Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Miami Marathon Weekend

Warning: This is an overly-long entry. I promise to keep it shorter in the future. I haven't got time for this and training.

Sunday was the 7th annual ING Miami Marathon and Half Marathon. Flying into South Florida for the full marathon were our friends Kieth & Sheila who we met on our Dublin Marathon trip last year. Keith had previously coaxed me into signing up for the Vegas Marathon in December before life scheduling conflicts forced him to cancel that trip. In the exchange following our e-mails regarding his conflicts, I suggested he schedule Miami instead. Sheila had BQed in Dublin and Keith was attempting to BQ to join Sheila on her Boston Marathon run.

As for me, coming just 2 weeks after the Disney Marathon, I had little business running the half marathon. However, I had previously agreed to pace my paralegal's high school cross country running daughter Daniel ("Dani") through her second run of the half marathon. We decided to try for a sub 2 hour half, but neither of us were trained for the effort. Dani was studying for the SATs and that was her main focus the last couple of weeks. However, she decided running the half would be a good way to get in some base training for spring track season, so we decided to run.

"Half-Iron (for now) John" decided to pace our friend Victor to a sub 1:50 half, but John too was under trained for such an effort. Somehow we trick ourselves into thinking that because we are not running at PR paces, that we can gut out an event like the half marathon. In fact John is so not paying attention to conventional running wisdom that he decides to pace a high school cross country runner in a 5K event the day before the half marathon. No one has ever accused us as being the smartest runners in the area. Enthusiastic to the point of stupid maybe; but smart, not so much.

Saturday afternoon, I pick up John to ride down to the Expo together. I drive around South Beach like a lost tourist for an hour trying to find the convention center. I don't think we hit any pedestrians or cars before we parked, but as the band Boston sang, "Don't look back." Once parked, John seemed grateful to be out of the SUV.

At the Expo, we split up. I meet up with Dani and her entourage, consisting of boyfriend Josh and father Oscar. We agree again that neither of us feels up to a PR pace and decide to enjoy the race at whatever pace feels right on race morning. After we split up, I locate John who has met up with several of the JFR women runners from Ft. Lauderdale. We talk running and triathlons, comparing notes on who is signed up for which events over the next year. They all seem to be shooting for near the 2 hour mark for the half. I review the race course with the ladies and warn them about the false sense of being at the finish line with about a half mile left to run. John takes some group shots of the JFR runners and they depart to their pasta feed.

We continue to cruise the expo. I am on strict instructions from wife Salome to bring home lots of free goodies that they typically give out at these events. However, with the economy in the drink, there appears to be few to no goodies at the booths. We stop at the Rock & Roll Marathon booth and I do manage to finagle a second free T-Shirt for John by signing up for the Seattle Marathon. With little to bring back to the cave, I see a "Life is Good" grocery bag that I decide to buy for Salome. Its good for the environment, and its only $5. She should love this. John, being more astute than I in the gift giving department, advises that I stop off on the way home to buy flowers to put in the bag before I present it. "Don't forget to execute on the plan," John advises me as I drop him off Debbie's condo. "Sure thing. Thanks for the good advice," I reply. Unfortunately, as I drive north on I-95, I get a call from Salome telling me to hurry home as we will be late for our dinner engagement. "OK, so no flowers," I think, "Its still a great bag. Utilitarian, economical, ecologically sound." Did I mention it had that nice "Life is Good" smiley faced dude on the outside? Of course, when I present it, Salome is not so impressed. Note to self: next time, buy flowers before going to expo.

John meets up with several of the Tony & Tracy branch of our extended athletic family for a pasta feed. Keith & Sheila join them. John introduces them as Dublin Marathon friends, but something is lost in translation and the group somehow ends up thinking our Michigan friends are from Scotland. Keith rolls with it stating he left his kilt is in the car.

In the morning, I decide to wear an Alaska tech shirt in honor of buddy Wayne, who is still coming back from triple bypass surgery. I drive to Miami and pick up John. He guesses that I will get a lot of people shouting out "Go Alaska." We park the SUV and walk to the start. We meet up with Dani, Victor, Demetri, and Randi. Dani & I agree to start out with John & Vic and see if we can hang with them on their quest for a sub 1:50. As the gun goes off, the race officials shoot off a bunch of flare guns to simulate a fireworks display. Nice touch.

