Sunday, February 3, 2013

Miami Recap Part II: A Palindromic Finish!

At 3 am my alarm went off. Not that it mattered because I had been up off and on the entire night (if we want to call five possible hours in the sub-set a "night").

I ate a bagel and got dressed while Betsy slept blissfully. All of my stuff was laid out, so I had very little to do (other than panic in the bathroom) for 45 minutes before heading out to get the shuttle to the race start.
Yep, you're reading that correctly: 3:50 am.
People were still out drunk from the night before in full swing. It wasn't even remotely the day yet. A very weird feeling as I trudged the 10 minute walk to the shuttle meeting spot. Other runners were trudging their way out of hotels and towards the shuttle and I felt like we looked like a bunch of running zombie. Rhombies, if you will.

I was on the very first shuttle out of there, and at the race start at 4:15 am (two full hours before the starting time). This might seem a little crazy and compulsive to you, but as you know by now...I AM crazy and compulsive! I was actually very pleased to be there early, to eat more food (banana and peanut butter) and use pristine, never-used port-o-potties before the masses arrived.

True story: If you google images for "new porta potty" this will come up via                  
Bieber Fever!!
There were photographers milling all about, and they snapped some pics of me looking pretty nervous -- yet excited? -- as I waited. My parents as a gift bought the full package of photos from the day, so I'm excited to share them with you from here on out!

Thumbs up before the start!

The music started at about 5 am. This is also when I said "F-it. What will be will be," in regards to the bathroom situation and took two Immodiums and said a little prayer. Fast-forwarding a bit, I'm happy to report that I did not poop my pants or need a porta potty during the marathon.

Okay no more bathroom talk (I think).

Unless you want me to go on. No? Okay, your loss.

So with still about an hour before race start, I then found Joss and Erica -- my fellow TFK training buddies who also ran Miami.

While I consumed the last of my pre-race food (these "blocks" by Gu that are basically pure carbs and give you a little boost of energy) we lined up to begin.

At 6:15, the gun went off and people started to go. However, there were 25,000 runners doing the Half and Full at the same time (more on this later), so it took 17 minutes for us to actually get over the starting line.

And then we were off.

Mile 1 through 10

I stuck to my pre-planned strategy of starting sllooooowwww for the first 5-ish miles. I did about a 10 to 10:30 pace for those initial ones, and I think it really helped later on.

The sun rose over the water and cruise-ships docked as we ran over the MacArthur Causeway from downtown Miami to Miami Beach for the first few miles. The energy was really fantastic, but it was a bit challenging to weave around the multitudes of slow runners and full-on walkers that weren't -- as running protocol would dictate -- moving to the right.

Miles 4 through 8 were around Miami beach. I was feeling "so far so good" and really trying to continue to hold myself back at this point and not run ahead.

Early on in the race, as you can tell since it is NOW just dawn!
I fell into a pretty steady 10 minute pace and was feeling strong and confident when I passed Betsy for the first time just shy of the 6 mile mark. [Sidebar: Although in fairness it was only about 7:30 at this point, i was disappointed that she hadn't yet started drinking.]

Other people were, however, imbibing. I saw a lot of mimosas and margaritas on Miami Beach, which was great because truly it was before 8 am. Also there were still drunk people from the night before. One particularly stellar duo of European gentlemen thought it would be a good idea to stand in the middle of the road and make fun of us in some sort of -- I can only assume -- made-up language. A girl in front of me picked up a cup of Gatorade and poured it on them. And it was glorious.

Feeling good enough for shenanigans

Around mile 8 we left the Beach and ran the two-ish miles back over causeways to the "mainland." At this point I started feeling a little nagging sensation in my knee. It's hard to say if it was real or in my head because -- trust me -- when you're in the moment? It's real easy to get into your own head real quick.

I also noticed that I was near the pacer at this point for the 9:55 average minute per mile, which is equivalent to a 4:20 pace. My goal coming into this nonsense was simply to finish. But my real, deep-down goal was 4:30. It was around this point where I thought to myself, "hmm....could you really perhaps beat 4:30 today?" 

I saw Betsy right before Mile 12 and she was drinking and she yelled out, "hey girl!!"

