Friday, February 8, 2013

If you are looking for a quick review on the ING Miami Marathon, please scroll down to the bottom.  If you are looking for the rest of the story on my particular experience running the 2013 marathon, please read the details below.  Part 1 of this marathon story can be found in my previous post.
The entire week and on the plane ride, I had been visualizing the race.  I watched the YouTube video of the course, I memorized the times I should be at each mile marker if I wanted to meet my goal.  I completed the 16 week training plan injured and sick free...I was ready for this huge goal of mine to be reached.
After getting back to my brother's place from the expo and resting a bit we (brother, his girlfriend and I) finally decided to go out for dinner at Tikl Restaurant.  Food was very good, but I was not sure if I had enough good carbs for it to be the last meal before the race.  Regardless, I felt pretty confident I had plenty during the day and throughout the week. 

When we got back to his place after dinner, his girlfriend was reading the ING Miami Marathon official program and she found that a portion of my weight loss story was included, which I thought was cool.  Especially since the story of weight loss success person Eli Sapharti was also on the page and was running the half marathon.  We all went to bed shortly after 10pm...But I did not fall asleep.  My stomach was a bit upset and I think I heard every car horn, airplane and motorcycle that drove by even if we were 41 stories high.  The alarm went off shortly after 4am, but I know I was up until at least 1am.  However, it is expected that you will not get much sleep the night before so I didn't think this would affect my performance.
Before most of my runs I have a routine that includes the following:
  • Brush teeth, get dressed. 
  • Drink a vegetable/fruit smoothie (almond milk, water, plant protein, spinach, kale, banana, beet root, Maca powder and Chia seeds)
  • Run in place, leg swings, dynamic stretching and foam rolling that Ashley Borden introduced me to.
    • I use a PVC pipe that I purchased at Home Depot that has done amazing things for my legs.
  • Go to bathroom, apply Body Glide and Vaseline to avoid chaffing and sun tan lotion.
 After all these activities and making sure I have all my gadgets (iPod, GPS watch, Heart Rate Monitor, hat, waist belt, water container, gels, sunglasses salt pills) we were all ready to go.  (Jeez, you would think I was going camping or something.)  We left at about 5:15am and we were lucky enough to be so close that we could walk there and arrive plenty of time before the 6:15am start.  Once we got closer, I was stunned at just how many people there were for the race.  I was expecting a lot, but the amount of people was crazy.  (The good news for my brother and I was that most of them were there for the half marathon.)  We all decided to go to the bathroom one more time before we lined up so we went inside the American Airlines Arena.  (What a fantastic idea to allow people to stretch in there and use the bathrooms before the race begins.)
At this point, I am pumped, nervous but ready for this to begin.  The nervousness is different than my first marathon because this time I have a real finishing time goal.  So what happens if it doesn't work out?  What happens if I actually do meet the goal?  Questions and doubts enter the mind, but all you try to do is clear your head as much as possible and focus on what is about to begin.  Too much training has been put into this to mess it up.