My plan is to try to keep Dani on the 8:20 min/mile pace if we can hold it with John & Vic. At the 2 mile mark, I note that Dani is falling off pace and tell John & Vic we are dropping back. At the bridge crossing onto South Beach, I note the 3:30 pace runner going by with his balloons and a pack of runners. Dani and I drift to the left of the road to allow the bunch to pass. Realizing that this is probably where Keith & Sheila are running, I shout out "Sheila." Sheila sees me and calls back "Bill." I look over to spot Keith & Sheila and make eye contact. What I fail to notice in doing this is that the race course officials decided to place a 3 foot cone right in my path. I whack into the cone, knocking it over and almost doing a summer salt. "Um, Hi guys. You didn' t see that, did you?" The huge grins on their faces give me my answer. "You guys look great. Hang onto the pacer for that 3:30 finish," I say as they go by.

Dani looks good, but keeps tucking in behind me. A good strategy for drafting, but I keep having to do Linda Blair head turns to make sure I'm not dropping her. At the 10K mark, we do goos with a water chaser. "Yuck," Dani says as she spits a few times. A mile later, we alternate to Gatorade, which was an overly strong mix. We both start feeling a little nauseous. I'm trying to figure out if we did bad goos or if the Gatorade is the culprit. I advise that we stick with water for a few miles. Dani is also starting to feel some blisters, but declines an offer to stop and adjust her socks. The mile 11 cheering zone psyches us up and we pick up our pace. Just as John predicted, I get a lot of shout outs of "Go Alaska." By mile 12 Dani starts asking me for distances to the finish. We have been off pace for the last couple of mile to do a sub-2 hour run. I can tell Dani's near the end of her endurance, but try to keep her going by not stressing splits. "Only a mile to go," I tell her. Then I start breaking the remaining distances down into laps of a track. With a quarter mile to go, I tell Dani that if she wants to do a kick, she should start accelerating now. I state that coming off the marathon, I don't want to risk injury. However, as she picks up speed, I try to accelerate with her. I keep up with her for a while, but Dani has great acceleration. She pulls away at the finish to best me by 4 seconds.

John had a similar experience with Victor. Vic has lost weight recently and started to up the pace over the last couple of miles. John, in an effort to both keep Vic from blowing up and from pulling away at the finish, tells Victor he has the sub 1:50 in the bag. "Don't blow it now, Dude." Victor, feeling light on his feet, pulls away anyway to a 4 minute improvement on his PR, coming in at 1:47:52. John comes in a second later. Later, John & I agree that no good pacing deed goes unpunished. Of course, we are thrilled for Victor. Randi comes in at 2:03 and Demetri runs a 2:12.

I reunite Dani with her entourage that now includes her mother Val. I later hear that as I ventured off to meet my other running buddies, Dani sat down and tossed her cookies a couple of times. Too bad, as the cookies they gave out at the finish were delicious. As Dani is spaying the grass, Val puts Dani's metal around her own neck. Just for safe keeping, mind you. I understand Dani eventually got the metal back after Val received a few compliments for running a half marathon in jeans and a sweatshirt.

The JFR girls hit their marks, but we fail to see them finish and don't run across them. Kelly makes a 10 minute improvement on her PR. Congratulations to Kelly, Nora, Anna, Cassie and Marci. We look forward to seeing you gals burn up the A1a Half Marathon in February. We also don't see our friend from Delray, Jen, who was also not running at full speed this day. However, Jen's time at reduced pace still makes our times look anemic.

We meet triathlete Carrie, Tracey and her brother Lane, his wife Theresa, and daughter Ali. Carrie ran under Tracey & Lane's mother, Myrna's racing bib. Myrna was unable to run, so 30-something Carrie stepped into her shoes so to speak. Fortunately, Carrie omitted the timing strip from her shoe or she she might have had some explaining to do at the age group awards ceremony.

Carrie "Myrna," Ali, Theresa, Lane & Tracey

John, Debbie and I make our way over to the stands near finish line to watch for our full marathoners Keith & Sheila. We see the 3:30 pace runner come in with 2 male runners struggling to keep up with him. We fear our friends will not make the 3:30 cut off. But, no, around the corner comes a guy and a girl pushing to make the cut-off before clock strikes 3:31. "Go Keith! Run, Sheila!" we yell and start to get the people around us to also cheer our friends in. As they come close to us with only 25 yards to the finish, I turn to John and say, "Hold on, I don't think its them." Sure enough, its a nice couple pushing each other to the finish, but its not our friends. After a couple of false sightings, we see Sheila, but are doubting ourselves. As she passes we finally start shouting her name. "Well, I hope that was her," John says. Sheila finishes in 3:40:56, a new PR. We promise to cheer better next time Sheila.

