Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Publix A1A Ft Lauderdale Half - February 17, 2013

So obviously I have an addiction to racing, and have become obsessed with running the 13.1 mile (half marathon) distance. I still wouldn't say that I enjoy running per se, but I do enjoy the after effects. To get up before dawn... to go out with hundreds of other people and go for a run... to see the sunrise... to burn some SERIOUS calories (close to 6K to be more precise)... and to do something that in 2007, only 0.17% of the American population had done. Granted the numbers have increased a bit as out of shape people like me have jumped on the bandwagon, but still... it is an accomplishment. And to do it all before most folks get out of bed... that feels pretty darn good.

Plus with a new goal to reach toward in 2013... I knew I had to get motivated and get some more half marathons under my belt.

I liked the idea of this race because it billed itself as being a flat, fast course, whatever that means (which I understand now, but I didn't at the time). I loved the finisher medal. And I loved the idea that it had a late-ish start time and was very near my house. That meant that although I was running a half marathon, I got to sleep in a little.

This race was different than the others though. Yes, Ray would be there as a spectator to support me as I crossed the finish line, but I was the only person I knew who was running this race, so I was on my own at the start.

But that's not entirely true. Because I was a new member of Half Fanatics and I had been talking to a couple other Fanatics who were also running. We had plans to meet near the start line about an hour before the official start of the race.

But it was a nightmare trying to find my new running friends. For starters, I'd only seen facebook profile pictures of both of them, and we all know that facebook profile pictures usually look NOTHING like the real person. But it was also in the low 30s (an anomaly for South Florida), so everyone was really bunched up together trying to block out some of the cutting wind, which made finding people a mess. On top of that, with a windchill bringing the temps into the upper 20s, most people (myself included) were wearing black trashbags to help keep their temps regulated. So it wasn't like we could text one another and ask what everyone was wearing.... because, of course, we were all wearing the same thing! BLACK TRASHBAGS!!!!

We finally found one another and said our goodbyes to Ray who was going to meet us at the finish line, and we made our way to the start corral. Unlike the two previous half marathons I had been in, the corrals were soft (meaning each runner chose what their pace would be and all corrals go at a time without waiting for each wave to clear out), so thankfully it was only a couple minutes of shivering before we could start.

Both Lisa and Pat run at faster paces than me, but Pat held back when we first began to run. I think she had hoped that I might be able to keep up, but I started having trouble almost immediately.

For starters, I was having trouble regulating my body temperature. I had gloves on which helped keep my hands warm, but everywhere else, my skin was really cold and I had goose bumps. At the same time, my body felt like I was burning up from the inside. It almost felt like that weird in-between when you have a really high fever and your skin just really hurts...

And then there was the foot pain.

After my 2 previous half marathons I had noticed a strange symptom taking place around 24-36 hours after the race. Out of nowhere, my ankles and arches would swell up to 2-3 times their normal size. I wasn't having pain (other than the pain associated with just walking on swollen feet), but I was still concerned. 2 days prior to the A1A race, I had an appt to establish a relationship with a new primary care doctor, and he had ordered blood work to ensure that it wasn't kidney (or other internal organ) related, and referred me to an orthopedist to have my feet and ankles checked out. The doctor told me that while I was waiting for the appt with the orthopedist, I could continue to run, but to remain aware of how my feet and ankles were feeling.

And during the first 3 miles of this race, other than the extreme cold, ALL I was really aware of was my feet and ankles. They were on fire. With every step I took, it felt like my feet were being crunched into a bench vice. I was having some shin pain as well, but I barely noticed because of the pain in my feet.

I stopped briefly to adjust my shoelaces (thinking if I loosened them that might help), but it just got worse and worse. Passing mile marker 2, I considered veering off the road and waiting for medical to come get me... or calling Ray and having him swoop in to save the day... but I couldn't. Something just kept telling me to reach for 4 miles, and if it was still bad at 4 miles, then I could quit. My time was ridiculously slow at this point (almost 17 minutes per mile), but with a mini goal of making it to mile 4, I tried to keep my chin up.

Whatever works, right?

But before I could reach 4 miles, we had to go up and over a small bridge toward the beach, and I saw the most spectacular sunrise. And somehow, the sunrise gave me hope. Or at least it distracted me long enough that by the time I reached mile 4, I was actually enjoying the journey. I was still extremely cold. My skin felt really uncomfortable. But I no longer noticed any shin, ankle, or calf pain. The pack (which was somewhat small to begin with, at less than 4,000 people) had really spread out at this point, and I was able to get deep within my head to let my mind drift.

The course led us in through Birch State Park for miles 4-6 which was a very pleasant surprise. The trees and other foliage blocked a good deal of the sun and the bone chilling wind. The course wound through some narrow stretches of road, and I felt like I was really having a connection with myself, working through some of life's issues, and developing a better understanding of my own body. 

Then it was back out to A1A and north until I hit the 8.5 mile point. By the time that I was traveling north in this section, both full and half marathoners were already headed south passing me. People were waving and friendly offering applause and encouragement wherever possible... something that I really love about the running community (but I'll talk about that another time). And somewhere in there, I realized that the time getting deep within my own head and the extra encouragement from other runners was giving me a speed boost. I was making up time... and fast.

After turning around for the final 5 mile stretch, I was given a dixie cup of light beer from one of the spectators on the course (because you know... mom's rule about never taking food or drinks from strangers doesn't apply to twizzlers or beer at a half marathon), and that was just what I needed to settle my stomach a little...

Me with new friends from Half Fanatics, Pat and Lisa
But then I got so wrapped up in my mantra of just wanting to "finish what I started," that I really don't remember much of that last 5 mile stretch. Until I hit the final 0.1 mile through the parking lots and into the chute. I was exhausted and just wanted to be done. I thought that I was about to hit a personal record, but I couldn't be sure. I had some great music on my ipod. I was in a groove. Runners who had finished prior to me were eating and drinking around their cars but stopping to cheer me on. I might as well have been an Olympian with as much support and crowd appeal as I was getting... definitely not a 16 minute miler.

It was only after I crossed the finish line and found Ray that I realized that I wasn't a 16 minute miler anymore. Now, I was officially a 15:29 minute miler.

That's over 1 minute off per mile from my first half marathon a month and a half before.

And the official results prove it.

Gun - 3:27:05
Chip - 3:22:50
10K - 1:30:34
Pace - 15:29/mile
Overall - 3047/3338
Div - 254/266


  1. An official ROCKSTAR that day! You finished strong despite the rough beginning!

    1. Thank you, Brina. You are ALWAYS so supportive. that's why i love you. no swf.

  2. Ack, I tried to comment while viewing this in my blog reader but it didn't work and disappeared on me. "mom's rule about never taking food or drinks from strangers doesn't apply to twizzlers or beer at a half marathon" this is SO true (at least about the Twizzlers for me!). Sounds like you had a great race. I did A1A back in 2010 and loved the course. Seeing the sun rise coming over the bridge, then having it keep coming up while heading north on A1A was peaceful and beautiful for me :-)

    1. I vaguely remember you mentioning that you ran the A1A race. I think this has to be one of my most favorite courses. the view was spectacular throughout... even with the washout from all the storms last fall.

      Twizzlers. I like them good enough when not running, but one around mile 9 or 10? that is like a little piece of heaven!

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