Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Ottawa Race Weekend was again this year an amazing event. I am always amazed by the amount of crowd support and the sheer number of runners participating in the various events. This was the first year that I was part of the Ottawa FrontRunners and they have a tradition of meeting up before and after the race as well as a delicious post race BBQ.

The weather forecast for the day had been all over the place the week leading to the event. Anything from sun and cloud with a high of 22 to thunderstorms and 32 with humidex had been forecasted. The weather at the start of the race was muggy and humid and around 20 degrees. I met with the runners from the club before the race for a bit of friendly competitive chatter and group shot and then quickly headed to the start line. Now I'm not sure why this happens every year but the corrals were too full and there was no room to squeeze in where I needed to be. I wasn't really racing this race so I didn't worry but even at the 2:00 pace area it was still very busy. Maybe the race marshals should ensure that runners take their appropriate place in the corrals or plan for more room if runners are all registering for the same corrals. Then 1:30 to 2:00 corral could probably also be split up in at least 2 or 3 larger corrals.

The gun quickly fired and a few minutes later I crossed the start line where my mom was waiting to wish me good luck! The new route continued down Laurier instead of going to Parliament hill and while I missed seeing the hill, it made the race feel a lot more urban to go through the downtown core. Lots of supporters were lining the street on Laurier as well. We quickly reached the turning point on Lyon and a bit later turned on Somerset on our way to Chinatown. The runners were not really thinning out and I was a bit faster than the runners around me so I continued to zig zag to keep a decent pace. The arch in Chinatown was a nice sight to see, I have never crossed it on foot from the middle of the street before :) I was surprised there weren't more members of the Chinese community cheering, maybe it was too early? I started to get a bit hot but at least the sun wasn't out so I knew that if I kept hydrated I would be fine.

After Chinatown we headed across Little Italy where the families were out in full force. I always get this really friendly feeling when I visit this part of town, as if everyone knows or want to know everyone else :) The runners were starting to thin out a little bit and it got really comfortable as we started heading to Hintonburg. This was definitively the neighborhood were the community came out in the largest number. The sidewalks on both sides of the street were lined with coffee toting families with strollers, dogs and all manners of signs and balloons. That's where my friends from FoodiePrints were waiting for me with a charming and very encouraging sign bearing my name! I was so happy to see them I crossed from the right side to the left and almost tripped over a police car! Sadly they didn't take a picture of that event, it would have been a funny race pic :)

We then went along the stretch that I was dreading a little bit. I knew that the crowd support would be thinner along the Ottawa Parkway. Thankfully a lot of the runner's support crew knew this as well and the parkway was not as lonely as I had feared. I remember one DJ station where the booming beats could be heard from a few hundred meters before reaching the top of the hill, that gave me quite a boost. Heading into Gatineau, a light mist started refreshing the runners. I looked at my time and knew that even though I wasn't racing I was doing really well. I had slowly picked the 2 hours pace bunnies and the 1h50 had also been reeled in. Could I do the same for the 1h40? Once the mist turned to water I realized that I could go for it without being afraid of blowing up and started picking up the pace a little bit. Coming back into Ottawa, I saw my good friend Thiago cheering runners on and taking pictures. Another refreshing boost! Every time I see a friendly face cheering for me along a course, it gives me extra incentive to run fast, little did I know what was in store later. Going down Colonel By I saw the members from the Ottawa FrontRunners toting cameras and cheering club members as they went by. They took this amazing picture of me, I think it may be my best ever running picture so far.
After getting a boost from the FrontRunners, I also saw my mom and her boyfriend cheering for me just a little bit after. I knew I was doing well and I could finish strong and looking at my watch I realized that my laid back goal of 1h50 was actually way too conservative. If I kept the pace I would break 1h40. My competitive side got the best of me and I increase the pace even higher. It was nice to turn at Pretoria instead of having to go all the way to Bronson. After the turn I pretty much entered my finish sprint. I had loads of gas in the tank so there was no use holding back. I passed a lot of people in the finishing chute and felt like a superstar. I finished with a time of 1h38 and some change. Not a personal record but a new personal course record for Ottawa if there is such a thing.
I met up with the rest of the FrontRunners and found out that my training Nemesis, Mark, had finished with a shorter time than I did. I'll have to get him in a rematch even if he is considering retiring while he is ahead :)

Looking at the speed chart, we can clearly see how my progression went as the race went by. I got faster and faster until the final sprint.

