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November 16, 2008

cropped-race-finishThat was my net time at the 13.1 Fort Lauderdale.

We left town at around 5:30 and stopped on the way south to use a gift certificate at Olive Garden. Though I intended to eat a tomato-based saucey pasta, I figured I was only running 13 and a cheese sauce couldn’t hurt me too much, so I succumbed to the fantastic Steak Gorgonzola. And I’d do it again. It was fabulous. We shared a chocolate gelatto for dessert. I made sure to stay a comfortable full.

Checked into the Avalon Waterfront Inns, where the Boss and I were informed that because they were full, we were being given “the penthouse”–their rather generous name for an unused apartment that functions as a large suite. It would easily have slept eight. The king size bed in the larger room was very comfortable and I turned in at around 8:30. Boss stayed up watching a little football until he, too, turned out the lights, only to be intermittently awoken by party sounds–I thought it was clubbers returning from parties but it turned out to be a party at one of the adjoining buildings. It didn’t bother me too much–I drifted in and out of sleep and felt like I got as solid a night’s sleep as you can before race day.

Rose at 4. News reported it to be 70 degrees and I was bummed–figured the incoming cool front had stalled. Donned race gear. Fueled up. Glided down. Left the hotel around 4:30 to discover the front had not stalled–it was not 70 but freezing! Windy, too. We arrived at the designated parking at the start line about 4:40. Stayed in the car until about 5:15, about an hour before the start. Had time to visit the porta-potties twice, wearing my long-sleeve tech tee and the Boss’s fleece over that, too. It was seriously cold, and the wind was whipping so seriously that I thought about ditching the hat. Finally I lost the fleece, and then the long-sleeve tech for a short warm-up. Knew I’d warm up very quickly running, and that with the sun coming up at 6:30, just minutes after the gun, I’d probably appreciate the visor. Decided to keep it.

Before I knew it, it was time to get in the chute. Kissed my beloved, lined up with the nine-minute milers. After the anthem, we were off!

Boy, was it crowded. Those first few miles especially were rough–I had to keep getting outside the traffic cones just to pass, which I felt like I had to do a lot to get into my rhythm. I was afraid I’d get way off pace and end up with an over-ten minute mile, but came in at 8:59. Just as mile two was ending (8:23) we came upon a tunnel. I love uphills and downhills, and doing the downhill first was a nice change of pace–letting gravity do the work for me first, then surging ahead on the uphill, right into a beautiful curve that tossed us into Broward Boulevard. I loved it. I felt like I was cruising, though at this point I was a little bit concerned about my pace–mile 3 came in at 8:43 and I thought that was a little fast for so early in the race.

Mile 4, over the bridge at Las Olas–this time the uphill first, but I didn’t mind–came in at 8:35. Again, crowded! But coming up on A1A was my favorite part of this course, which was so similar to my first half marathon. Here, the spectators are out cheering, and you’re out of the city and onto the beach, and you know you’ve just got to cruise for a few miles north and then boomerang south. It was windy on A1A, though–mile 5 at 8:37.

At mile 6 I had my first Gu, chased by water–8:32. Mile 7 came in at 8:38, and other than mile 1 , that was my slowest mile. True to form, I would begin to pick it up after that, in spite of having gone out faster than intended. It was right around mile 7 that I was passed by the elites on their return trip. I caught up around here with some triathletes and tried to stay close to them, allowing their conversation to distract me and their footfalls to pace me. Thanks to them, mile 8 was a speedy 8:22.

Turnaround was close to mile 9. I couldn’t believe how my pace was picking up, because consciously I knew I’d gone out too fast. But checking in with my body revealed no soreness–no tightening knees or calves, no sore toes; I felt great–strong and beautiful.

Mile 9 came in at 8:28–another benchmark mile, since I would pick it up again after this. In my original stated strategy I said I intended to pick it up at the mile 10 marker, yet in my simulation race I didn’t have anything left at that point. Not today–I had plenty left in the tank. Mile 10 came in at 8:16. Took my second Gu out of my pocket at mile 10.5 to warm it, and started sucking it down at about mile 11. Took my time with it, even as I cruised to an 8:04 mile. One of my triathletes came up from behind me at this point. I remembered that to hold your pace at this point means not to stay with people around you, who frequently are slowing down and therefore present an illusion, but to pass people. The triathlete was passing people. I decided to stay as close behind him as I could. Mile 12, 7:56. I washed my Gu down with water at the 12-mile mark water station, put my head down, and thought–this is it–longest mile ahead of you.

Now, I’ve never run sub-8 at the tail end of a long run, especially a long run run at race pace. But I was darned if I was going to lose it now. Looking at the clocks at every mile marker, doing the math, I knew I was going to be sub-2, but I was dedscn6109termined to be as far under it as I could. I kept that triathlete in my sights. The distance between us got shorter. I picked a woman between us. Tried to go to her left and got hemmed in. Swung to her right, passed her. I noticed her surging, staying on my shoulder for a minute, but she couldn’t hold pace and eventually dropped back. Picked the triathlete himself next–surged ahead of him and passed him easily. As we were coming into the finish line, surrounded by people cheering, I saw the Boss. He seemed surprised to see me–I knew I was way earlier than we’d thought–he’d predicted 1:52, I’d predicted 1:55–but he snapped a picture as I ran by. I like how in his picture the other runners look tired and I look like I’m having a ball. Hey, it’s my picture, so I get to interpret it.

The clock read 1:52, I thought as I ran in–mile 13 came in at 7:43.

The medal is ugly, though I did score my first space blanket. Who am I kidding? All that matters is that I scored my sub-two. All that training, all those early-morning eight milers, all those tempo runs in the July and August heat.

Average pace, 8:27.
15th of 117 women in my age group.
77th of 720 women.
319th of 1382 overall.

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