Wednesday, January 25th
The symptoms were reduced to a hacking cough and I was itchy to run. I took to the Greenway after work for 4-6 miles. The first mile was great. The second mile had me doubled over coughing so hard that I could barely catch my breath. I promptly turned around and decided more rest was in order.
Friday, January 27th
I'm not one to be fearful of cooties, but getting on an airplane with a respiratory thing 2 days before a marathon had me a bit nervous. We had an early flight and decided to head to packet pick up right as it opened on noon. I took a long nap that afternoon and went to bed early.
Saturday, January 28th
With just 1 day of running since the prior Friday, I felt anxious about running 26.2 the following day. Deciding to test the lungs was a good idea and the 3.1 miles jaunt made me feel slightly better about the impending situation.
I spent most of the day just hanging out with Adam's family and took a short walk in the park in the late afternoon because it was ridiculously beautiful outside. We went to Adam's dad's temple for a food festival for dinner. The old adage of "nothing new on race night" didn't phase me--I ate a bunch of challah bread, a small portion of brisket, tabbouleh salad, cheese blintzes, and cruised past the dessert table twice.
Sunday, January 29th
At 4:00 a.m., my alarm went off. Uggggggggggggh.
I ate two pieces of white toast with peanut butter, a couple gulps of cold coffee, and put on my race outfit. Adam and his dad are awesome and agreed to get up at this ungodly hour to stand out in the cold rain to watch me run around Miami with some sort of bronchial funk. I truly had no idea what time to expect because I was so unsure of how my body was going to behave.
As we walked out of the parking garage, I ate two Snickers minis--my newest pre-marathon obsession.
When I signed up, I had put in my Rehoboth time of 3:19 and so I was seeded in corral C. I noticed the signs for 3:20, 3:25, 3:30, etc. At 5:50 a.m., I made the game day decision to tuck in behind the 3:25 pacer and see how far I could hold on.
The wave start meant that our group started at about 6:05 a.m. and despite a few people clearly in the wrong corral, there was not too much jostling. A big group followed right behind the 3:25 sign and I stayed on the outskirts about 20-30 strides behind. We climbed the MacArthur Causeway and I looked out to the cruise ships fully light up in the darkness. There was a police boat that had all of its sirens going and music blaring nearby that broke up the otherwise silent pounding of runners in the early morning hours.
As we approached South Beach, revelers called out from hotel windows and a few straggling party-goers dotted the streets. The sky started to lighten around the same time the rain started. I actually breathed a sigh of relief knowing that the rain would keep temperatures ideal.
Somewhere around mile 5, I realized that the early mile funk had dissipated and I no longer felt sluggish. I actually felt quite comfortable stomping through the mud puddles and watching the runners around me try to stay with the 3:25 pacer. I was tempted to surge on ahead, but decided to play it safe and let the pacer do the work.
There were 3 other girls in our pack of about 20. It didn't occur to me until later that they could be running the half-marathon as the race doesn't split off until about mile 12. I tucked in behind one of them for quite awhile and just followed her footsteps, zoning out.
The course winds through Miami Beach and travels back over the Venetian Causeway offering views of oceanfront mansions along the way. I tried to remember to look up every one in awhile to take in the sights. As we hit the bridges over the water, we were smacked with incredible wind and spitting rain. It was briefly uncomfortable, but easy going compared to the winds of Rehoboth.
Our group slowly started to get smaller as we neared the split. 2 of the girls took off--one definitively towards the half marathon split. The other I later saw on the full course. The crowds swelled near the finish line area and the spectators amped me up. I was actually surprised to find the race was nearly half over (thanks ultra running!) and felt ready to run even faster.
I still had a half marathon to run, but I was feeling pretty good and comfortable running in the 7:20s. As I ticked off each mile marker, I was surprised that my energy wasn't really waning. I started holding my hand out to high-five spectators and policemen as I went by. The smile on my face was 100% genuine. I was so happy to feel so good and so strong.
A couple of times I would pull past a guy and he would try to hang on once he realized he was being passed. One dude practically tried to elbow me as I went by even though we had an entire lane of road and runners were pretty spread out at this point. I just smiled to myself, gave him some space, and went to the far side of the road to go by.
Once we got to Coconut Grove, I was getting excited to hit the turn around to head back towards the finish line. I came up behind the girl that had been running with the 3:25 pack and ran behind her for about a half mile. She was running strong and her form looked great, but I was ready to start pushing the pace towards the end. I inched up close behind her and made my move to pass.
Feeling pretty good through mile 22, I continued to pick off runners down the long stretch of Bayshore Drive. Though I had intended to take one more gel on the finish stretch, my stomach was feeling sloshy from the Gatorade. I bypassed a couple of water stations at the end, knowing that I only had about 30 minutes left to run.
The course swung out on the Rickenbacker Causeway and though the wind had died down a bit, it was still noticeably harder heading west. But I was in good spirits and thrilled that my fears of muddling through 26.2 with cranky lungs were just fears.
I wasn't really looking at my splits in the last mile--I just tried to leave enough in the tank for the finish chute and cranked down my pace. My last true mile was 6:32. The last 0.2ish cannot be trusted with my Garmin data because the buildings screwed up my GPS.
As I turned onto Biscayne Boulevard, I glanced down to see it wasn't a PR, but it was a 3:20:XX. What once was incredibly hard, was achievable and repeatable.
Well, until I stopped. I walked slowly down the chute, collected a bottle of water, and had a volunteer place a medal around my neck. Took a photo.
I started coughing. Coughing harder. Then I went promptly to a trash can and puked. Gatorade and gels came rumbling back out in all their electrolyte glory. A photographer passed by and realizing I was going to be okay and said, "just let it out!" Guess I wasn't 100% yet.
The good news is that I can run a 3:20:34 on diminished lung capacity. A super amazing taper and lackadaisical attitude are strong contributors to this success. Plus, the power of the negative split and picking off runners for the second half cannot be forgotten.
What next? Who knows! I am enjoying running to run and racing with freedom to fail. I consider every day I get to lace up and sweat a little another day to be grateful to do what I love.