Thanks to all the volunteers, supporters and runners that participated in this weekend's activities. There is something about large races that make running even more fun :)

Oh yeah, I forgot to say I signed up for the ScotiaBank Toronto Waterfront Marathon at the Race Expo. I guess I have to start training for real this time. In the estimated finish time slot, I wrote down 3:05 which would be a BQ for Boston 2013. Hopefully writing it down makes it happen, I will put in the training required over the summer :)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ottawa Race Weekend

Ottawa Race Weekend is almost here. I've been really quiet on the blog lately but if you follow me on Twitter or FaceBook, you will know that I suffered another respiratory infection about three weeks ago, this time a Pneumonia. I got a new treatment of antibiotics and it seems to have cleared up quite well. I ran on Sunday and again on Tuesday and today so I'm feeling up to the challenge of a Half Marathon.

My race plan is not to race :) I will enjoy the new route and spectate as I run through some of Ottawa's most interesting neighborhoods. I am not expecting a PR, not even close. I hope to squeak in under 1h50m but even then if I don't meet that goal I won't be sad.

If you are in Ottawa let me know through a tweet, comment or FaceBook message. I'm having a pasta dinner at my place on Saturday and we could meet up before the race, I always enjoy meeting fellow bloggers.

As I plan the rest of my year, I'm looking back at this blog and wondering what to do with it. I really enjoyed sharing my training journey with you guys but time is getting really short here between all the various pressures of life. I will try to keep the blog alive, at least for race reports and some more general observations about running but I do not think it' s possible for me to produce the number of posts I used to. Thanks for being readers throughout the year and cheering me through some difficult times and I hope I was able to share some of my success and joy with you all. I suggest you follow me on Twitter or become my friend on FaceBook if you want to be kept up to date with my training. I will be picking a fall marathon (maybe tomorrow at the Expo if there are good deals) and will be planning to break my 3h19m time then. Hopefully I can BQ and/or BG (Boston Guarantee, it's a new term I made up, I should write an entry about that some day) which would be a BQ - 20 minutes to make sure I can be one of the first to register.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Back to training

As much fun as the post PB high is, I realize that I have another race in exactly a month from today where I want to PB again so I had to go back to training. I am not quite sure how to train for a half marathon anymore. Should I just take my marathon training and cut it in half? I like the long distance tempo runs too much to do that! At the same time, summer is around the corner and my bike is a very appealing alternative to the bus system to get around so my training will not be completely focused on running this year :) Summer is also a very social season so hopefully I'll find a way to continue to squeeze my training in, for now it's been a bit of on and off where I cancel some of the planned sessions in favor of happy hours and dinner with friends...

Here is the training I have completed since the Half in Montreal:
  • Tuesday 19 - Tempo run with Ottawa Front Runners - 10km in 46:54
  • Thursday 21 - Speed training with Ottawa Front Runners - Fast laps at ~4m/km, recovery at 5m/km
  • Sunday 24 - 20km bike commute to Easter dinner - 49:38
  • Monday 25 - 20km bike commute from Easter dinner - 46:19
  • Tuesday 26 - Tuesday run with Ottawa Front Runners (wet and windy, rings a bell?) - 10km in 50m (1 fast km at 4:25)
  • Thursday 28 - Speed work was canceled when no one showed up so I went long - ~17k in ~1h25m (rainy again!)
So while I've been a bit quiet on the blogging front, I was able to continue training. I tried to return to the pool this week, however the pool was closed because of a chemical imbalance. I'll try again next week :) I also have to get back into the weight training, however with tapering for Ottawa Race Weekend coming up, I'm not sure how much of a routine I can make of that one :)

