At 6:15 a.m., I stepped outside to start stashing gear bags in our rental car. I wore a tank top and shorts and had my sock-armwarmers in my hand, hoping that when I got the first hit of fresh air, I’d find it crisp enough to at least pretend I needed them.
Instead, I wanted nothing that resembled wool anywhere near my body.
I don’t want my entire Latin Music Miami Beach recap to be about the weather, because a) who cares that much about the weather? and b) the weather is certainly not the only reason I finished in 2:08:48, 8:49 (one mile!) slower than my goal and +1:30ish from my PR. But as it turns out, when you take a San Francisco runner and drop her in the middle of a heat wave that even Floridians are finding a little unpleasant, ugly things might happen.
I’d talked myself back to a good place by the time we hit Miami Beach. A field of just about 4,500 runners meant little traffic and port-a-potties aplenty. And the beach was breezier and — I convinced myself — a little cooler than Miami proper. Pete and I said goodbye to this girl and easily found ourselves a corral spot; semi-confusing signs meant we ended up in 3 rather than our assigned 2, but the 2:00 pacers were in 3, so we stayed and ended up crossing the line a handful of steps in front of the pace group.
Pete and I separated within the first half-mile, and I tried to find a rhythm that would feel speedy but comfortable. But from the start, my breathing was just off. I don’t run with a heart rate monitor, but I could tell I was working harder than I should have been. We ran past a thermometer in the first half-mile and it read 77 with what felt like 77,000% humidity, and I was already feeling the urge to drink from my handheld bottle, and I started to realize that this was going to be a very long race.
Still. I crossed the three-mile marker just over 27 minutes, exactly where I wanted to be. I felt like I was settling down, like maybe I could keep it right around 9 minutes per mile and not explode. Then we rounded a corner to run up an onramp onto the first causeway, and this very, very slight hill by San Francisco standards felt like a 200-foot climb. I expected a breeze at the top of it, but instead the air was still and so, so heavy. My face felt like it was on fire; I was imagining it as a tomato, a red balloon, a bursting bubble on a mercury thermometer. Still moving forward, low 9s, a little too slow, but we were approaching the first real hill, and what goes up must come down, right?
Except I just didn’t pick up any speed on the downhill — a trend that would persist for the rest of the race. Any time I tried to go faster, I felt my heart rate get a little nuts. I usually don’t stop at aid stations until after the 6-mile mark in a half, and with my handheld, I’d hoped not to stop at all. Instead, at 3.5, I swung into a water stop and dumped a cup of water over my head.
It was right around this point that the 2:00 pace group passed me. We were heading uphill again, the most significant rise on the course, and I figured I’d keep them in my sights and try to catch them on the downhill. I actually stayed close up the hill, but I again couldn’t do anything with the downhill. The next two miles were probably the worst of the race for me. We were downtown, not in a particularly scenic area, and my motivation started to flag. Of all the great songs on my playlist, all the mantras I tried, what worked was telling myself, “If you run instead of walk, you can dump more water on your head faster.” I managed to keep running until mile 8, when I got as many cups from the aid station as I could hold and walked to eat my Gu. That mile ended up being an 11-something, and it’s the one mile I’ll curse when I look back on this race, because if I’d just kept it in the 10s, I might have a new PR right now.
At about 8.5, as I wound my way up the ramp to the second causeway, it started to sprinkle. And then that turned into rain. And then that turned into an OMG DOWNPOUR — rain driving hard into my face, into my eyes, squishing into my shoes. I like running in the rain, and especially warm rain, but good heavens, I could barely open my eyes. I kind of side-eye squinted at the girl to my right, who was doing the same thing, and we both started cracking up.
Mile 9? Awesome. I was drenched, but I was cooler, and I finally hit a long downhill that I knew how to work with. I crossed the 10-mile mark at almost exactly 1:35, and I knew 2 hours was long gone, but 2:05 seemed possible.
Then the sun came out. And the wind started. And all I wanted in the world was to get. off. that. damn. bridge.
