Sunday, January 31, 2016

ING Miami Half Marathon 2016 Race Recap

Hey everyone, it's time for my first race recap of 2016!  My goal is to do a bit less of these than last year, because I am aiming to do less races than last year.  I want to focus more on the goals I have ahead of me and where I can use races to help me get there - I will - however, I don't want to just do races and spend money on them for the sake of doing them.  So, I'm being selective :)

I originally signed up for the Miami Half Marathon because I wanted to be a part of my friend Brick's first half marathon weekend.  She has been so supportive to me since we have become friends, and I knew how big this was for her, so I wanted to be there.  Plus, I've never been to Miami.  Plus, it's a new state for me to race in.  Plus, when I travel with Brick I end up doing crazy things and have a blast - so it was pretty much a no brainer!

After making the decision to go, a number of additional friends from the Movers and Pacers running group ended up signing up for the race in Miami and it ended up being an pretty big crowd all heading down for the run!  And then, when I was in Miami for work, I found out that my friend Dani was in town and convinced her to run too.  So it was, of course, a party.  I'll talk about the rest of the Miami weekend in another post, but here I will recap the run.

On Saturday night, I actually stayed over at Dani's parents condo before going to the race.  I opted for that choice since it was a very gracious offer, got to spend more time with her, got to sleep in my own bed, and of course, because I had been the one to convince her to change her flights and run!  I was a little bummed to not travel to the race in the morning with my friends, but it just seemed like a better option.

We got up in the morning and jumped in an Uber to head to the start of the race.  We had barely gotten very far when our Uber came to a standstill with traffic just not moving.  Where we were staying was on the full marathon course and they already had all of the roads closed.  It was honestly, the craziest pre-race setup I have ever seen.  They barely had any roads open and it seemed a lot of people struggled to get to the start of the race!

We bobbled back and forth trying to decide whether or not we should stick it out with the Uber driver or try and find a different way to get to the race start (walk? run? train?)  In fact, we actually jumped out of the car to leave and then changed our minds and raced back to get into the Uber again.  And then jumped out another time.  Clearly, Dani has the same problem as myself with indecision.

Once we made up our mind to take the train to the start of the race, it was smooth sailing!

One of the most hysterical things that I have to share happened while we were on that train too.  First off, Dani seems to think everything in Miami is free (we had an incident earlier in the week with taking "free" snacks from the hotel...) so we didn't pay tickets.  But besides that, once we got on the train, it was PACKED back to back, no personal space, with runners.  Everyone was heading to the race start and was decked out in their running gear, with throw away clothes, trying to keep warm and shake out legs, and get ready for the 6:00 a.m. start of the race.

And then there was one drunk guy.  Eating a full pizza. And it was hysterical.

He was so funny about it and I could not stop laughing.  I just picture being in this guys shoes: drunk, coming home from the night before, just wanting to be shameful and eat a pizza in your drunken stupor.  And then the train keeps filling up with people going to run a marathon.  It was so funny.

We arrived immediately at 6:00 a.m. and heard the first wave of the race be sent off.  I still needed to use the race's bag check (which I very rarely do at a race), wanted to find my friends, and then get to my wave.  Dani and I hugged bye so she could get to her corral, I followed the stream of people who were running AWAY from the race start, who were all carrying bags.  I checked my bag and then ran back to the start and called Brick.

I had been texting with her and she was in traffic as well getting to the race but had made it and had jumped into her race corral.  The race wave starts were corralled and set up like a big U.  I ran through the middle, past my corral of E searching for corral I to try and find Brick.  When I got there, she came out and found me and it was such a relief to see her!!  Seeing Brick before the start of the race was a huge priority for me because I knew how much this meant to her.  Getting to the race and figuring out where we needed to be was so hectic.  I was literally sprinting through the street to get to the bag check and then back through the corrals trying to find Brick's corral.

When I finally found her and gave her a hug, we both started crying.  I could tell her nerves were high, as were mine, with the chaos of getting to the start, and heck, races are emotional.  I was so glad I was able to find her and wish her luck.  We cried and hugged and I wished her good luck and told her she was going to do awesome and I'd see her at the finish.  She sent me off to find my corral, just as they were announcing that Wave E was moving forward to the start.