If anyone is coming down for Ottawa Race Weekend, get in touch with me, we can arrange a pre-race or post-race meetup. I will be hosting a pasta dinner on the Saturday night for anyone interested, non-runners also welcomed! Leave a comment with your email or DM me on Twitter.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Montreal Asics 21k

Wow! Montreal Asics 21k turned out to be quite a fun weekend! The weather was really scary on Saturday night with a mix of ice pellets, wet snow and freezing rain. I spent the Saturday walking around and shopping, not the best race prep routine, I know! It did warm up a little bit for Sunday morning but it was still quite wet and I was really worried about the weather. The day started with my friend Thiago participating in the 5k run.
The weather did not stop people from enjoying their races:
Unfortunately for him his race was really wet with rain everywhere and huge puddles on the course:
He still did a really good time coming in just over 22 minutes:
Once Thiago finished, we got ready for my race that started an hour and a half later. Lucky for me the rain cleared up and all that was left to deal with was the 25km/h gusts of winds here and there. After much debate about wind breakers and thighs vs loose pants, I decided on my tempo outfit that has seen me through some fast times before:
We slowly headed to the start area and I waited for the gun to get going. With about 2500 runners, the start area was crowded but it was still manageable.
As soon as we started running I noticed the gusts of winds. We ran by the giant roller coasters of La Ronde and then looped it up to run by the start line again (this course looks familiar! ;). It was a good thing that the course is fairly loopy, with all the winds, it helped break up the resistance to alternate between tailwind and headwind. I ran well and fast. My conservative strategy was to run the first half at a 1:40 pace and see where that would go. Instead I let myself get carried away by the tailwinds and didn't worry about my speed until I hit a headwind where I pushed to maintain my target pace. This paid off big time with my KM splits:
  • 4:40
  • 4:36
  • 4:31
  • 4:26
Thiago was really good about finding spots to see me.
I kept going after the first loop where started heading towards the F1 race track.
  • 4:25
  • 4:31
  • 4:32
  • 4:33
  • 4:39
  • 4:30
  • 4:31
Running on the race track was awesome. I could see the stands where all the spectators come to watch the races. Tire marks were visible everywhere. I chatted with someone from Ottawa that had been to the race before and he kept recounting me where he saw cars pass each other, etc. Surely everyone's minds were on the track and how cool it was to run on it. When I passed by the start line, I noticed the small squares that the cars use to align themselves and the inscriptions Salut Gilles! at the start line. How awesome! Once we turned around the water bassin, the wind really became a killer. Runners organized in flocks (just like geese) and took turns breaking the wind for the rest of the group.
  • 4:36
  • 4:48
  • 4:47
  • 4:41
  • 4:40
My strategy was to conquer the wind and to the surprise of my fellow runners to issue a huge shout: AAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!! every now and then to release some of the pressure and get some more frustration to carry me through. Sorry guys if you found this annoying :) We finally turned the corner and got into more sheltered area where the wind wasn't such an issue. That's where I started thinking about my finish and realizing that I was way ahead of 1:40 and that if I pushed, I could probably even break my goal of 1:38, which I thought before the race was pretty aggressive already without the crazy winds.
  • 4:30
  • 4:40
  • 4:26
  • 4:35
  • 4:37
Then a final sprint to the finish line that was tucked away after a turn and somewhat uphill!
With a last minute sprint where I passed 2 or 3 guys, I was able to finish with a super time of 1h37m20s! A new PR! I was ecstatic. Couldn't believe my eyes! Look at my time! Look at my time! Awesome! Yeah! The Endorphin were surely rushing through my veins!
Overall this race was an awesome event. Even with the weather I would do it again. The course is a bit loopy but affording us the ability to run on the race track really makes up for it. If I was the organizers I would rejig the finish area a bit. I like to see the finish line from far away so I know how much I should push. Also put markers like they do in Ottawa 1km to go 800m to go, 500m to go, etc. The swag was decent with a good shirt and an OK medal. The fact that I spent the weekend shopping in Montreal also made the experience one to repeat often ;)

I think I ran a decent race and wouldn't change anything about it. My chosen outfit was comfortable, my strategy of bringing my own sports drink allowed me to stay hydrated on my own terms and my pacing paid off big time. Now I have to see if I can repeat this in Ottawa and break the 1:35 mark.
Right after the race we showered at the race facility (how awesome is that where you can shower right at the race!) and headed home on the bus. We were fortunate that the bus wasn't full, so I could kick it up and relax with a nap:
A lot of the Montreal runners are coming for Ottawa Race Weekend so we'll see you out there!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ready for Montreal!

