Miami Marathon 2016 Lessons

The last full marathon I did was the ING Miami Marathon... FOUR years ago. I set a PR in that one by nearly 30 minutes. Before you get too impressed, I need to let you know that it was a pretty average pace. I finished at 4:34. But the PR was amazing for me. I cried on the course when I found out I was going to PR.

Why did I want to return to the marathon? I think just to see if I could. And to return to my love for running. For most of 2014 and 2015, I seriously cut back my running miles. My focus was on building strength for CrossFit competitions. It worked. I built strength. But I also built muscle and while that was kind of the goal, I'm still trying to adjust to becoming comfortable with my more muscular self. I also greatly missed the stress relief that higher mileage brings. Training for World's Toughest Mudder also meant that I had increased my mileage, so it wasn't a huge stress to train for a marathon.

I learned much in this 4th marathon of mine...

Pace Groups Rock!

Never before had I considered joining a pace group. (For most marathons, pace groups are provided free to runners-- you select the pace you want to run/your projected finish time and the pace group leader carries a little identifier flag and promises to get you to the finish line on time.) I'm an introvert who always runs alone. I treasure my alone running time, so the thought of going 26.2 with a group of strangers made me squirm. However, I realized that it might be nice to be part of a group in those dark hours when the field spreads out.

Running with the pace group was awesome! Our leader, Jeff, kept us motivated, on pace and made sure we were staying hydrated and taking in nutrition. I had company during the dark times and gave and received encouraging words from the pack.

Having someone there to coach me (and the group) through every mile was a complete game changer. He reaffirmed and held me to so much of the information that I had already known. When you get out there and are convinced that your legs might really fall off your body, your brain seizes and all practiced and rehearsed information is completely forgotten.

1. Don't go out too fast.  I've already said this. I knew this. I've blogged about this. But I spent most of the first half of the race thinking, "Man, we're going really slow." And then there was mile 20 when I felt they were going way too slow, and I felt really great and left the pace group in the dust (well, not really the dust). By mile 22 they had caught me and left me in the dust.

2. Fuel and hydrate well. ALL of my long runs were done wearing my low profile Camelback. And the marathon plan was to wear it. Then I decided not to. Why carry even a little extra weight when I had paid money to have water provided for me on the course at nearly every mile?! Having Jeff tell us we were going to walk through the aid stations greatly helped because there was no fear of falling off pace. As far as fuel-- I carried and ate 2 sample size Lara bars and a sample size Cranberry Crunch Perfect Bar. I also took a supplement called Sport Legs, which promises to reduce cramping during long endurance efforts. And it all seemed to work. I actually ate a little cup of pineapple and half of 2 all natural fruit gel packs that that they handed out on the course.  

3. Dress for the weather. It was unusually cool for a South Florida race. During my first Miami marathon in 2010, it was so hot that aid stations were handing out sponges soaked with water and many runners suffered from heat related medical issues. This year's race began at a chilly (for South Florida) 53 degrees. And finished at about the same temperature. I grabbed a hooded sweatshirt, complete with a zipper, from our to-be-donated-to-Goodwill pile, and ended up wearing it for the entire first 7 miles of the marathon. Typically, I would never run in a sweatshirt, but I also didn't want to be too cold at the start or too hot for the finish. I dropped it at an aid station to be collected for the homeless.

It's quite a bright shirt this year!
4. Enlist a support squad. For the 2 weeks before the race, I was dealing with some really tight hamstrings. They were so painful I couldn't run in the week leading up to the marathon. I talked to our school's athletic trainer to make sure I was doing everything right-- foam rolling, stretching, hot baths. On expo day, I asked my son whether I should drop my registration to the half, and (as I hoped he would) he encouraged me to stick to the full. I went to the expo with my friend, Hallie, who was running her 3rd half marathon, and it was great to have someone to share the nerves with. My BRF (best runner friend) Cindy is always there for me when I freak out about some insane venture I've registered for. This time she told me something that I didn't quite believe at first, but would be key during the race: "Clear your mind and start a whole new race at mile 20. And enjoy it. It's about having fun and feeling good." And for the first time ever, I felt great at mile 20. And I was able to make it a whole new race.

5. Enjoy the race. I nearly always run with music. My iPod had pooped out on me about a month earlier, and I discovered the night before the race that the generic mp3 player I had been using had also quit on me. I threw my entire iTunes collection onto my husband's iPod (sorry, Babe) and hoped for the best. But I didn't even turn on music until about mile 11. Instead, I listened to our pace group leader and the leader of our sister group-- the half marathon runners. I watched the sights and read the signs of encouragement. I listened to my body and ignored the false whines of my legs telling me they just couldn't do it anymore. I prayed. I smiled. And I had a beautiful race.


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