Keith comes into view several minutes later looking like he is ready to be done with the marathon. As we start shouting his name, he lifts up his shoulders and picks up his speed to cross the finish in 3:47:42. No BQ; but, as I say, any day you finish a marathon under 4 hours is a good day.

That night we have a gathering at my house for a post race celebration. The event was initiated in part by Keith & Sheila's visit and in part by running buddy Keith Seago and me turning 50 within a month of each other. Keith & Sheila meet up with John and Debbie and come over by boat. They bring a copy of a picture of me astride a broomstick in Dublin on Halloween night. My mind drifts back through the haze to that drunken night and I vaguely remember goofing around with that broom. Suddenly, I realize I'm a prop comic. I'm freakin' Carrot Top. OK, let's not drink too much Guinness tonight. Better start with the Harps.

Grill chef extraordinaire Peter cooks up lamb, chicken and salmon, while Salome & Kiki work the salad, vegis and spinach pie in the kitchen. I keep pushing the various Irish brews on our guests. We gather to talk about the Miami Marathon and our upcoming spring triathlons. Tracey had let me know that its was her husband Tony's birthday, so I had gotten a birthday cake and candles for him. But the event was supposed to celebrate Keith Seago and me turning 50. So we all sang happy birthday to Tony, Keith Seago and me. Well, Keith and my wife Salome discover that their birthdays are both on February 11th. OK, so we sing an early happy birthday to Salome too. Someone asks the date of my birthday. "January 9th," I say. Tracey announce that her birthday is in early January. "Happy birthday to you..." John says, "Hey, my birthday is December 30th. That's close." "Happy birthday to you..." We soon realize that most of us are either Capricorns or Acquarians and we've sung happy birthdays to almost everyone present.

As the evening comes to an end, John takes Keith and Sheila (along with the Debster) back to John's condo by boat so Keith and Sheila can pick up their car and drive back to my place to spend the night in our guest room. After a pleasant boat ride to John's place, John gives Keith and Sheila simple directions back to my house. They start off following John's directions, but decide to use the trusty Garmin GPS system. They put in my address that they have from my e-mails and start off. Unfortunately, they had my office address from my e-mails and are now steer off course to my office address, which looks nothing like my house. I get a call a good while later asking where the heck I live. I give them my home address and go back to cleaning up the house from the party. After a while, I start wondering where they got off to. I call to find out they are on the west side US 1 and I have no idea where they are in order to guide them back to my place. They finally get my zip code correctly entered into the GPS and make it to my house. There is a lesson here: follow the directions given first. Use the GPS when you don't have a clue.

The next day, Salome & I play hookie and give Keith & Sheila a driving tour of Coconut Grove, Key Biscayne, and South Beach. We stop at Monty's on South Beach for sea food and margaritas. Meanwhile, John arranges to get tickets to the Eagles concert that night. After dropping off Salome at the office and doing a quick change at home, we pick up John and Debbie and head to the Bank Atlantic Center. On the way, we call running buddy Wayne to speak to him for the first time since his triple bypass operation. Wayne sounds in some discomfort, but we have an upbeat group conversation. We all eagerly await his return to good health and the road. Follow Wayne's recovery at http://atrampathonabroad.blogspot.com/

We've got nosebleed seats, but the show is good. We like the sound of the Eagles' new songs and love the hits. Back at home, I promise to wake my guests at 7 AM to drive to Miami for their 11AM flight back to Michigan. Its well after midnight when we all head to bed and I am asleep in a couple of minutes. I am awoken at 3:45 by my cell phone which is charging in my bathroom. I rush to pick it up and see that I missed a call that was from Keith. I figured I must have gotten cced on a text reminder for their flight. I don't want to wake them given the lack of sleep we've all had over the last few days. I decide I'll let them sleep until 7 AM and discuss it then.

Little did I know that Keith had checked on his flight before going to bed and found out that his flight was canceled. He and Sheila stayed up, dialed up a Delta representative and were finally re-booked on a 6 AM flight out of Miami. They had packed, left our place and were driving to Miami to return their rental car and get to the airport in time for their flight. The call had been meant as a voice-mail explaining their predicament. I only hope they were able to awake for their transfers.

I think Keith & Sheila had a good time in South Florida. But I get the feeling they felt a bit like the guy in the Eagle's song "Hotel California." They can check out, but they can never leave.


michrnr said...