The motto of the race, I should mention at this juncture, was #ACTUALLY. Once that starting gun went off I was no longer training for an [alleged] marathon. I was #ACTUALLY running a marathon (and, yes, the hashtag is necessary). Betsy commemorated and had an appropriate sign to boot.

A few minutes later I saw her again (see map above where there was a turn off the main drag and then back on so she could see me twice) and she yelled out, "You're actually running! Be pretty for a picture!"

This is what she got from that:
Please note that the neighborhoods -- at points -- left a little "something to be desired." Also notice the spectators at this point include Betsy on one side of the road and one random dude staring at us on the other side.

Keep in mind that at this point - just over two hours into the race -- there were still 25,000 running. Some were doing the Half...and some the Full. Just shy of the 13.1 halfway marker, crowds on the side starting yelling "you're almost there!" and "finish right ahead!" 

I wanted to punch them all in the face.

Volunteers started indicating for Half-ers to go to the left and Full Marathoners to keep right as the road divided with partitions. With the finish-line-slash-half-way-point looming ahead I realized something...

Um....guys....where you all going....??? Guys? 

As we ran through the "finish" line [lookin' strong yet feeling confused] this became even more apparent.
Keep this image ingrained in your mind. This is what a finish "should" look like.
My actual finish will appear....somewhat different. 

It turns out that of the 25,000 runners 22,000 were only running half of the race.

Where. Did. Everyone. Go.

Not only did I still have ANOTHER 13.1 miles to go, but I was basically alone now.

For a few minutes this totally weirded me and I was scared and still having knee pain and internally freaking out.

But then I realized that this would mean the water stations would no longer be a complete disaster and I wouldn't to worry about being elbowed or crashing into someone who decided to just HALT without notice or to just in general be near other people.

And ultimately the truth is that I don't really like other people. So I carried on with pleasure.

Now I'm gonna show you some more pictures to visually demonstrate how I felt from miles 15-23. I alternated between feeling like this:

Oh, hey girl! I just ran for about 3 and a half hours already and I'm not remotely finished. Yet somehow I feel amazing. I think this could be a precursor to death, or perhaps I already am dead. Hard to say. THUMBS UP!!!

And also feeling like this (which I include in this post so that you don't think I am some super-human freak:)

Oh god. Oh my god. Someone help me. Please.

The race wove down one road, running at mile 15 just on the other side of the road to where people were running back at mile 22. And I hated them. Because they were almost done and I was not. And because a lot of them were really pretty and that angered me to my CORE.

The race went into Coconut Grove and -- weirdly -- at miles 18-19 were in an oddly residential area at times. Starting at 19 it was a straight shot along S. Bayshore drive up to what Betsy and I classily referred to as the "penis" of miles 22 through 24 when we went out along the Causeway and back.

A couple of highlights along the way: 

1) At mile 17 a well-intentioned lady called out, "You guys are doing great! Only 9 more miles to go!" The girl next to me correctly responded with "%&@# YOU!" 

2) Because my name was on my shirt, I got a lot of shout-outs from the energetic -- if slightly sparse -- crowd. It was nice.

3) One of my TFK teammates had come to surprised us and cheer us on. He was at Mile 20 and it REALLY HELPED at that point to see that familiar face and see the support.

4) Right before and after the penis (sorry, the "causeway"), I saw Erica's boyfriend Tyler as well as her family. They were cheering super loud, and I really needed the support at mile 22 and then again at 24.

5) One of my other TFK friends -- Merri -- ran the Half and then was there just before mile 25 to cheer  us Full Marathon crazy-people on. Seeing her was also much-needed. She said, "How do you feel!" and I responded "I think I'm going to die!" And then I ran on. Good chat!

Throughout the entire time, I ran on my own, without music. Although there were times with no crowd, I wanted to hear and experience everything. I also was just trying -- to the best of my ability -- to absorb every moment. After about mile 22 I knew that this was happening. Whether I walked or ran (but I did run!) I was going to finish. this. marathon.

Everyone says the last 6 miles of the race is mental. And this is totally true. But, for me, it wasn't as "planned out" as some suggest. I've read and heard that many people plan out miles to dedicated to family or friends. Or have mantras planned to say to yourself.

Can I be real? For NY I was considering dedicating miles. But for Miami? Um...sorry beloved friends and fam, but those miles were ALL dedicated to me. They were mine. And YOU CAN'T HAVE ANY!!!!!!