Two more hills. Somehow I shuffled up. I only needed 10-minute miles, and somewhere in here I screwed up the lapping on my watch, but I was pretty sure I wasn’t quite holding the pace I needed. My stomach was starting to rebel — I never feel great in the heat, even if all I’m doing is sitting still — but stopping at a port-a-potty so close to the end seemed silly, so I kept up my aid station walk-and-drink-and-dump routine instead.
I’d been running with the same basic group of people for a while now. At mile 12, some of them pulled ahead, some stayed back, and I found myself somewhere in the middle of the small pack. I spotted a guy with a 2:15 pace group sign just ahead of me and thought, “Well, at least SOMEBODY’s having a good day.” I zoned out, concentrated on making my footfalls match my music, and started searching for the finish line. It wasn’t until I was almost there that I realized I wasn’t going to see it, because we had to turn and finish on the sand.
THE SAND. So cruel, at that point. I crossed the finish and immediately drained every drop of liquid left in my bottle. A volunteer put a medal around my neck and I wondered why race medals always have to feel so heavy. Another volunteer station had towels soaked in ice water, and as I pressed one to my face, I felt 100 percent better. I grabbed a water, some kind of sports drink, a mini bagel, and then an orange slice. And another orange slice. And another orange slice. And oh my god, have you ever really noticed how delicious orange slices are? I hung out by those oranges for a good 10 minutes, chatting with other finishers about the heat (if they weren’t local) and the hills (if they were).
My next overwhelming urge was shade, so I found a little tree-protected patch by the water and ate my bagel and realized how sweaty and rain-soaked and (now) sandy i was. I knew Pete had finished behind me but I wasn’t sure how far, so I started to walk back to the exit to the finisher’s chute and heard him call my name. We plopped down on a stone wall, ate some more, drank some more, listened to people around us talking by missing their goals or PRs by 15 minutes or more (making me feel pretty good about my +1:30), and headed out to see if we could spot Ciara finishing — but she’d beaten the 2:45 pace group (or, more accurately, the 2:45 pace group had all beaten 2:45) and had just crossed the line.
So. That was it. Not the race I flew across the country to have, but it’s the race I had, and so far, I’m OK with it. I’m sure there’s going to be some regret, and I’m still mad about that one stupid 11-minute mile, but from where I sit writing this (which is a plane somewhere over North Texas), I’m satisfied. I was trained for the speed I’d need at least for a PR if not a sub-2, but I wasn’t trained for the heat, and I couldn’t have been; I’ve honestly never run in conditions like those. On the one hand, I wish I hadn’t walked through so many aid stations; on the other, I’m quite sure that the cups of water I was dumping on myself and into my bottle were what made me able to finish the race safely. I did not give up mentally in the middle miles, even though I knew my goal was long gone and I was so hot and miserable. I didn’t get the goal time I wanted, but if I wanted a race that would show me once and for all whether I have fight, well, fight found.
Afterwards, we soaked our feet in ice water for about 15 seconds (too cold!), drove back to Miami and spent an extremely long time getting up the motivation to shower, then headed back to the beach for empanadas and frozen drinks and football. And that made it all worthwhile.
- Defending Rock N Roll races is hardly trendy right now, but my experience with this race was completely smooth. Easy packet pick-up. Plentiful port-a-potties at the start. Efficient medal-picture-cold towel-water line at the finish. I wish I’d had a bag to hold my post-race goodies, the port-a-potties at the end of the race needed a toilet paper refill, and the water stops seemed a little short/small, but all in all, this seemed to be a well-run race, especially for a first-year event.
- Water over the head from mile 3-12 plus giant rain squall = OH MY GOD THE CHAFING. I have never experienced anything like this. My No. 1 thing I was happy I packed was Neosporin.
- Plenty of people at the end thought the elevation chart had to be wrong, but according to what my GPS read, it was — if anything — overstating the size of the inclines. So why did the causeway hills feel so hard? They’re short and steep, but I think the biggest thing for me was that they start from a total flat — there wasn’t any gradual rolling building up to them.
- I think I can finally trust the calibration on my Nike+ watch. I was manually lapping at mile markers just in case, but my final recorded distance was 13.2 miles.
- Kara and Shalane didn’t quite lap me, so it’s all good.