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Windblown, Again

November 13, 2011

2011 13.1 Fort Lauderdale

November 13, 2011
Bib Number: 464
Overall Placement: 454 / 2147 (21.1%)
Age Group Placement 26 / 187 (13.9%)
Gender Placement 109 / 1056 (10.3%)
Chip Time: 1:52:22

Yep, you read that right. It was windy out there again. And hot. According to the all-knowing Weather Underground, when we started at 6:13am, it was already 73 degrees, and the wind was blowing straight out of the east at 13mph. Did I mention we were running on the oceanfront road most of the time? The winds picked up as we ran, and the highest gust during the time I was running was recorded at 22mph. So, yeah, it was blowing.

Like 2009, the last time Little G and I ran this event, we stayed at a hotel just across the street from the start line. It has a full kitchen, so Little G made us her trademark baked ziti and we heated up in our microwave, which freed us from having to hunt down a decent prerace dinner. By 8:30 I could barely keep my eyes open; I read a little but I had turned out my light by 9pm, and we were both up before the alarm went off at 5.

We dressed in our coolest outfits, knowing the day would be hot. We went ahead and wore hats, in spite of the predicted winds, because we thought the day would be sunny, and we knew we’d be running along the beach. We had some coffee, and left the hotel around 5:30, planning to drop off our gear bags and go to the porta potties one more time since the 13.1 series races start at 6:13. The race has grown since we last ran it, though, and the line for the small bank of port-o-lets was insane, so we were thankful we’d gone a few times before we left the hotel and decided to just get in the chute.

We also noted thankfully that, perhaps as a nod to the many more people running this year, the race organizers had added pacers. Though I don’t usually run with pace groups, it’s nice to have a running clock on the course, helping you keep track of where you are in relation to your time goal.

We had a gel as we stood in the chute, chased it with water, and got ready for the start. We had chosen not to wear disposable sweatshirts because, let’s face it, when temps are in the low 70s when you’re in the starting corral, you just don’t need to feel any warmer than you already are.

The gun went off and I lost Little G right away. We’d both said we knew we’d be unlikely to run a personal best under the day’s conditions, with the heat and the wind, and had adjusted our goals. Little G said she’d be satisfied to run sub-2, though her PR is about 1:50; I figured I’d be happy to go close to 1:50, though my PR is 1:48. Still, I wanted to see what I could do against the course, so I determined to run as well as I could for as long as I could. I knew I’d trained well, and that I could run at least close to 8:30 pace.

First mile, focused on not going out too fast. 8:44.

Second mile, still in the city, tracking with a young woman in a bright yellow Boston Marathon jacket who is running very easy, apparently pacing her friend in her first half. I determine to keep her in my sights as long as I can—I like her pacing and easy running style. 8:39.

Third mile. Coming up on the Henry E Kinney tunnel, where I lost my head last year and ran a sub-8 mile way too early in the race. This year, I’m determined to keep my wits about me, so as we go downhill, I let gravity do the work for me, but I purpoesly refuse to let the energy and zeal of that fun downhill carry me too fast into the curve of Broward Boulevard. Though I lose Garmie’s signal momentarily in the tunnel as I pass the steel drum player, I notice as I come up on the mile marker that I still managed a respectable 8:47 pace.

Mile 4, passing beautiful yachts on Las Olas and thankful for the distraction in the early part where it’s early to go too fast. I notice the CSI van that’s trapped by the race traffic and I feel bad; I know two-thirds of the field is still behind me and those crime-scene techs aren’t going anywhere soon. I notice I can no longer stay behind Boston girl and her friend and leave them behind. 8:49.

As we close out mile 4, we’re approaching my favorite part of this race, going over the bridge onto A1A. I’m reminded of all the bridge training we did and thankful for strong hamstrings and quads that can do the work and that becomes my mantra as I churn uphill: “DO THE WORK!” And then as I crest the hill I feel it full force for the first time, straight out of the east: that wind.I tuck in behind a taller, beefier runner, looking for shelter, but then notice, together, we’re doing a 9:05. A 9-minute mile? Really? On a downhill? I go around him and face the wind alone.

At the base of the bridge, I make my first mistake. It’s my first fueling stop, and I’ve packed my salt-replacement tabs in a little baggie that’s impossible to access on the fly. I lose incredible amounts of time as runners—scores of them—fly past me as I fumble with my nutrition. Rookie mistake. Finally fueled with minerals and a gel, I end up trying to get around an incredibly thick pack of runners who are much slower than I want to be running, and end up wasting energy weaving through them. On my right are some runners from the 5k, who are finishing their own race, running against us on the other side of the street. I feel frustrated by the traffic, and I realize I’m expending energy I can’t afford to waste. I decide to run at a steady pace and pick my way through the slower runners the best I can. Boston girl is a beacon well ahead of me again. I close mile 5 at 8:50.