First of all, I apologize for being so quiet lately. If you are my friend in real life or even on FaceBook, you will know that I have been going through some changes over the last few months that culminated over the last 4 weeks, the most significant one being my return to being single. It's allowed me to refocus my priorities and objectives and devote lots of time to my training. I'm actually doing great given the circumstances and have a positive outlook on life and beyond! Now that this is out of the way, let's talk about the good news!

I feel very much ready for Montreal. I believe I can get a new PR and probably even break 1:40 if I am having a good day. Yesterday's training was a regular speed 10k with a 2km speed test thrown in there that was meant to confirm my confidence about this weekend's half marathon. I ran with my friends from the Ottawa FrontRunners. Let me rephrase that, I met with the FrontRunners and Mark and I went ahead and left everyone else in our dust ;)

While I had warned Mark that I would speed up for a 2km interval at the middle of our run, he was caught by surprise when I darted off. To my surprise, he caught up with me and didn't even feel winded. We'll have to be rougher on him in the future, he is definitively under training. The 2km went by fairly quickly with splits of 3:52 and 4:06! Woot Woot! I was aiming for 4:20 splits so my confidence is now way up. The recovery after wasn't even that difficult with the next 2 kms at 4:51 and 4:45. Look at all that green on the heatmap:
I think I'm definitively getting my shape back this Spring. It was awesome to be running in shorts and short sleeve tshirt again. I am looking forward to my performance in Montreal and the rest of my running season this year!

If you are in Ottawa, consider joining us for the Ottawa FrontRunners speed workouts on Thursdays. We meet at 6:30pm at the Lisgar entrance of City Hall and head to either Parliament Hill or a local track to do some drills. We try to keep the drills varied every week and the bunch is always a fun group to be with.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Run for Japan!

As I'm sure you have heard in the news, Japan has been the victim of a huge earthquake and a devastating Tsunami. In solidarity to Japan, I have participated in the Run for Japan! initiative. There are a lot of runners in Japan, in fact the Ottawa Marathon last year was won by a Japanese when Arata Fujiwara set a new course record.

I ran a total of 10 miles (16km) dedicated to the victims of the natural disasters in Japan, their families and their friends and I then donated to the Red Cross for their operation in Japan. It is my hope that the world will unite and help Japan come out of this.

Hopefully Japan can come out of this quickly and return to normal. Some good news today out of Osaka that there were close to 155,000 people that applied for the Osaka Marathon which has a cap of 28,000 runners.

My thought are with you Japan and I hope that other runners and non runners will donate and have thoughts for you.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

New Ottawa Route

There was big news with Ottawa Race Weekend earlier this week. New routes were unveiled for pretty much all the weekend's various events. Notably, the half marathon and marathon course were reviewed to snake through more neighborhoods. Runners will get to run through the arch in Chinatown, go down Preston street through Little Italy passing through Wesboro and snaking alongside the Ottawa river before going to Gatineau.
The new courses still have to be measured and finalized. Overall, I think the new route is a good change and will allow runners to see a bit more of the city. I can't wait to see the type of support that runners will have in Chinatown, Little Italy and Wesboro. Hopefully the stretch along the Ottawa River parkway is not too deserted. We do lose the amazing sights of running on Wellington in front of Parliament Hill, the Supreme Court and the National Archives buildings, but it is very likely that out of town runners will venture to these sights anyways even if in town just for a day or two.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Making it all better

While I was running today, my running buddy asked me if I was having a good day. He noticed a pep in my step and he thought I was having a really good day. My answer was quite to the contrary. I had an awful day. Work has been really crazy lately and the frustrations are building up. Running is a very good outlet for all that rage and long tempo runs like the one that was on the training plan tonight are the perfect way to end the day and make it all better. Pounding the pavement has deep psychological healing properties for me. Hitting the road and letting my legs roar and fly through the dusk air felt like such a relief after a day of complex scheduling and planning issues. The simplicity of running and the physical effort really made my day!

