Sunday, November 1, 2009

Life's Like a Box of Chocolates

"For no particular reason I just kept on going. I ran clear to the ocean. And when I got there, I figured, since I'd gone this far, I might as well turn around, just keep on going." Forrest Gump

When John first mentioned the idea of running the Halloween Half Marathon on Miami Beach and add a 7 mile run to it, I thought he was a bit off his chum. I've heard of people trying to do a run after a race to get their weekend long run up to a particular mile mark, but always heard that it didn't work out well. Usually this is due to the person running the extra miles after a race run at race speed. John's running friend Deb, whom he met at the Gold Coast Marathon in Australia was running it and John decided running the race would be a great way to knock out our planned 20 miler. Since the weather looked to be warm as the morning wore on, I convinced John to run the extra 7 miles before the half marathon instead of afterward.

Deb is originally from Australia, but now lives in Fort Lauderdale with her Mid-Western husband Mark, a really great and friendly guy, and her two young blond hairs boys who kept us in stitches with their post-race antics. Mark and the boys were heading down at a reasonable hour later in the morning, so I picked up John & Deb at John's condo complex for the ride down to Miami Beach. At around 79th Street the traffic was funneled down to one lane and finally diverted off of I-95 completely, dumping us into what we all knew was a not so nice neighborhood. As we passed a couple of "working women" at about 5 AM, Deb starts to tell us about an incident she had where she got lost in a not so nice section of Fort Lauderdale looking for some governmental office. Deb tells us that as she rolled down her window to ask for directions some women advised her to "buy her stuff from them, because the guys will rip you off." I tell an off color joke I'd heard the night before on Comedy Central about a guy trying to get beads tossed at him from a float during Mardi Gras. The whole thing had a sort of whistling through the graveyard feel to it. Tell jokes as you ride through a neighborhood you wouldn't voluntarily drive through and maybe all will go well.

We clear the bad neighborhood and turn onto US-1 heading south. We finally get to Parrot Jungle, a tourist attraction that is the sight of the race start. After Port-O-Potty stops, John and I leave Deb to do our 7 mile pre-race run. We follow the race course along MacArthur Causeway past the cruise ships coming and going from their week touring the Caribbean. Its still dark with a cool breeze coming off the water. On the return run, I start in on a bad Arnold Schwarzenegger impression to avoid hearing further lecturing on pacing from John "the Governator." John keeps us on about a 9 minute pace that he figures is what we should not go faster than to complete the whole 20 miles.

We make it back to the start area about 2 minutes before the start of the half marathon. Almost all 800 participants are in closed off and gated corrals. I suggest we go to the back of the pack and work out way up to the appropriate pace area during the race. However, Deb waves to us from near the front of the starting line. As I jog towards the back John says, "No, let's go hop the barrier and get in with Deb. She said she would run at our 9 minute pace." I knew that Deb was a pretty good runner and that this would be a bit of a slow pace for her if she was racing the half marathon, but assumed John and Deb must have discussed and agreed upon her running our pace. So, back we jog to near the front of the crowd and squeeze in from the front past the first five lines of runners. You know these people, predominantly guys, that are planning to run so fast that they go shirtless because they are going to get so hot running at such fast speeds (and besides they've got their 6-pack abs and this is the only way they can show them off without looking like they are showing off their 6-pack abs).

I turn to John & Deb and say, "We are going to get run over." I just ran 7 miles and hadn't planned to have to bolt off the front with the fast boys and girls. Oh, well, I figure, we're going to pace out together. We'll let the fast runners go around us and find our proper pacing place within the first mile. As the race starts, I go off at the pace of those around me. Too fast. I look around and neither John nor Deb are with me. I have gone out too fast due to lining up with the fast runners. Oh well, stupid is as stupid does. I slow a bit and find Deb. John is no where in sight.

As we run the first couple of miles together, I mention that I'd better pace back to John in order to avoid a lecture. I fall back at the first water station. When John catches up, I am not so lucky as to avoid the "proper pacing" lecture. John starts telling me some lame recycled story he picked up at a business meeting about personal responsibility...blah, blah, blah. It kind of sounded like one of those lectures high school gym teachers tell guys about practicing safe sex. If I'd known I'd be in for this treatment, I'd have stayed up with a better looking and more friendly Deb. As John carries on, all I could think about was the various ways you can eat shrimp. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. There is shrimp-kabob, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There's pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That's about it.

After John's lecture, we settle into a steady 9 minute pace and start appreciating the costumed runners in our area. Some people really got into the Halloween theme with some great costumes. One guy ran with a diaper and pacifier; probably a good way to avoid any Port-O-Potty stops, I guess. There were a lot of women dressed up as Wonder Woman. My feeling is that all women endurance athletes are Wonder Woman. There were also a couple of guys dressed up in various stages of Forrest Gump during his running phase. More on that in a bit.

I've always endorsed the Miami Half Marathon and Marathon as the most beautiful runs in the state of Florida at those distances. Well, the Halloween Half just one upped the Miami Half. While it pretty much matches the Miami Half route, it makes the Miami Beach portion even more pictureque by going completely along the ocean front the entire route. The middle miles end up on a boardwalk along the beach with beautiful views of the beach and ocean. Additionally, the boardwalk has a little more give to it over the road making it feel a little like a trail run. Finally, the out and back aspect of the beach part of the run gives you a chance to see the race leaders and your friends. John and I see Deb as she is doubling back. We shout encouragement and exchange high fives.

For most of the run, John is pacing just behind me such that I can't tell whether he is holding steady or falling off my pace. However, having promised to not run faster than an 8:55 pace, I keep self correcting and slowing a bit. "We are training for the ironman, not racing a half marathon," I keep repeating to myself. At about mile 10, my hips and pelvis start to bother me. This is the one residual I notice that is left over from my bike accident back in early September. This give me some concern about how I'll feel at the 26.2 mile distance. However, I figure there is not much I can do about it. My momma always said, "Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." I decide its best to slow a bit and take my pace back to 9:20s. As John passes me, I tell him to go ahead. John pulls away still keeping the steady 9's.

As John starts to approach the finish line, he realizes that he's about to get passed by a guy dressed as Forrest Gump. The guy has the full beard and wild hair of Forrest Gump at the end of his running with the group of running disciples. As he passes Deb and her family, he shouts out, "I'm getting beat by Forrest Gump." Then shouts, "No I'm not." He starts a final kick, which only causes Forrest to start a finish kick. They end up crossing at the same time. I come in about a minute later.

That evening, John looks up his results and can't find his time listed. It turns out Deb came in second in her age group. John stumbles across the "Fastest Funny Costume - Men" division and tries to find Forrest Gump. Instead he finds his time listed. He queries by e-mail to Deb and me, "Did I look that funny? Go figure." My response was that I think they had him down as "Person in crowd running with Forrest Gump."

Anyway, that's all I have to say about that.

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