A Tale of 5 Half Marathons

Some races just stick with you. The fact that the last 5 half marathons have remained in the memory banks … well, it led to this writing. The quest for all five of them was the same: get as close to (if not under) 2 hours. It was a small goal of mine since I started in the sport back in 2009 with the 13.1 Fort Lauderdale and finished with a 2:15. It took several races and 2+ years to get under 2:10 with the A1A Half in 2012. Some attempts were not really attempts (Miami Beach Halloween Half) and others were a part of a triathlon (every Miami Man). So I had a good amount of time and focus to make it possible.

The 13.1 Fort Lauderdale (Nov 9) is a race (along with the Publix A1A Half) I have done a few times already and I like the course – run around downtown, head to A1A, and then go north and south. The race started out normally, albiet a bit humid. But as the miles ticked on, it got more and more humid until I hit about mile 8 and the downpour started. I think it rained on and off for the next few miles. I had already slowed up a bit due to the humidity, but once the heavy rains started, it made everything else heavy: shirt, shorts, shoes, mood. Needless to say, the rain washed away any goals for that race. I plodded along mixing jogging and wringing water from everywhere for a 2:36 half. 13.1 Ft Lauderdale Runtastic stats

#1 for both of us

#1 for both of us

It’s amazing what a difference a month makes, especially in South Florida. A slightly warm and very humid beginning of November led to a cool and dry beginning of December. The start of the Weston Rotary Run for Tomorrow Half Marathon was quite chilly (55° F) and partly cloudy. This was the first time we had run this race and was quite pleased with it: even being a small, local run race it was well laid out and organized. The start/finish was in a town center for a planned community and the course was a pair of out-&-backs. It also helps that Weston is right off I75/Sawgrass. When the gun went off, I stuck to my plan: run at a steady pace for the first 9-10 miles and push it for the last. At least until I found a false flat at mile 7 that lastest about 2 miles. I could tell because my run app that went from telling me I was doing 9:30s changed to say that I was doing 10 min/miles. After that I tried to push it to make up the minute (I did do 2 miles of sub-9), but it had been too long of false flat. When I hit mile 10 I was at 1:36 – if it had been 1:30 or under it might have been more manageable to break 2hrs. As it was, I was greatly pleased to finish with a 2:04, a half marathon personal best of about 8 minutes. Weston Rotary Half Marathon Runtastic stats

The Skydive Ultra was another race that I went into not having done before. No, I did not do “an ultra marathon” there (this post is about half marathons), nor did I skydive (I’ve already done a tandem skydive, twice) – but both are options available to the crazies. It is one of those local races put on by an individual – even smaller than the Weston Half, but offering numerous distances from 10K to 100 miles, in a semi-remote area of Clewiston next to a small airport, appropriately. Each distance had it’s own start time, with the 100-milers starting at 7 (?) am; being in the half marathon group, my “wave” did not start until noon. This brought upon two dilemnas: starting in the middle of the day and what to do about breakfast. For all of my previous races, I might have a little coffee before leaving the house and some gel right before the race. This time I tried a “normal” breakfast of a bacon breakfast wrap from Dunkin. What I did not take into account was hanging around the race site for a few hours – walking between the run course and the sky dive hanger several times, after walking around Wal-Mart picking up snacks and such. This, along with the course having no shade and partial trail, led a slow start and several walking breaks, and that weird feeling in the stomach. It was definitely a learning experience, as I finished with a 2:38 (only slightly off the rainy 13.1 in November). Skydive Ultra Half Marathon Runtastic stats

A1A finishers

A bunch of happy people

This lead to the second half marathon in downtown Fort Lauderdale & along A1A for this season: the Publix A1A Half Marathon. It follows most of the same course as November’s 13.1 Ft Lauderdale and can be equally as chilly; this year was no different. It was in the very low 50° F at the start and I don’t think it went much higher than that by mid-day. The pomp & circumstance of the race signalled the start and I started out good. That was until the laces for my right sneaker came undone before mile 1 – twice! After the second loosening I double-knotted it. I was wearing my Saucany Kinvara that I had gotten a few weeks ago. I usually swap out the regular laces for the elastic/bungee style after a test run or two but I didn’t have an issue before the race. I was a bit worried that the time spent stopping to retie would have an effect, but once I hit A1A (and stumbled over a reflector) I got into a good groove, or in this case, gear. From Sunrise Blvd (Birch State Park) and on each mile reading had under a 9 min/mile. I even had energy to push it the last mile or so. Which considering I only took a total of 1-1/2 gels goes against convention of a “whole gel every 45” that the packs state; I think I took 1/2 a gel every 45 minutes. So the combination of chilly weather (w/out rain), effective fueling, and training all led to it: 1:57:19! A1A Half Marathon Runtastic stats

transition area, Clermont

Bike & run exit for Intimidator

So riding the high on the success of A1A Half Marathon I entered into the run leg of the Intimidator (Florida Challenge) Half Iron Relay on March 21 with confidence. I had never done a triathlon relay before, but I learned from the late start of my wave at the SkyDive Ultra about what not to do: don’t do too much standing, light on the food, and stay cool. The latter was almost too easy with Mother Nature keeping it overcast with a slight fog and chilled all morning. But then the clouds broke around 11:30am and the temperature slowly rose. After about a half hour after the clouds broke, Jess came into transition after finishing the swim and 56 mile bike and I got the timing chip and her Garmin. I knew after the first mile or two that it was going to be a hot one. I stuck with a slower pace than from the A1A Half, although I still ended up pulling the black WoB tank up to my shoulders and used it to hold ice and water around my neck. That helped a bunch, along with the numerous shaded areas along the trail. Staying in control and not overexcerting myself definitely made for a good 2:28 run – not that I could have beaten A1A, but it was probably a PR for super hot weather. Even with the slight rolling terrain and bridge.

If you want to try any of the races yourself, check out the list below


One thought on “A Tale of 5 Half Marathons

  1. Tess

    Reading this and following your runs on Facebook inspire me to keep pushing through. I really appreciate the way you break it down and the fact that you have good days, great days and bad days; and you are honest about them all.

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