I didn't even use music on my 8k pre-run before I met the club for our regular Tuesday night run. I took my usual warm-up route into Gatineau through the bridges. It seems that the department of Public Works of our cities just decided to give up on one of the bridges and wait for the warmth of Spring to naturally get rid of the snow, you'll notice the dark blue there on the speed heat map.
By the time I got to the running club meeting point, the frustrations had been channeled through my legs and vaporized into a very decent 8.5km and I was ready to challenge the fresh legs of one of the club's faster runner Mark. We ended up completing our usual 7km canal-side winter route at a very decent pace and I finished up with the final leg home to hit a total of 18km in 1h27m - 3 minutes ahead of my training target of 5m/km or 1h30. I figure that if I add in the extra effort of running in the icy/snowy roads and the slowdown on the bridges and the few red lights, I probably could translate this tempo run into a 1h25 run! It is looking better and better for a new PR in Montreal next month.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Cold and Fast!

I am getting back into the training groove and today's -21 celsius with the windchill didn't stop me from going out for a quick speed workout before my work day starts. I hope this is the last time I have to wear a face mask to run, I feel like Spring should be just around the corner but it's a bit shy in showing itself.

This is my first satisfying intervals training since I came back from Miami. I feel I am finally getting my legs back. Hopefully when the weather improves and I can shed a few layers of clothing / protection, my speed will be back to where it was in the fall. I did my usual 8km loop around the bridges into Gatineau. I really like seeing green on the speed heatmap. Hopefully I can run the whole thing in a green tint or even get some yellows later this season.
Even this early in the day there was still some traffic and not all the lights were collaborating with my speed training. Two of my intervals were impacted by ~15 scconds waiting for the light to change. I can't wait until the paths are clear to return to my routes that do not have interruptions from traffic lights :)
I am getting confident that I will be ready for April 17 in Montreal. I'm hoping for a new PR which should be fairly straightforward (I *will* regret those words, I know!) since my half marathon PR currently stands at 1h43m from 2 years ago.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Faster than robots

Machines may be able to beat us at Jeopardy, but they have not mastered the Marathon yet!
This story about a Marathon for humanoid robots states that the race was won in just under 55 hours, with a very close finish of 1 second. Amazing. You can watch the hilarious little guys here:

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Cross training + speedwork

Running only about 30-35 kms per week, I find myself with some extra energy and free time over what my marathon training schedule was requiring so I decided to start cross training again. When I was in the Caribbean, I swam a lot and when I came back I started to miss it so I got a membership at my local pool and started swimming twice a week.
I'm also looking forward to summer and biking outdoors so I started getting ready for it and dusted the stationary bike and started using it once or twice a week when the weather outside is not appealing enough for a run. Hopefully with a late fall marathon in mind, I will be able to enjoy a bit more physical exercise for fun this summer, last summer's intense marathon training left me too tired and time stretched to do any biking or hiking for leisure.

I know where you think this is going :) There is no triathlon planned in my immediate future but I'll keep all options open...

I've also started assessing my speed and where the bronchitis and training hiatus has left me. The bad news is that I have lost some speed. The good news is that I am still fairly fast by everyone's standards. My intervals sessions that were challenging me at 4:15m/km with 5:00m/km rest for 6 sets in October are now challenging me at 4:30m/km with 5:30m/km rest for 3 sets. I can't wait for the snow to melt at the track so I can really get at it and get my speed back.

