Zero and I roll out and I end up not feeling so great at Johnny Rocket's around 2:30am.

Saturday - Following Dusty's 5k, we roll out to Everglades. Weather is unreal again. See some alligators and turtles. Get back to South Beach, go for shakeout run, then get dinner. Go to bed and prepare to wake up at 4am for 6:15 race start.


My goal for this race had always been quite simple: run under 1:23:00, therefore ensuring that if I want to sign up for NYC Marathon this year, I can do that. The last open half I ran was actually this race back in 2009. I ran 1:22:37, and was in better shape than I am in now. That year, I was a Miami rookie and the weekend proved too much for me to do well. Last year I only did two races over the half marathon distance - the 1:33 I ran at Hunterdon Half and the marathon at Arizona. I was feeling much better about running in the fall. Since the ironman, I've not been running well. I did 3 races of 5, 5 and 3 miles, and was not under 6 minute pace for any of them. Then I did the PHUNT Run "20k" which killed me. I have not been right since. My left foot hurts so bad all the time I can barely walk, and I know it's the mechanics and overcompensation from my knee that are to blame.

I went from thinking I'd run 1:23 to now believing I wouldn't run faster than 1:25, and that I could very likely just end up running 1:30. Then, after going out so hard on both Thursday and Friday nights, there was absolutely no way I was going to run anything good.

Still, I came into the race with a goal, and I was determined to put myself in the best position to achieve it. I knew that meant not going out in my typical first mile fashion, as well as drinking water at every possible stop. We arrived at the race just after 5am and walked over to the start. It's a long walk, but you can hear the beats the entire time. Went for a warmup with Zero and my brother, and then got into the incredibly crowded corral. All around us were people who should not have been anywhere near the start of a race. The gun sounded at 6:20am and after 8 seconds I crossed the start line. It's so dark at that point that it really is dangerous - there are people darting and weaving and pushing. The first quarter mile channels you onto the bridge, which is one of two significant hills in the race. I ran this part as easy as I could, but coming off the bridge saw the 1 mile mark and looked at my watch with dismay - 6:26.

That was pretty slow, and as I contemplated needing to average about 6:19 per mile, I was concerned. But not defeated. I kept calm and bridged gaps to the people ahead of me. The Causeway at that time of day is awesome. It's quiet and peaceful, and lit solely by the lights of the cruise ships. Mile 2 came faster than expected, as I passed it in 5:48 (12:14). Hmm. I figured the two had just offset each other, and then decided I would just run this effort and whatever the mile splits were, that's what they were.

Mile 3, just before the bridge into South Beach, was 6:26 again (18:40) but the 5k mark was right behind it (19:07). I stormed into South Beach and mile 4 mark seemed again pretty quick (5:54/24:35). I was doing a great job drinking water at every stop, and was quite comfortable in my pace. You head to the end of the island (the last road, at least) and then turn down to Ocean Drive and come up that. This is a cool part of the race, as you run alongside the beach as the sun is starting to pop up, and you go past some places that have just closed so there are random people littering the streets. The 5 mile mark is right in front of where we stayed last year (Colony) and I passed that in 30:35 (5:59 mile).

I was doing pretty well, I thought, as my 5 mile races in November and December were 30:15 and 30:17. But I also remembered that mile 6 is where the wheels started to come off in the 2009 version of this race. And again, this caused some concern as I hit it in 6:22 (10k split was a little over 38). I arrived in the neighborhood - the beginning of my least favorite part of the race - at mile 7 in 43:06 (6:08). I wanted to really focus on 7-10, as I figured if I could bank some time here, it would help me if I fell apart with a mile or two to go.

Including that mile 7 mark, I went 6:08, 6:10, 6:12, 6:13, coming through 10 miles in 1:01:42. That left me with about 21 minutes to run my last 5k, and I felt like that was good. At this point in the race you're running what seems to be generally uphill and have to cross a few bridges that have grates - very uncomfortable grates. You also run through a toll booth, which is very random. Mile 11 is where you get back into downtown Miami, and right before you hit the ING cheering section I hit my watch and saw 6:04. Either it was wrong, or I was pumped up by the crazy group clad in orange and the beats that the DJs were bumping.

Now I felt more than confident that, with 2.1 miles to go, I could run at least 7 minute miles. And that's basically what I did. Mile 12 was 6:21, which was probably what I was actually running at that point, and then mile 13, where I began to shut down, was 6:58. 41 second last tenth and I cross the line in 1:21:49.

I refuse to get excited for running a time that, before I got hurt, would not have posed a challenge, but I will accept this time as having achieved my goal for the race. I had worn my brand new K-Swiss flats and that caused a blister of great significance to develop on my left foot. It was causing a tremendous amount of pain as I attempted to walk around. At the finish line, Zero awaited me. He had finished in 1:20:08 - a 3+ minute PR for him. A short while later, my brother came through in the fastest time he's run in Miami by 5 minutes. Then, foolishly running the marathon was Barf. His pre-race goal was to go under 2:55 (PR is 3:08). He wanted to negative split. He accomplished both, running an unbelievable 2:51:21. Truly one of the greatest performances I've ever seen.

It had turned into the nicest day of the weekend and we took a cab (after walking a long time to get one) straight to Johnny Rocket's. Chomped up some food, hit the beach for a few hours after that, where I got real burned, and then went to Wet Willie's. All in all it had been a great weekend. Monday, before we rolled to the airport, we walked to the end of the island and soaked it in before heading back to 30 degrees, overcast skies and snow.


In an attempt to grade myself on my level of training for the month of January, here is how I fared:

Swimming - D. I made it into the pool just 6 times for a grand total of 15,000m. In the summer I was swimming that in 3 days, and did it 5 times a week. I lost a ton of fitness, and after swimming for the better part of two years, don't really want to do it anymore.

Cycling - B+. I'll say this because at least I rode. My general equation is that I award myself 17 miles for 60 minutes of being on the trainer, and 25 miles for 90 minutes. I was riding well this month, doing some good workouts and mostly riding for 90 minutes. But, I didn't get outside at all. Not even once. The temps have been super cold and the roads are shit right now. Using my calculations I was at 212 miles, which is 2 more than I did last January. Again, that's like 2 days of riding for me in the summer, but for January, it's better than 0.

Running - B. I ran 181 miles this January. Last year I ran 38. The year before was 246. But prior to that, I hovered between 138 and 173. Therefore, I am pleased with the volume of running, but the quality was not great. I have felt like garbage for over a month, my runs have been slow, I did just the one workout and then the one race. My left foot's plantar fasciitis is becoming debilitating, and I don't know how February is going to pan out. But, it was a good start to the year.

I averaged just under 10 hours per week of training. This is low, but a reasonable amount for the time of year. Considering I haven't lived in my own house in over two weeks, and am living out of a backpack, I have to cut myself a marginal amount of slack. February will hopefully turn around a little bit. Only race I have this month is Club Challenge, if I am able to run it.