That was a great recap of the wonderful time Sheila and I had stepping into the world of our wild and crazy and great Ft. Lauderdale friends for several days ! I am the 3:47 Keith mentioned above, and as I type this I am currently looking out my office window at knee deep snow, 15 degree temperatures, and slushy sloppy roads here in Michigan. It seems like just moments ago I was basking in palm trees, balmy weather, surronded by great running friends, either putting around on John's boat on the intercoastal waterway with beverage in hand, hanging at an Eagles concert, or lounging around the most incredible hospitable beautiful resort I have been to....or wait, that was Bill and Salome's place ! The whole experience seems like a blur of endless great running conversations, a good beer here and there, great weather. Then as we met even more of the extended circle of friends everyone was great, friendly, interesting, into tris or running. Clearly it was a runner's paradise. During the visit at times I thought either I may be dreaming about this utopian visit, or else was on one of those "Pranked" hidden camera shows and soon will find out all the various friendly runner types are actors and I was on a studio lot. I told Bill and John I was impressed with the way that runners roll in Ft. Lauderdale, and was informed that a typical day in their lives does NOT consist of endless boating, lounging, toasting, and great runner talk. I don't believe them.
The only down side to the trip was returning. As Bill recounted, we had the jolting experience of finally checking email at 1:00 AM to find an unpleasant message from Delta telling us our 11:00 flight was cancelled ( appearantly because the Cinci-connector was cancelled.... beware of such policies and fly Delta at your peril !). After a couple of intense calls to Delta and hearing there were no options, we finally were rescheduled to depart at 6AM ( meaning we had to leave at 3:30 AM). After debate - and still repentent from our GPS misdeeds - we decided not to repay our hosts for their kindness by unexpectedly storming into their bedroom in the middle of the night, so we quietly crept out of the house and left a goodbye note instead. It was a funny ending to a great trip. Sheila and I laughed that the Ft. Lauderdale police would get the wrong idea if they saw us walking on tip toes in the yard at 3:30AM, shhhh'ing each other, carting out stuff and loading up our car in front of the house. Returning to the airport at 3:30 AM, and leaving the paradise was much much harder than the 3:47 marathon (which was a bit painful after tearing out on 3:30 pace for the first half and then realizing my concrete legs were not on board with my plan).
This was a great trip to a great place, but most of all special because of the great friends there. Now we will watch the rest of the journey of the two wild and crazy guys with interest, as they point to their November quest. We know they have the right stuff to make it...and are sure they will not use a GPS to get there!

Bill said...

Hotel South Florida
(The Ballad of Keith & Sheila)

(To the tune of the Eagles Hotel California)

On a dark Ft. Lauderdale highway, cool wind in our hair,
Smoke of barbeque lamb still lingering in the air.
Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light.
Our heads grew heavy and our sight grew dim,
We had to stop for the night.

There he stood in the driveway;
We hadn’t program the GPS well.
And we were thinking to ourselves,
"This place might be Heaven, but following the GPS was Hell."
Then he lit up the stairway and he showed us the way,
There were voices down the corridor,
I thought I heard them say,

"Welcome to the Hotel South Florida.
Such a lovely place. Such a lovely place.
Such a lovely space.
There's plenty of room at the Hotel South Florida.
Any time of year (any time of year),
There’s a guest room here."

Their minds where marathon twisted,
We’re surprised there’s no Mercedes Benz.
They know a lot of very fit runners,
That they calls friends.
How they eat in the backyard, sweet winter ‘fest.
Some drink in memory of Dublin, some drink to forget.

So I called out to our host and hostess,
"I think I’ll have a beer."
They said, "We have lots of Guinness,
Its on ice over here."
And still those voices are calling from far away,
Wake you up in the middle of the night ,
Just to hear them say,

"Welcome to the Hotel South Florida.)
Such a lovely place. Such a lovely place.
Such a lovely space.
They're livin' it up at the Hotel South Florida.
What a nice surprise (what a nice surprise),
Bring your running alibis."

Cruising though Miami,
Margarita’s for lunch on ice.
And they said, "We are all really
Enjoy living down here,
isn’t it nice?"
After the Eagles concert,
They quickly fall asleep.
I call to verify our flight,
But they just can't find our seats.

Last thing I remember,
We were tip-toeing out the door.
We had to book new passage back
To the place we was before.
"Relax," said the Delta rep,
"We are programmed to receive.
You can book any flight you like,
But you can never leave!"