I think I am better off than I was at this time last year. I'm not expecting to get back to my previous speeds in time for Montreal in April even if I aim at a new PR there. There is plenty of time to gear up for my A goal race in May where I hope to break 1h35 for the half in Ottawa.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Boston Getting Faster still

The blogosphere has been very actively discussing the new changes for the Boston Qualifying times and registration process. While the 5 minutes and 59 seconds cut in 2013 is the most obvious change, the one most likely to impact runners is the progressive opening of registrations for runners 20, 10 and 5 minutes under the official BQ times. For an in depth look at the likely consequences of this move, read Ray's very insightful analysis on his blog, the DC Rainmaker.

I share Marlene's concerns that this will make it more difficult to qualify and run Boston. I also, like Yumke, realize that just qualifying won't be enough. My new target to guarantee a Boston slot is 2:50 for 2012 and 2:45 beyond. I already gained lots of time last year, I think I can achieve this eventually. At last resort, I can just get older. The upside of this new goal is that 2:45 will be a golden ticket almost everywhere guaranteeing me entry into other coveted races such as New York and London marathons.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Perth Kilt Run 2011

Long time readers will remember last year's Kilt Run in Perth. This event was a lot of fun last year and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a small yet fully supported / cheered race. The 5 miles go by so quick you don't even realize you are racing and the crowd support was awesome. Running in a kilt was a lot more comfortable than I had expected and seeing everyone sporting theirs was quite a hoot.

The race organizers somehow found my blog entry last year and commented on it. They came back this year a few weeks ago before I left for the Caribbean to announce their plans for this year. The date has changed a little bit to coincide with the long weekend in July when Perth is hosting Lord Provost of Perth Scotland.

If you still have your kilt from last year (or own a kilt for other reasons), you will get a 30$ rebate on your registration but hurry up, registration prices increase on March 6th and closes on April 2nd. More details about the Perth Kilt Run on their website.
I'm not sure if this will fit in my race calendar but it's definitively a race I would like to do again!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Running on a cruise ship

Right after the Miami half marathon, I quickly showered and boarded my cruise ship for a week long journey through the Caribbean. There were a lot of runners on the ship that also had visited Miami for the race and then rewarded themselves with a cruise. I wanted to keep my fitness on the ship, especially given the amount of good food that is available, I didn't want to come home and have lost speed and gained weight. Some of the people chose to run on the islands we visited but I felt our time on the islands was already pretty short so I felt it was better to exercise while we were at sea. My ship, the Carnival Glory, came with a fully equipped gym with half a dozen treadmills, but I dread the treadmills. I was fortunate that it also came with a running track at the top deck.
It was my first experience running on a cruise ship and I didn't expect the running track to have such tight turns
Or to actually be so short. According to the sign, it was 181 meters so about 6 laps to a Kilometer or in my case 30 laps for a 5k or 45 laps for a 7.5k. I didn't manage a 10k on the boat...
The turning and twisting quickly became boresome. I waited until sunset on all counts to go for a variety of reasons. Usually, sunset would be the time when we sail off so I had time to come back from the Island and start getting ready for my run. It also was a time where it was a bit cooler, the Caribbean sun can be quite hot! Sundown was also a time where people retreated to their cabins or the restaurant, leaving the running track less crowded. I didn't check it out at sunrise but I was told that there were a lot of walkers crowding the track at that time and during most of the day I could see people taking their time. Sunset also gave me some inspiring sights to take my mind away from the number of laps remaining. I saw one other runner using it during the day and two more that were using it at the same time I was.

The first time I ran on the ship, I brought my trusty Garmin out and waited for a GPS lock. I found out that the ship was moving at a pretty high speed of 37 km/h so I was doing an amazing time of 1:30m/km just standing around! Couple that with the 10-20 km/h winds out at sea and you have a deadly combination for runners.
I didn't even seem to make a serious dent in the speed of the ship on the way back either.
It was a really interesting workout to say the least. Going towards the aft (back) of the boat felt like flying. All I had to do is jump and let the wind carry me and the boat slip from under me. On the way back to fwd (front) of the boat, I had to fight heavy winds and the motion of the boat. This was very much like an interval training but with strength instead of speed. Difficult workouts are the best for results, right? For added complexity, factor in the rocking of the boat on the waters and you get uneven footing and balancing issues. This was especially noticeable at the turns. Still overall, I would rate this workout more enjoyable than a dreadmill run. Anything is better than a dreadmill, right?