And my mantra was equally selfish. I keep saying to myself "You're awesome." Simple, sweet and elegant.

And I also in a moment of delirium thought, "When you finish this, you can do anything." True that, self. Except ski, because you are bad at skiing. And at baking. You are not a good baker. Also at arts & crafts and interior decoration. Those are also not strong areas for you. Otherwise, yes, anything.

Around mile 24 my mantra changed just to "GO." And I actually said that [and the equally motivating variation "&@$%-ing GO", out loud to myself, over and over to get through this point where I felt my left knee and quad start to give out. Also my right arm-fat had started to rub against myself to the point that I had a serious [yet awkward] chafing situation. Just on my right arm-fat.

I'm so cute.

At mile 25 or so, the crowds thickened and I knew that not only was I going to finish...but I was going to finish in under 4:30. And I saw a photographer and I made this happen:

BOOM!!!!! 25 miles and I look like a MILLION BUCKS! 

But then, it was go time. My body had started to truly give out and had reached it's max. I was 5+ miles further than I had ever gone before, and I felt it. I was in agony in every bone and muscle in my body. And sweating profusely. And slightly sunburned. And dealing with arm-fat chafing.

I saw [drunk] Betsy just about at mile 26 with 0.2 to go (don't forget about the 0.2!) and she took this action shot:

And then -- with the now full crowd cheering my name and no one around me because there were, like, 10 people running the marathon -- I breathed & sprinted to the end.
I sprinted because I wanted it to be over. I sprinted because the crowd was watching. And I sprinted because -- at this point -- it didn't matter if I walked or jogged or ran...I hurt but I also felt unbelievable.
"Seriously, Go!"

As I crossed the finish [which I forgot to raise my arms least we have the Half shot!] my face shows my feelings: a mixture of joy and pain and just pure, raw emotion.

I had forgotten to stop my watch or look at the clock. And I didn't. Give. A. Crap. 

Ohmigod. I finished a marathon. I. Finished. A. MARATHON!


And the world rejoiced. And then they put a medal around my neck. And I cried.

Crying tears
And I checked my phone and I saw this:
Holy crap!

Not only had a finished under 4:30...I finished way under.  AND MY TIME MAKES A PALINDROME!!!!! WIN!

I limped through the recovery area and snapped this shot:

And found my #1 Spectator who was a delightful mixture of supportive and excited and inebriated:

And Erica:
Despite an ulcer and a flaring IT band...Erica ROCKED IT!!
And -- P.S. -- she is the best training buddy anyone can ask for!
And I just smiled....And smiled.....And smiled....

....because I in pain. And I was dehydrated. And my right arm-fat hurt. And I had some pretty epic blisters. And I was pretty sure my left quad was never going to work again....

....but I was no longer [allegedly] running a marathon. And it was still sinking in....

MeriG is #ACTUALLY a marathoner.

Stay tuned for Part 3: MeriG, you just successfully completed a marathon without causing  Armageddon. Now what are you going to do!?


  1. You ARE amazing, girl! SO, so thrilled for you - you deserved every, single moment and are truly awesome. This post made me grin throughout - massive congrats again.
    You actually made me excited to run a marathon now :)

    1. Thank you so much! I hope you do get the experience someday. It (all of it!) was worth it.

  2. Rocked it!!! And love your recap - so many similar thoughts/emotions. It was crazy how few people cut off for the full - I was happy I had known that ahead of time. But it was nice to have plenty of opportunity for photos at the finish :)

    And much as I very much appreciate spectator cheering/support someone needs to tell them never say ONLY xx amount of miles to go even at the end of the marathon I wanted to strangle someone - like no those .2 more feel SO FAR AWAY.

    1. Thanks! The race definitely had its ups and downs, pros and cons (as you also described!) but I'm definitely glad I did it and had that experience.

      Yes, and people need to learn CHEERING ETIQUETTE!

  3. So amazing! I love that you look like you are SPRINTING in every photo! The one of you crossing the half finish line is also pretty hilarious. Great job!

    1. Thanks! I am decidedly not sprinting but evidently I photograph well enough to fool everyone (which is half the battle). ;)

  4. Congratulations!! Amazing job (especially is that heat - holy cow!)

    1. Thank you! I was so, so happy with it. But yeah, I was a litttttle sweaty.....