It was another sprint to figure out how to get around the U and into my corral, and literally once I got into the corral, walked for just a minute or two, and then went through the start.  My watch operated totally fine, found signal and turned on and before I knew it, I was running the Miami Half Marathon!
The sprinting around proved to be a great warm up because I felt loose and had adrenaline pumping through me.  More than anything else, I was concerned I could start out too fast so I checked my pace at the first mile markers and I seemed to be averaging a pretty good 9:00 minute mile, which I was happy with.  I didn't really have a goal for the race but wanted to try and be under 2:00 hours.  Or be 2:00 hours -ish.

Literally right out of the shoot of the race, we took a right turn and head onto the onramp of the bridge that connected Downtown Miami with Miami Beach.  I cut off the bigger portion of the picture that shows the full marathon course to just highlight the half marathon route.  As you can tell, the majority of the race takes place on bridges!

Miami itself is flat, but running on those bridges proved to be challenging with both the inclines of the bridges and then the crazy breeze coming off the water.  The race was the chilliest race it had been for ages for the Miami Marathon and the breeze was no help!

I actually warmed up pretty quickly once we started running and around mile 2 I thought about taking off my long sleeved shirt.  However, then the breeze hit and I very quickly thought, "Nope!"  I'd bought a cute new tank top to wear for the race but ended up running in an old Gobble Wobble long sleeved shirt that I actually had no intention of racing in when I had packed.  However, it got the job done!

I kept checking in with my pace every mile.  I tried to take a picture as the sun came up.  I kept reminding myself to take in the view because this was my "Florida" state race and to soak up all the Florida-ness of it.

 We ran by cruise ships and with water on either side of us as the sun came up and it was really pretty.

They had water stops every mile or so and I did what I always do in races and start drinking early.  I drank water and gatorade all throughout the race, alternating at every stop.  The miles at the beginning of the race seemed to go by really slow.  I knew from looking at the course map that the race was sort of divided into three portions... the bridges going over, Miami Beach, then the bridges going back.  I willed myself through the first bridge portion and then tried to enjoy the scenery throughout Miami Beach.

I had run down Ocean Drive a little the day before and knew a little how to judge the distance there, so I was continually calculating it in my mind.  I felt like at around mile 5 I could feel my pace dropping and I was a little nervous that I had gone out way too fast.  At around mile 3 I had been passed by the 1:55 pace team and I thought to myself, "Oh shit, I went out way too fast!"

I told myself to drop back pace a bit if I needed, and also knew that Brick's cheering crew would be along the course somewhere around mile 7 or so I estimated based off of where they were staying.  Knowing I was going to see them was TRULY a huge motivator.  I got a little concerned at one point I would miss them and tried to remind myself that it was okay, but I really was looking forward to seeing them and when I did pass them, it gave me such energy.

They had signs, were cheering for me, and our friend Deanna (who I had met when we went to Arizona) ran beside me for a while and got me so hyped up.  It was the perfect thing I needed as I turned to head back over the "hills" of the bridges.

Miles 8-9 really, really sucked.  The wind was bad over the bridges and there was nothing shielding it.  I thought back to the research and plan I had put together for Chicago Marathon and tried to draft off people.  I would duck behind crowds or individuals as much as possible rather than try to run on my own.  When there was a line of trees or bushes, I tried to run in its path to cut the break of the wind some.  They felt like they went on forever and I referred back to the mantra I used for my very first half marathon to "Pace the race. Survive the hills.  You'll finish this thing."

It's funny how much has changed since the first time those words motivated me through a race.

At mile 9, I told myself to get to the top of the hill. And then I told myself to get to mile 10 and it would be just a 5K left.  I told myself to think of mile 9-11 as warm up for the last two miles of the race and to pick up the pace for those last two miles.

My music cut out at the last couple miles which threw me off a little because I was actually very much enjoying the music on this race.

When I saw the 20K mark, I thought to myself, "OMG how far is a kilometer!?!" and it was almost right at 13 miles that the marathoners and half marathoners split off.  I wondered if any full marathoners every just decided "F this" and then cut over and just did the half.

The end was a bit wind-y with a number of cuts and corners.  I almost tripped over someone but I was trying to charge to the finish.  Despite how hard it had felt in the past few miles, I had seen from my watch that I had done a few sub-9 minute miles and could tell from the clocks along the course that I was still averaging around a 9-minute mile.  I felt like I would be pretty close to 2:00 hours if not under it.  I wasn't thinking of PRing, I was just thinking of finishing and I avoided looking at my watch those last miles to see what my overall time was, but just checked my pace every now and then.  Then not at all the last 2 miles and just went hard.

There is nothing better than seeing the finish line arch during a race.  I love when that thing comes into my line of sight.