On the first run, I was able to stick in there for 30 laps (5km). On my second one, I achieve 45 laps (7.5km). My third workout had a goal of 10km but the heavy winds took the better of me and I stopped after 30 laps (or maybe it was that free rum punch they gave me at happy hour that killed my determination?!?).

Having the Garmin was very useful to count the laps and see how I was doing speed-wise with the lap timer but the GPS was pretty useless while I was running. It is neat once I am back to see where the boat was at these times when I was running.
I would definitively run on a cruise ship again. I'm happy that next time I'll know what to expect :)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

ING Miami half marathon

Wow. What an exciting week this has been :) Now that I am back home I can take some time to report on my trip to Miami for the ING Half Marathon. The first thing I noticed when we got to Miami was that it wasn't as warm as I had feared. I think Miami was in the middle of a cold spell which worked fine for me, coming from -30 weather, I can catch any break I can to stay somewhat cool during the race.

I did a quick systems check run on Saturday morning to make sure I had everything I needed and to see where the start line would be. I immediately found that even if the weather was quite comfortable and breezy for walking it, it got quite hot when running especially in the sun... I found out that the start line was just a short walk from my hotel, great! I then headed to the expo in the Afternoon in South Beach (thank you to the organizers for the free shuttles to South Beach!) and I must say I was very impressed. This is by far the biggest race expo I have ever been to. All the companies were there and the swag was huge. There were also lots of really good deals to be had. I just wish I didn't have all my equipment already, I would have spent like a drunken sailor. What I got was a new pair of sunglasses (forgot mine at home), a new bright orange windbreaker that transforms into a vest (cool design!), a ING Miami Marathon hat (souvenir) and a PowerBalance band. I had seen the PowerBalance bands before and I was a bit skeptic but Alex insisted on getting it for me to help me through the race. I'm not sure if it makes that much of a difference but I know that if I believe it works, it will work, so I will try to believe in it ;) I'll wear it for a while and then report on it :)

After checking out all the latest innovations in shoes, nutrition and checking out all the cool races (anyone up for a race in Brazil? they had a huge presence) we went walking around South Beach. Not necessarily the best thing to do before a race but I like being a tourist :) The water was too cold to swim in but we dipped our feet and then lounged on the beach for a while.
It was cool to see all the runners carrying the orange ING bags that were walking everywhere at South Beach. It definitively adds a community feeling to the race when you realize that the town is overtaken by a horde of runners for the weekend. We met runners from different states and countries far away. Quite a few were from Canada as well. I even met some of them that were going to the same cruise as me after the race! Judging by the amounts of runners on the boat and the race shirts that I saw, I'd say there was at least 2 dozen runners that went for a post-run cruise :)

We caught a movie at a local theater and then headed back to downtown with the last race shuttle. I found a nice restaurant to get spaghetti and meatballs and realized that I was not the only runner that homed in on this Italian eatery. There was about an hour wait to get the pasta but once it was delivered it was very delicious and the portion decent enough for a half marathon. We then hurried back to the room to get everything ready for the race and a bit of sleep before waking up at 4:30am.