Mile 6. This part of the course feels long, as I try to maintain a steady pace while facing the wind. It’s hard to maintain a clear focus in these middle miles—it’s easy to be tired already, but too early to push for the end. The best I can do is try to maintain my happy pace and thank the many police officers who are keeping cars from driving onto the course. 8:31.

Mile 7. I’m tired. We turn into the city and I mourn that the turnaround isn’t until 8.5. But as we head into this more urban area, at least I notice we’ve gotten some shelter from the wind, and I revel into it. I’m keeping pace with a new crowd, and I’ve lost Boston. A woman near me in a magenta tank—not in my age group, if I’m any judge of ages—refuses to let me pass, and speeds up any time I approach her, only to run out of breath and energy within a couple of minutes and lag behind again. We play a running version of leapfrog. 8:32.

Mile 8 is the longest mile. I know the turnaround is ahead of me, as is the promise of water when I can take another gel and mineral tablet. The leaders have already passed me, and the age groupers are now on the other side of the road looking fit and fast. Magenta Tank still wants to play leapfrog, even after a sudden gust of wind catches her hat and throws her off pace.

I take fuel at the end of mile 8, walking through the aid station to the delight of Magenta Tank, who thinks she’s put the last nail in my coffin. The turnaround is tight—that turn-around-the-cone I love so much. A few minutes after I’ve made the turn I spot Little G, and we call out each other’s names as we reach out for high fives. I catch Magenta Tank. She’s unhappy, but has nothing left and I pass her without response. 8:23.

Mile 9. Finally. A generous homeowner is outside her yard, offering small chunks of banana. The word “chunks” gets stuck in my throat. She also has liquid in small cups. A runner some yards in front of me assumes it is water. It is not. It’s lukewarm beer. The runner seems unsure of how to show his gratitude. 8:34.

I can’t express my delight in finally coming up on the mile 10 marker. Mile 10 means I finally have a 5k to go. I try to do the math. I can run a 5k in 30 minutes, even under the worst conditions. If the clock reads 1:22, and I run the last 3.1 in 30 minutes, I’ll finish in 1:52 . . .what if I run the last 5k in 25 minutes? My brain hurts from speculating. And as we hit the waterfront again, the wind greets us.

It’s a law of running, that if it’s a windy day, the wind will never be at your back. Write it down, kids. It’s the truth. Mile 10 in 8:25. 

It’s a 5k race from here, and I try to remember that if I’m keeping up with people, I’m slowing down. (Another law of running, kids. This one’s free: at the tail end of a race, people are slowing down. Stay with them, and you’re slowing down too. Pass them, and you might be keeping a steady pace.) Instead, I aim to pass people while keeping my heartrate and breathing under control. I find a young man who seems to get it, and we start running shoulder-to -shoulder. I take water at the end of the mile. 8:14.

Two miles. Two miles. I remember how short this distance really is, though I can’t see the next mile marker and I know that means it’s pretty far. I’m pushing hard for the finish. I’ve long stopped paying attention to the clock, and have no idea how close or far I am to scoring a personal best. I just know I have to go. Go hard. At the mile 12 aid station I take water and a gel. The runner next to me is doing this weird thing where he’s pumping his arms as he runs. His stride is awkward. I ask one of the volunteers, “Do you think he’s okay?” Then I ask the runner himself. “Sir, are you okay?” Before my eyes, he starts weaving. He’s not okay. He sits down on the pavement, then lies down flat. I start calling for medics, water, someone. Some other runners notice the crisis; and we get him walking to the sidewalk and get him water, staying until one of the volunteers radios for help and we know someone’s on him. Mile 12 at 8:52.

Mile 13, after that crisis, is tough. I don’t want to push too hard. My heart is beating wildly, and I’m thankful that I’m still running, that my race isn’t going to end in the ER. I’ve lost sight of the pack I was racing, who got through the aid station before the weaver fell down. I see them ahead of me, and determine to slowly work my way back up to them. To do so efficiently. It’s the last mile, and I can die at the end.7:50.

We dive into the park, with people cheering. There’s a woman who looks like she could be in my age group, running alongside the young man who’d kept pace with me in mile 11. The three of us run into the park together, and as he takes off and drops us like so much ballast, she turns to me good naturedly and says, “Race you,” and takes off. We race into the chute, and she beats me by a stride. Last tenth in 37 seconds or so.

Today, there’s not much more I want to say. Little G finished a few minutes behind me, happy and a little surprised to have finished under two hours, considering the conditions on the course. We’re considering adding another half marathon to our schedule, not to redeem ourselves or prove anything but just because we like the distance and neither one of us is running a marathon this fall, so we certainly have the time.

In spite of a hard effort and fighting the winds for so long, I feel really good right now; in fact, I’m less sore today than I was after the Halloween race.

I’ll file a race autopsy another day. I’m glad I did this one, and I’m smiling.

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