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.