Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Publix Fort Lauderdale A1A Marathon Recap

The Publix Fort Lauderdale A1A Marathon on Feb. 17 was my 11th race of at least 26.2 miles and my first in 2013. I finished in 5:50:21. I learned two important things in this event:

1) I had been waiting all this time to join Marathon Maniacs for no reason! I thought I had to wait until I ran 10 official scored marathons, as one of those 11 was "unofficial." So I was all excited to finish and then apply to MM. I looked at the criteria and realized I qualified in 2008 by running two marathons within 15 days of each other. Oh, well, I'm in! You are looking at Marathon Maniac #6697!

2) Smile.

Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near
That's the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what's the use of crying
You'll find that life is still worthwhile

If you'll just smile.

But Mark, what does smiling have to do with running a marathon?

I'm glad you asked. Here's the story:

We were going to be in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea for a quickie getaway before Spring Training games begin, staying with Lisa's parents at their beachfront condo. I had been looking for a marathon, and lo and behold I realized a week before the event that this marathon goes RIGHT IN FRONT of their building. And not once, but twice! There was no way I was going to come out on Sunday morning and watch marathoners. Plus, it was easily the flattest course in America, essentially no inclines whatsoever. So I signed up, thinking PR, and along came the 6 a.m. raceday start with windchill in the upper 30s.

You should have heard the shrill shudder of the runners who were congregated in front of the Broward County Museum of Discovery & Science, as a freakishly cold and powerful gale blew through the start area. And then it happened again. I enjoyed their race start, with its giant U.S. flag overhead, but clearly it was going to be a cold wind on this day. And even though I started in a long sleeve overshirt and temp gloves, I had no idea.

From miles 3 through 15, with the lone exception of a respite through wooded Birch State Park from roughly miles 5-7, a strong headwind buffeted me with no mercy whatsoever. We are talking concrete canyon up A1A through the condos, through Galt Ocean Mile, far north, a straight shot into the wind. The wind was consistently in the 15-20-mph range, with gusts well above that. I am not a thin man. I am a giant sail in that wind. Just as it makes your car engine work harder in buffeting headwinds such as the Texas panhandle (you are supposed to thus drive slower), I was forced to work harder than I normally would.

The temperature seemed like a good break, but the wind was just one of those things you can't fix.

Let's go straight to the 15th mile. After that one, I would make the U-turn up at Hillsboro Inlet, and theoretically I would have the wind at my back the rest of the way. I was listening to Pandora at the start of the 15th and final into-the-wind mile, and it was on a Frank Sinatra station. The song you just saw in the embedded video above began to play, just as I was at my worst depth of the race, defeated by wind.


Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness...

You are not going to believe what I discovered next.

For some reason that song moved me to begin smiling. I had spent part of the previous few months having work done on my mouth to improve my smile. My top two front teeth had been a little crooked, and I always tended to have my mouth closed in pictures. I wanted a beaming smile. So I have some new front teeth, even got a whitening treatment. Now here I am, in the least likely time...smiling.

I did that for the entire 15th mile. I was running northbound among the marathon stragglers (at least 9 out of every 10 runners was in the Half), and those in front of me were passing me in the opposite direction southbound to my left. One by one, those runners would see this dude SMILING as he leaned hard against the wind, and almost without exception my smile would affect them. They gave me thumbs-up. They would say, "Almost at the turn!" It was as if I had new friends. I was blown away by what positive impact a single smile could have on others around you. It made them light up.

Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness...

It helped get me through that hardest mile. A fellow runner on Twitter had advised me earlier that week: "Enjoy every mile." I had been thinking about that. Smile every mile. Enjoy every smile. I made the turn and then it was a straightaway to the finish line. I didn't have much gas left for that, and my 5:50 finish is testament. But I finished another marathon and I am completely, 100% healthy. I am 53 and strong.

Other highlights of the Publix Fort Lauderdale A1A Marathon:

* My personal pit crew at miles 12 and 19! Lisa, her parents and other condo owners in their complex all were kind enough to come out and cheer me on and supply Gatorade, salty pretzels, etc. Here's Lisa, and she is smiling, too. We had just celebrated our third anniversary on Valentine's Day.

* Matt Lorraine, the CEO of Exclusive Sports, which puts on the race, is a good guy and I highly recommend anyone sign up for his marathon. It was the eighth annual event, so this is a growing marathon that will continue to get better and better. There is an occasional kink to iron out but for me it was one extremely unfortunate weather system away from being my perfect marathon. I might run it again next year.

* The Expo was moved to the Broward County Convention Center and it was an easy, efficient room. Loved the tech shirt and its design (right), and wore it in the race. Good training food samples! I met a guy at the Dry Goods booth, and learned for the first time about their product. You spray on their cannisters before running, and it leaves a dry, invisible powder that protects you against chafing for 8 or 10 hours. I used it for the first time, and it seemed to do a good job. So for me the Expo added to my repertoire. Also bought a blue race shirt at a 40% discount, as I will wear it at Central Park when it gets warmer. Expos rock!

I put my gear together as usual the night before the race. I take this for granted now, but it is something I learned early and it means you will be organized when you wake up in the dark and looking for coffee on race morning:

* Great fluid stations. All you need. May I suggest sponges handed out at the Expo, and then have a bucket of water at a few stops. I've enjoyed that in some other marathons.

* The seahorse medal! The A1A now has a reputation as one of the best medals anywhere in the world. They put a lot of creative energy into the design process, and this year was the twin seahorses. Unfortunately their manufacturer messed up the hinges on some of them, including mine, but no one was more peeved than the race organizer, who will be offering replacements, and you can't ask for more than that. Great bling!

* Tan. I came back with a lot of sun despite the chilly weather, thanks to the marathon. I was baking as I ran south past Sunrise and the strip on the way to the finish line.

*The first few miles on Las Olas and the sunrise left turn. Once you go down over a slight drawbridge, the view of the beach sunrise and the "Fort Lauderdale Beach" colored sand sculpture is dramatic:

* Birch State Park. I used to work right down the road on Sunrise at The Miami Herald, and I neverhad been there. It was a beautiful run. I also learned that Birch has the best bathroom in the race! A couple pics:

Funniest thing that happened: Mile 18. We had our own lanes coned off throughout A1A, but that didn't stop this one elderly woman with large black prescription glasses, who could barely see over her steering wheel. She turned quickly into the coned land, and was headed RIGHT AT ME. I stopped fast, and held out both of my arms to (hopefully) make her stop. She was very confused. Then she turned back out of our running lane. A runner on my side laughed. Across the street, I saw a Broward Sheriff's car, and the driver rolled down his window and he was laughing and saying something. I had my earplugs in. I can imagine it was something like: "You better watch out for these drivers!" Indeed, be alert -- be very alert!

My next scheduled race is the Scotland Run 10K in April at Central Park and then the Brooklyn Half in May. I'll be looking for my next marathon shortly.

1 comment:

Cheri Fiorucci said...

Ok, *now* #1657 officically welcomes you! Congrats on your finish Mark!