We get to our corral and we decide that we would start a little in front of the 3.55 marathon pace group because according to my training I was shooting for under 4 hours and if it went perfect I did want it to be right around 3 hours and 55 minutes.  (Legs and ears didn't feel "right" at this moment.)  I start my GPS watch but the satellite takes forever to be located due to the buildings, but it finally connects 5 minutes before we start.  Then a couple minutes before the gun goes off, I realize the sensor of my heart rate monitor is missing.  I rely on this quite a bit to gauge how hard I am working and for it to be gone, is kind of devastating to me.  However, there was nothing I could do now except hope it is back at my brother's place and not worry about it.  My brother and I discuss the plan, he will run in front of me (with about a 8.50 minute pace) and the goal is for me to eventually catch up to him.  I would start off with a 9.10 minute pace and if the plan worked, I eventually would speed up to a 8.55 pace.  (Note: This was his first marathon and typically he is a fast runner, but his training did not go as well as mine so he was not shooting for a very fast time.)
Ipod is turned on and off we go.  It is dark, so my sunglasses are up.  After getting through the crowd, within the first half mile, the Atlantic Ocean can be seen with the cruise boats sitting there, it was a breathtaking moment.   
Back to the race...I see my brother up ahead as expected.  I look down at my watch and I am around a 9.10 pace, but legs don't feel great.  Typically for all my races I have feel really good right from the beginning because of the reduced amount of running (tapering) the week leading into a race.  However, for some reason this day I just didn't feel "right" at the start.  Either way, I move ahead and try to keep this pace.  I find someone I want to stay with so I drift behind him.  I feel comfortable to a point; I am focused on the pace and how I feel.  The plan is to breathe easily, relax the shoulders and stay in control.  It is still a bit dark but I can see that the sun is beginning to rise.  (If you have never gone for a run in the morning to watch the sun rise on a sunny day, I suggest you try it one day.)
A little after mile 2 I lose my brother which was okay, because I am not relying on him to be there the entire time, we had discussed that if we lose each other that it will not be a big deal and that he should run the best that he can.  However, what does bother me is a small pull in my right hamstring and a small side stitch on my left side that acts up about a half mile later.  (Really body, today is the day you are not agreeing with me?)  Around mile 3, the sun is definitely up and I begin to feel it on my body.  I reach down to check on my belt situation and one of my gels is missing.  This is not a huge deal since I know they will be offering some later on, but still something that bothers me a bit.
By mile 5, I just knew I did not have a 8.55 pace in me for 26.2 miles and I was already feeling like I would be overheating, the sun was bad once it was up (for a Midwestern boy).  At this point already, I was starting to think about Goal B, which was just getting a PR (personal record).  Through mile 6 my pace averaged 9.21 and IF I was able to keep that up, I would set a PR of 4.05.  At about mile 7, I decided to walk up a small bridge due to my slight hamstring pull.  That is when I really began to feel the heat and the mind games began...more walking started shortly after that initial walking break. Now keep in mind that during training, I rarely walk (only for stop lights) so for me to be walking this much already was not good.  When I would start running again, the legs felt heavy and the ears were bothering me (find out later it was due to a sinus infection).  I just felt tired...with just over an hour into the race.  The only time my body reacted like this was after my 20 mile runs during training...AFTER 20 miles, not 7. 
At around mile 8 aid/water station, I almost ate Vaseline because I thought it was a piece of pineapple on a stick.  Now that would have been a bad experience, luckily a volunteer caught me at the last second (whew that was close).  I refilled my water container, poured water on my hat and put it on my head.  I felt refreshed for a bit but the big running crowd was still there, sun was not going away which equated to more walking...again.
Around mile 10 I felt I needed to go to the bathroom because I had been drinking a lot of water.  I found a port-a-potty that had no line and entered.  (Warning: What follows may be too much information for some.)  I attempted to urinate, but barely anything came out and what did was light red.  This is where I started to worry about how my body was functioning that day, all the bad things were adding up...head/ears hurt, cramping, pulled muscle, overheating, no urinating and now red liquid and it hurt a bit as it came out...but I decided to continue on.  My thought (so I wouldn't quit) is maybe it was a result of the beet root in my morning smoothie.  (This has occurred in the past when I drank beet root.)
So I begin to run and low and behold, something weird is at the bottom front of my running underwear and it heart rate sensor.  I have no idea to this day how it got there or how long it was there for, but at least I found it.  I put it on, but it doesn't work, probably due to all the sweat and body glide it had all over it since it was on my body somewhere for the last 80+ minutes.  I start going again and I see the 3.55 pace group run past me. It was a hurtful reminder that my goal will not be met today, but I have to accept it and keep moving on. 

On this day, all I could think about was the 5 minute moment from the video clip below, "...Don’t cry to quits. You already in pain, you already hurt. Get a reward from it."  (I have the full audio clip version of this whole speech on my iPod so I hear the whole speech every 30 minutes or so during the marathon.)