Finishing felt amazing. I stopped by watch right away and saw that I had finished in the 1:57s!! I was thrilled, but also trying to catch my breath.  My chest felt very dry and like I was going to wheeze or have a coughing fit.  You know that feeling when you breathe in and it just feels super raw and dry and raspy?  I knew I needed water, but otherwise I felt good.  I wanted to get a picture of the finish line, but my phone had locked out so I waited around for 2 minutes before continuing down the finishers shoot.  I should have just kept walking because the pictures were terrible haha

I got water, my medal (WHICH IS AMAZING), the snacks that they had (WHICH SUCKED), and then left.  The snacks were a struggle.  Legit, who wants a pile of green bananas?

The water was amazing though.  As was the fact that I had the foresight to check a bag with the bag check.  I did that because I knew that I was going to finish the race a bit of a ways ahead of my friends and that I would probably get cold standing around sweaty.  So I checked a bag with a sweatshirt, which was a blessing to be able to put on because I was quite chilly (and sweaty.)

After getting out of the finishers shoot, using the Porta Potty (which, let's just say was the WORST race porta potty experience I have ever had), and getting my bag from bag check, I made my way to the finish line to look for my friends to finish.  I tried to estimate based off of when I thought they'd have started (everyone was in different waves) and when they would finish.

I saw both Shawn and Brick cross the finish line (at different times) and the sights of them running through the finish with their arms in the air of their first half marathons... not gonna lie, I cried again.

While I was waiting for people to finish, I also looked up my time from the Publix Marathon last year, as well as looked up my official finish time for this race.  I realized that I actually got a personal best time in the race - by 4 seconds!  Not a massive PR, but on a race that I set out to just wing, I will take it for sure!!  The time also put me as 3118/14463 overall (top 78%) and 861/7457 women (top 88%) as well as 138/952 in my age group (top 86%)

After I saw Shawn and Brick finish, there started to be critical mass coming across from our group of friends so we picked a meeting point and all started to gather.  It was great to see everyone so happy from their accomplishments and we hung around for quite a while enjoying the post race festivities. First half marathons are such an amazing accomplishment and I was SO proud of my friends.

There were beers, rice and beans, and lots of music and dancing.  It was chilly, so I kept dancing to keep moving and also basked in the sunlight whenever I could.  My friends and I love our pictures, so we had quite the photo shoot as well.  Which I love, always :)

More people kept finishing so we kept having to take more pictures.

Eventually everyone made their way to the finish, including the two in our group who did the FULL marathon!  It was an exciting day for everyone and I loved that the weather was nice enough to stick around the race for a while and just hang out and enjoy.  Post race celebrations can be a blast.  I remember after the San Francisco Half Marathon, we had a ton of fun hanging on the grass and drinking beer and making friends.  That's what all races should be like!!  However, eventually we needed to make our way home so we waddled out of there, grabbed an Uber where we could (of course cheering for all the marathoners as they finished) and made our way back.  We snapped an impromptu picture as we crossed a bridge that ended up being a favorite of all of ours.

It was three of the people in the picture's first half marathon and I was so glad I was at this race for them, and for Brick, and to check the box for myself as my first race in 2016 and my first race in Florida!!

I highly recommend this race, if for nothing else but this medal.  I do think parts of the setup start and finish were a little confusing.  But the expo was fantastic, the course was pretty, and the post race festivities were good.  THEN THESE MEDALS.  Everyone's medal is colored in a different way and I asked when they were handing them out if I could choose which one I wanted, but they just handed me one.  Some people were trading at the end, but I couldn't trade mine. The medal I was given was the medal that I was given and despite the fact some of the other color combinations I liked better, I wouldn't have seen it as my medal.

The colors that I got don't even matter, it is just so beautiful.  It is made of a few circles that all rotate, there is a map of the US on the back with a little diamond over Miami, and the ribbon is just insanely pretty.  I am fully obsessed with this Miami Half Marathon medal and wish I could just wear it as a piece of jewelry/necklace.

Anyways, here is the data from my race.  I was really happy with the splits when I saw them and was surprised at how I did even when I felt like my pace was dropping.  And how consistent my pace was from mile to mile at some points. Another point of pride is that I was able to get down to 8:20 at mile 13 and run that as my fastest mile in the race! I am hoping to keep working hard and be able to bring my half marathon time down even more at some point in the future.  I was not expecting a PR at this race, so that was an awesome surprise!

And that's a wrap on Miami 2016 everybody!! 

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