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
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
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
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
- 13.1 Marathon Series
- Weston Rotary Run for Tomorrow Half Marathon
- Skydive Ultra
- Publix A1A Half Marathon
- Central Florida Challenge (Intimidator) Triathlon