Where did A1A go?

The phone rang at 4:17 with an automated wake up call that I did not order and which stole 28 minutes of my sleep that I lost again in a relatively equal portion on the race course. I feel for the person who missed his/her wake up call .. not.

It was a still and dark morning but for the downtown lights from night still burning. Bartenders and waitresses were sweeping up the debris from the nocturnal people I never saw this day.

I walked the half mile to the start area and sat on a wall. How warm was it already? Did I really need a shirt? I stretched. I listened to the chatter. I stayed still and calm. I surveyed the scene.

I stripped off my shirt, stuffed it in my check bag and threw it in the box for runners 200-400. I moseyed on down the street looking for my pace time marker. I strolled through the thin trim whippets and found the older, more human runners back in the 9 and 10 minute mile pace lanes.

The sax player pipped out the national anthem. Twice. Amp problems. I spotted the 4:30 pace group leader. I imagined he might be the right man to follow.

My training times since early January were nothing short of sizzling for me. I had developed aspirations of bettering my PR by up to 15 minutes which would put me in Mr. 4:30's company. He looked better than Mr. 4:45 and had a good little crowd around him.

6 a.m. Off went the chairs and hand cycles. Then it was our turn. My shoes felt loose. I thought I might have needed to visit the port-o-let. I imagined niggling issues that went away when I started running.

After one mile Mrs. T surprised me by being up, dressed and on the street to take my picture. I had left her for bed, not expecting to see her until around 10:30. That was a nice surprise.

I stuck with Mr. 4:30 for another mile. He was going out fast I thought trying to make up the three minute lag time from gun to mat crossing. I hung in.

At mile three we turned north along A1A right next to the beach. You could see it all clearly as foreground to the Florida sunrise. I started to relax my shoulders and run evenly. I kept my breathing low and slow.

Time and miles started to pass. I felt fantastic. My splits were staying even and I had gotten in front of Mr. 4:30 by an unknown distance. At Mile 6 the half marathoners split off (3,200 of them) leaving a long thin string of 700 marathoners to continue north. I started to ID my brethren and sistahs with whom I would spend the next three plus hours.

I ran through water stops while others stopped to walk and drink. I grabbed the drink and pinched the top and took on fluids. I was running like the Purple Runner and still ahead of Mr. 4:30. I felt so good I began to think I could beat 4:30. I did not feel taxed at all.

We passed through Lauderdale-by-the-Sea and reached Pompano Beach. The turn around at 13 miles was near. I was still running even splits and had no idea where Mr. 4:30 was.

On the return trip the clouds started to blow offshore and the temps were rising. I slowed slightly to adjust. I figured I had been smart to take advantage of the "cooler" temps early in the race to cover some miles quickly.

At mile 17 I finally walked through a water stop to eat my bloks and have a drink. Every mile required fluids and they were well stocked, thank goodness.

Mr. 4:30 was supposed to go at 10:18 mile pace. I had done each of Miles 1-13 in slightly less. 14-16 were more like 10:45 pace and I started calculating how many miles I could go before he caught me. My Garmin had given me weird readings since the turnaround. It seemed that an extra 0.2 miles had snuck into the course because Garmin and mile markers were not synching.

In Mile 17 I had a bad time that was almost 12 minutes. I may have been confused with the Garmin and mile markers. Regardless, Mr. 4:30 caught me. I chatted with him; asked if he was on or off pace. He said five minutes behind. Uhhh! I stuck with him for half a mile then let him go. I caught back up at the next water stop as he waited on a runner with him. I was doing 11:30 miles.

He took off. I did not. I started calculating how much slower than him could I afford and still PR (sub 4:46). I figured the math would distract me from the growing agony. I took some aspirin somewhere along the line, kept eating bloks and raisins plus alternating doses of Gatorade and water.

Where did A1A go? The 20th mile was not pretty and neither were any of the rest of them. At mile 22 I thought by geography that I was close to the finish. I had done a poor study of the course map because we were routed inland a short stretch to a park that was shady but deserted and quiet. I thought it was maybe a very short loop but it seemed to never end - two miles worth. The eerie solitude of the winding wood whispered to me to walk if I saw anyone else doing likewise. It was desolate, never-ending and mind sapping.