Physically, it never gets any easier throughout the race, the list below highlights some of what happened over the following miles....
  • I end up walking quite a bit.
    • At one point, I just tried to run half mile at a time and then walk for a couple of minutes.
    • Other times, it was 3 minutes, then walk for 2.
    • Then it was a 1 to 1 ratio.
  • Feet begin to hurt quite a bit due to the bad shoes I am wearing.
  • I always felt like I could overheat at any moment.  Sometimes the hat was on, other times off.
  • Never was 100% sure about the red liquid coming out of me, so this played mind games with me.
  • I almost stopped at the half-marathon point, but decided at the very last second to continue on.
    • I am glad I didn't stop because it was nice that a lot of the runners were gone right after the half-marathon point.  I would say that 2/3 of the starting crowd ran 13.1 miles.
  • Different pace groups kept passing me and the frustration grew.
  • No matter how much water I drank I was never able to urinate at all during the whole race and I drank a lot of water and some Gatorade.
  • At mile 18, I asked a 8 year-old for his kick scooter so I could finish this race faster.  :-)  I was only half-serious.  I am glad he told me No and that I should not quit.
  • I REALLY looked forward to EVERY single water/aid station.
    • I always filled up my water container, poured 1 water cup on my back and 1 on my hat.
    • I loved the orange slices I found at a couple of stations.
    • I finally found and enjoyed the pineapples.
    • I passed up on the coffee shots that I saw at some point...even though it was tempting.
    • I passed on some beer around mile 20...didn't sound tempting at all.
  • Left my water bottle in a port-a-potty before mile 20...had to turn around after a minute and go back.
  • I saw a guy run/walk the whole marathon while dribbling 2 basketballs; I was amazed and frustrated as he passed me up.
  • Not knowing my heart rate created mind games and discomfort the whole day.
  • I knew people were following online and that people would see how bad I was doing.
  • At mile 20, I almost cried.
  • Mile 22, a perfect song came on, (Get Thru This by Art of Dying) that energized me to push me for the last 4.2 miles.
At some point around mile 16, I knew nothing in body was broken, I was not getting dizzy or felt light lighted, my legs just felt like they each weighed 200 lbs.  Yes, I was tired, my ears hurt, I was hot, but I was able to keep moving, so I moved forward with 10 miles still go.  Around that time, I knew there was no turning back, I wanted to at least go home with a nice medal and I knew I couldn't quit because people were expecting me to finish.  After I hit mile 23 I realized I only had just over a 5K to go and that anyone can do a 5K, so I just stayed as positive as I could and just enjoyed the wonderful Miami scenery...what a beautiful day (if I wasn't running/walking 26.2 freaking miles).
At about the 25 mile mark, I heard the Lulu Lemon cheering squad.  They were so energetic and it was nice fresh energy.  Glad that the Lulu Lemon stores in the South Florida area are involved with the marathon.  At this point I was on Brickell Avenue and getting ready to pass up the restaurant we ate at the night before.  All I had to do was get past my brother's building and run up a small bridge and then down into the finish line (about half mile away at the bridge point).  I decided to walk up the bridge and at that moment I looked up and saw my brother.  It was exactly what I needed and he told me he would run with me to the finish line.  It definitely helped me finish as strong as possible.  We talked a bit, he told me he finished in about 4 hours 15 minutes and I explained some of my issues (not urinating, etc.).  At this moment, I finally knew for sure that I was going to get the medal, so I started picking up the speed, even posed for a couple of the professional photographers as I ran by, heard them announce my name and I was finally done.  I finished the marathon in 5 hours and 17 minutes exactly.