The 6am start I guess is designed to take advantage of the lower temperatures in the early morning and to minimize the amount of disruption to traffic. We still heard lots of complaints from the taxi drivers about the race whenever we told them that is why we were in town :) While it was a bit chilly, I still wore my sleeveless shirt because I knew it would get warmer. I showcased my new jacket until I had to leave for the corral where I handed it to Alex, I didn't want to lost it on the course...
Met some interesting people as usual while lining up for the port-o-potties and when I got in to my corral. What I noticed right away as I was waiting in my corral is that runners in Miami really like their headphones. I'd say over 50% of runners around me were wired up. That's much higher than the usual 20% I see at races here in Canada. I really don't blame them for using music to help propel them to the finish, I do it all the time when I train, but for me a race is a communal experience and having everyone in their own bubbles takes a little bit of the excitement away from me. The start area was huge and they had giant screens and an American flag they claimed came from the twin towers in NYC. I don't know if it is the darkness with all the lights or the giant screen display but the start line felt like a rock concert... Pretty cool!
The start for the wheelchairs was sounded and everyone started getting really excited. Then the elites started and about 10 minutes later my corral finally crossed the start line. It was slow running at first while everyone got into their comfortable paces. I wasn't sure how fast I would race this event yet because my training had been very uneven after the recovery from bronchitis. I was pretty comfortable with the 2h30m bunny for a bit but then I decided I could do better so I started kicking up a notch. The spectators where pretty plentiful along the course and the atmosphere was very positive and party-like among the runners around me. I remember when I passed my cruise ship just as it was docking and started telling everyone around me that this was my destination, not the finish line :)
We quickly crossed the bridge into south beach and we were rewarded by a beautiful sunrise.
I know you guys have commented about my pictures before while I run and you have to know that I take over 200 of them. Most of them end up blurry or of my feets and armpits. I still usually get a few good ones that are usable. This next one has me smiling like a lunatic. I wasn't sure if I should use it but I think it's hilarious so here you go:
Here's another one that I wasn't sure I should keep :)
Running on Ocean drive in South Beach was pretty cool. The palmtrees, the ocean and the sun made a very magical combination:
I wish the whole race was beside the ocean. As we turned away from Ocean drive, one of my favorite song was playing at a spectating area: The Time by Black Eyed Peas, another boost to make my race even more enjoyable. Before I knew it, I saw this Mile 7 sign.... We passed by the convention center where we picked up our packets the day before. I've been here before!
What do you mean, halfway already !?!
This is where I heard two runners beside me talking very excitedly about how far from the Publix we were. Not having Publix in Canada, I didn't quite know what they were talking about so they informed me that it is a supermarket chain. I'm still not quite sure why that would be exciting to run by but they were pretty happy about it so I left them alone. Turns out that Publix has an entire mile devoted to them.
With all kinds of funny turtles and rabbits cartoons and lots of cheerful spectators. That is probably what the two guys were excited about :)

I knew that I had the race locked in. I still felt strong and I knew I was having a good day so I stopped worrying about my speed and let myself go. I sped up significantly and caught up quite a bit of time. I even stopped for a bathroom break but still managed to stay on track with my fellow runners. I realized that finishing in under 2 hour was attainable if I gave myself a bit of a boost so I continued pushing.

It was getting pretty hot with the sun out there but I knew the race was almost over. I kept drinking the sports drink at the stations and I kept going.
The last few stretches were downtown and a bit twisty but it felt great. I totally floored it for the last miles with a pace around 4:30m/km (7:15m/m) and a sprint like I've never done before for the last 500 meters.
I was very impressed when I looked at my watch and saw that I finished under two hours. The official time: 1:58:00 even! Great stuff. Some nice lady offered to take a picture of me when she saw me wrestling with my camera. I wanted to be sure to catch that endorphin induced smile for everyone to see:
Overall this was a great race. I took a picture of my medal at the hotel room:
And quickly showered and changed to get to my boat that was leaving for the Caribbean in the afternoon. YAY!

I'm really happy that I was able to run Miami despite my bronchitis. I definitively made the right choice in playing it safe and not doing a full. Even if I did a negative split with a huge speed boost at the end, I do not think I would have had a good time on the full course if I had attempted the Marathon.
The shirt from the race is actually not that bad. They had a glitch and gave full marathon shirts to a lot of halfers, myself included, but the lineup to get that rectified seemed daunting so I decided to keep the full shirt.
The medal is pretty cool. It's colorful, it rotates, has a fake diamond in the palm tree and has a beautiful ribbons with palm trees and Miami Famous inscription.
I would totally run Miami again in the future. I probably will try lots of other races before but the organization, course and crowd were all fantastic. Definitively a top race in my experience.