The Rock 'n' Roll Miami Beach ½ marathon was a great experience. The unique course offered spectacular views of the city and ocean and a few challenging inclines over the bridges of the Julia Tuttle and MacArthur Causeways. My wife and I took Friday and Monday off and made a vacation of the long weekend. My little sister from Tampa, her man and a friend joined us making the weekend even more epic. This was my sisters fifth half marathon and the others first. She is a true ambassador to the sport, recruiting two former college football stars to the world of distance running. It was a great crew and Miami offered endless possibilities beyond racing.
|Post race recovery on the beach|
The trip to the start line race day was entertaining to say the least. The night party scene was just winding down as we made it to ocean drive. Temperatures were near 80˚F and some strong winds on the order of 20 mph had blown in. The day before the race we all went for a short 20 minute run where the heat led me to revise my expectations for the race downward. I have been training in the 20˚F - 40˚F band of temperatures, a whole different animal. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to trade the 10˚F race day weather back home for Miami.
|At this point the heat left me feeling like my brain was too big for my skull|
I started farther back in the first corral than I should have and had to creatively maneuver to find some space after the start. I thought I went out too fast but I must have been downright conservative in comparison to the rest of the field as it wasn't until the 5k that I stopped passing runners and settled into a space that I neither caught nor passed anyone. At this point in the race the heat was an overwhelming factor. I drank water at every station and had soaked my clothes with sweat. I have done 20 milers in the cold without a drink of water in comparison.
|The love of my life on her way to a successful run following a metatarsal fracture|
The first 5k featured the best bands of the run. At the 5k the singer from Amanda Zero said “it’s a good day to run a fucking marathon”. I have to agree with her sentiment though it was only a half marathon. Pace was a useless metric in the heat and I was keeping an eye on my heart rate and perceived effort – throttling back when I got too ambitious. The first bridge of the Julia Tuttle Causeway showcased my new found ability to race hills without getting owned. I feel my focus on aerobic training has made me a much stronger hill runner in a very short time. I cannot explain the mechanism behind it.
|My sister in the final miles|
It was fun to take the long downhill from the bridge and reach mainland Miami. It is not every day that law enforcement shuts down roads for running and I enjoyed the spectacle laid out before me. A lot of runners began to fade before the half way point of the race as I began passing in force again. I was happy to be applying the lessons I learned in a previously failed ½ marathon in similar conditions on this day. Examination of my splits without context would suggest a poor race but under the conditions it was a steady effort getting stronger.
|My sister taught me when a girl passes a guy it is called "getting chicked" She was a fierce and talented competitor who stayed with me to the last mile but I am happy to say I did not get chicked.|
Mainland Miami was a nice break from the heat. The wind provided subtle relief without resistance and there were plenty of water stops and people spraying hoses. Turning back to Miami Beach on the MacArthur Causeway I was greeted by the strongest headwind I have ever run into, and it was uphill. The wind would be the main factor for the final 5 miles. For reasons unknown to me my cadence drops when running into strong winds. The one regret I have from this race it is not maintaining my cadence, I broke into a slight over stride from this point forward. The loss in efficiency likely cost me a minute or two and led to increased risk of injury.
There were some long deserted stretches in here and the sun made a prolonged appearance. I always find when races are divided mentally into fourths it is that third leg that is always the most challenging. Add in wind, elevation, sun, and it took a lot of focus. People kept fading and I kept pushing past. I went for broke and pushed my heart rate near its max for the remainder of the race.
|Crossing the finish line and happy to be there|
I was thrilled to turn onto the final stretch and picked up quite a few spots in the last mile. Runners were strung out in front of me and I had no real understanding of how large or small the field ahead of me was. I was very surprised to learn my 1:32:24 effort placed me as high as it did in a field that included national elites. A conservative estimate would subtract 6.8% from everyone’s race times under optimal conditions. Details are on Garmin Connect.
|1456 men and 2224 women competed in the event|
Almost a year ago I ran my first half marathon on little training after coming back from injury. It was an incredibly difficult effort and a horribly desperate recovery in the week that followed. I loved the challenge and committed to improving. Under far more challenging conditions than my first half marathon I improved by close to 20 minutes. As this race brings the 2011 race season to a close for me I look forward to what 2012 will bring.
There is a reason the Rock n Roll race series is popular and it is because they put on one of a kind, well organized events of high quality and reasonable value. I would do another race in the series.