So obviously, I did not meet my goal and it was not even close.  Did I learn a LOT about myself?  You better believe it.  I learned that even on bad days I can get through the tough times.  I learned that some days you just don't have it, but you just have to keep moving along.  I learned that the marathon's distance has to be is 26 point 2 freaking miles.  It is called a marathon for a reason and it is not expected to be easy, that is why everyone doesn't sign up for it.  Here are a few more items I would like to share with you as you prepare for your first or next race...
  • Get as much sleep the 2 nights prior to the race...You will most likely not get much the night before the big event.
  • Never wear anything new on day of race.  Probably rule #2 in the runner's book and I knew it but I still didn't follow it.  I wore a belt to hold my gels and a runner's hat for the first time. I ended up getting the belt because I didn't want to put 5 gels in my pockets and I got the hat because it was going to be sunny and hot (after receiving some last minute advice on the hat).  Now the belt never really did bother me but I put gels in there and I lost one early on because I didn't put them in there securely so I ended up placing the gels in my pockets the rest of the race.  Now the times it saved me because I poured water on there and then put it on my head, which definitely felt good.  However, other times it felt like it was making me feel extra warm and with my sinus infection, I just felt my head was overheating.  Either way, both items ended up being a bit of a bother.
  • Salt pills, practice where you will hold them.  I placed them in my water container's pocket and they were fine at mile 6, but when I tried to get them for mile 13, they were busted open and I was not able consume them.
  • Pain is temporary, quitting is forever.  IF I would have quit at any point, I know for a fact, I would have regretted it.  I am so glad I decided to just keep going.
  • Time really doesn't matter, just finish healthy.  During the race I realized it was not my day, my legs were not hurt, I knew I was not going to set any PRs, I was certain that I was not going to meet my goal so I just had to own and accept the time I would finish in.  Plus no matter what, I could go home to a wife and son that love me, no matter what time appeared at the end. 
Quick Race Review
Would I run the ING Miami Marathon again?  YES!  It was an awesome marathon with so many aid stations, friendly crowd, great food spread and events after the race, nice volunteers, beautiful scenery and an awesome expo.  Communication from the organizers leading up to the race was top notch.  It definitely is crowded for the first half, but after that, the crowd thinned out and I couldn't complain about a thing.  However, I would probably never go down there and expect any PR unless some cold front came in.  :-)
Why didn't I meet the goal? 
I truly believe part of it was the bad sinus infection that I later found out about, not having great shoes and the other part was due to not being able to deal with the heat.  All the other little things (hamstring, missing HR sensor, etc) all added up and definitely didn't help the situation.

 "Failure is an event, not a person." - Zig Ziglar
Did I fail?  YES!  I failed at meeting my goal, but it doesn't mean I am a failure.  Was I disappointed at not meeting my goal?  Absolutely.  But guess what?  I feel fine (after 2 days of not walking normally) and I am ready to get in better shape and I have already signed up for my next marathon.

"Failure is a detour, not a dead end street." - Zig Ziglar
I have no problem announcing to the world what my goal is and then not meeting it.  Having goals is what drives my workouts and keeps my dedication in check.  If I just ran for the heck of it, each workout would not mean so much to me.  I will do whatever it takes to give me the best chance at seeing my dreams come true.  As I have stated before, failures will eventually equate to successes if you don't give up.
Will I ever hit the 4 hour marathon goal?  I truly believe I can do it and it will happen one day.  It just didn't happen on this day.  I know for sure that I will keep trying until the day comes I can no longer run.  I will not let fear hold me back.
For those wondering...I finally went to the bathroom properly around 4pm and I do believe the red liquid was due to the beet root.  :-)
If you ever visit Miami or you plan to move there, invest in real estate, etc., please feel free to contact my brother's (real estate agent) website for a list of condos or houses available in the South Florida area.


  1. Wow! Glad it was just the beet root and nothing more serious. Congratulations on finishing!

    1. Thanks Nir! Yes, I am glad too that it was only my drink.

  2. Excellent job on the strong finish, your brother was awesome to wait for you. That was a great recap!

    1. Thanks for reading it Shelly! Yes my brother was great for doing that and it definitely was a great relief after trying to get through that tough race.