We emerged from the park with two miles to go. We were back on A1A. I shuffled along running "just to the next crosswalk," then walking a spell. Then I lectured myself some more on fighting through the pain. I was losing. I saw my PR disappear and then reset my sights on sub 5:00.

I almost missed the last turn to the home stretch. A finished runner strolling back up-course set me straight. I could now see the finish line a quarter mile away. I expected Mrs. T would appear soon so I kept moving "briskly." She had coaxed some fellow spectators to cheer me in. I smiled for the camera one more time and burst across the finish line like a turtle. 5:01:07.

Oh well. I finished. I felt great for a long distance but I overestimated my abilities and condition. I walled out and was psyched out.

We took finish line photos, grabbed some food and limped to the water's edge to allow the salt water waves to wash toxins out of my sore body. From there we found the car with a few stops to stretch out cramps, then went back to the hotel and down to the pool.

Now you know the rest of the story.

Beach photo above was taken on the wet and windy next day.


Mia Goddess said...

I happen to like turtles, quite a bit. :) Sounds like the first half was fantastic and the second half sucked... actually, that sounds a lot like a marathon! You look happy and lean and perfectly capable of pr'ing in your near future.

Runner Susan said...

Being a turtle myself, I like them quite a bit too.

Why is it that your race reports sound like well-written stories and mine seem like I hired a 4-year-old to write them. That really isn't fair, ya know.

Have you picked the next race?

David said...

Next race may be a 5K tomorrow. Does that count?

This race report simmered for five days like a good stew. All the flavors came together and it flowed. I had a lot more I could have reflected on but let it go.

I mostly needed my Pacer Susan to keep me right.

robtherunner said...

I always enjoy a tale that ends bitter, but not because I wish misery upon others, but because I know that the triumph will be all that much sweeter. I enjoyed the recap and look forward to the next one.

Joe said...

Excellent write up. I was with you all the way.

Yes, it takes several days for such a race summary to stew and be ready for public consumption.

As I mentioned in my email, I can't tell you how very, very similar your experience was to mine at Rocket City in December. All the mental games, as the target slips away, inexorably, in the last few miles.

And you did it. You are a multiple marathoner.


Darrell said...

How quickly the tide can turn. Find the lesson if there is one to be found and move on to the next one.

Just12Finish said...

If that pic of you isn't whippet-ty, I must be a walrus.

Congrats again! Another race, another lesson in running marathons. Nothing like the real thing.

Hey, how about some medal pics?

jeanne said...

david, i have to shield my eyes. you're a married man!

i'm sorry you didn't meet your goal, but i know you will the next time. I KNOW YOU WILL.

do you think it's wise to run shirtless like that? doesn't it end up making you hotter--all that skin exposed to the sun? all that hot, sweaty, manly skin? speaking of hotter...must...go...lay...down...now...

21stCenturyMom said...

That was a hard one but you got it done! And as good as you look shirtless you probably would do better wearing something to protect you from the sun.

Nice report - congratulations!

peter said...

This is a great post. David, you look really fit (thank you Ms. T. for showing that). That's why we run. You'll get 'em next time (there's always a next time til whenever). Don't sweat the last miles, those are really hard in the heat. When there's a run on your time in the bank, well, it's like on Black Friday in 1929, they're lined up for their credits to no end in sight. Think of a better marathon next spring (better running weather--National Marathon, yeah!).

David said...

Calm down Jeanne. We put on sun screen in Florida as regularly as Northerners put on their underwear.

Maddy said...

I'm sorry this wasn't the race you wanted... But the report was amazing!

I thinking PR for you (and me too) in Chicago.

I hope to see you at the WPRR.

That will be a good time!

Rae said...

Great job! It sounds like a pretty (and warm!) race!!! So what's next, anything before Chicago??

Anonymous said...

Hey! great job and keep up the good work. I wish I could run as much as you can =(

By the way, if you want to improve even more, I heard about this new product on the market called Alternative Energy, from Function Drinks. I do Jiu-Jitsu and it really helps me out on the training sessions, especialy on the intensive ones. Take care and good luck on your marathons!