This was one of those moments.
Let me set the scene for you.
Sometime early 2017: looking for a fall half to run. Because I live in the tropics and what better idea than to train through all levels of summer hell for a fall race. IN KEY WEST. Yes. THAT Key West.
Then. Hurricane Irma.
Not cool Irma. Not cool.
Fast forward to early 2018. Sign up for said race in Hades. Again. Because one does get used to the sensation of boiling blood coursing through your veins during training runs. Can be quite pleasant at times.
But I digress.
Wanting to really PR for once since my very first half in 2007 – yes, it has been that long – I set my sights on lots of speed work and consistent mile times. Twice a week I would be up and out the door before 5am, all in an effort to beat the heat. Of course, Mr. Humidity likes to make an appearance daily and at times could make breathing a bit of a challenge. I simply plowed forward with the mindset of, “Well, if I can train in this mess, at least I have the advantage. Right?”
Yeah. Not so much.
Every week, up at 4:30 every Monday for easy runs, and Thursday for speed workouts. Saturdays I’d sleep in until 5:30 and then hit the road for LSD days. Of course, those were much better as I had my very own Grouper Road Crew along for the ride. Cold drinks and cloths in a bike cooler, tunes from the wireless speaker, and of course, the Grouper himself.
He doesn’t really look like this.
After a momentary panic attack about two-thirds of the way through my training plan when I discover I had counted my weeks wrong, (probably due to all those 4:30am mornings), I realize I had less weeks to train than originally thought. No worries, I’ll simply skip one of my cutback weeks and increase the weekend mileage a little quicker. I got this.
If you previously happened to have followed my little corner of the internet, then you are well-acquainted with my long-running #brokeknees drama. I am happy to report that I have officially moved on from that drama! But now? #brokebutt drama.
Yup. Once again we delve into the dark runner world of injury, this time centered around that bitchy little piriformis. Ooooh boy, can that little flat muscle cause some BIG runner issues. Now, being an expert at making myself crazy over training time injury maintenance, I do what every obedient runner does. No rest, overwork the butt, and bitch the entire time. I also did throw in weekly chiro adjustments, the hated foam roller, and standing at my desk with my leg up trying to stretch out my butt at work several times a day.
That made for some interesting looks from the coworkers.
And wept as I saw that PR slowly slipping away.
As always happens when time is running out, I had a few good long runs, mixed up with anxiety and tear-filled long runs. Trying not to subject Grouper to more #brokebutt drama than he needed to witness, I sucked it up and limped home on more than one long run, bitching the entire time. Sadly, prior to race day, my longest good run was only 10 miles. No biggie, what’s another 3 miles, right?
After spending my last six weeks of training in a total crap shoot, on a beautiful Friday morning, we drop off the Wonder Mutt at the sitter’s, pack up the Mutt Mobile, and down the Overseas Highway we go. Packet pickup took 5 minutes – all packet pickups should be at a bar on the sand if you ask me – and back to the hotel to chill before hitting the hay early. Thank you 5:45am start time. All those gawd-awful early morning workouts were paying off.
Saturday morning. The humidity is pretty high, Hurricane Michael is making his way just south of the States – really Mother Nature? – and Grouper and I jump on a rent-a-scooter to make getting to the start line easier. (Great idea if I do say so myself). I hit up a surprisingly clean portapottie, then hang out in the start area stretching and warming up, passing the time among all the marathoners, halfers and 5kers. And of course, petting ALL THE DOGS, which did wonders to calm the pre-race nerves. The full marathoners get called to the start line and promptly at 5:30am, the festivities begin. The half was supposed to start at 5:45, but kudos to the race director for delaying 15 minutes as the lines for the portapotties had gotten quite long. An announcement was made for the 5k peeps to jump out of line, and let the half peeps do their business so we can get the show on the road. At 6am, we were on our way!
Two things to keep in mind should you wish to indulge in such madness:
- It’s still dark out at 6am in October and course lighting is definitely NOT in abundance.
- Duval Street is more like a study in not face planting thanks to the road conditions.
And the biggest lesson of all – HEAD WINDS SUCK.
Me. FOR 4 STINKING MILES.
Nothing like feeling you’ve won the Powerball when your first two miles are run at goal pace, you’re on track to #PRCity, you manage to not go over the railing into the Atlantic Ocean because you’re running a pier in pitch blackness, and you have to deal with crap like Mother Nature with a bug up her dupa. She couldn’t even make it a decent headwind, but an angled side wind. The kind that no matter which muscley cute dudes you’re running behind, (I’m married for gawd’s sake, not dead :)), you just can’t seem to find that sweet spot that said muscley cute dudes can run blocker for you. You know that goal pace I mentioned?
Miles 3-6 were spent battling a bitchy Mother Nature to the point that all I could do was try to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Nothing more, nothing less. Pace? Out the window. Conserving energy? #jokeoftheyear. Ignore what is now your screaming glutes? Got that down. Grit your teeth and hope the normally beautiful oceanside view comes to an end as quickly as possible. Or more like just come to an end at all. I’ve never been so happy to see a Mile 6 marker in my life. Especially because Grouper was plunked right there, cold Angry Orchard in hand, tunes playing on the speaker, and dancing like a fool.
Best road crew ever.
Miles 6-9? Another round of runner hell, this time due to a lovely out and back along U.S. 1, most of which was on an angle of much like the side of Mt. Everest. There was no where you could run to find a bit of even ground unless you went up onto U.S. 1 itself; which wouldn’t have been bad, but after the slowed pace during the #headwindsfromhell portion of the program, traffic had started to pick up and becoming roadkill wasn’t really part of the next act. Continued teeth gritting and carrying on was the only option. Plus I knew Grouper was waiting back around Mile 9 with more Angry Orchard on hand. Apple juice makes the world go round.
Once I was properly refueled, hugs and kisses from #bestroadcrewever, I knew I only had about a 5k to go. Team #Brokebutt was making sure there would be no chance to revoke my membership, and a shot at #PRCity had long ago evaporated, so it was time to just finish the damn thing. At least I had great scenery along the way as I hobbled down U.S. 1 with the Gulf to my right and a busy U.S. 1 to my left (no sarcasm here). And of course, #bestroadcrewever buzzed up alongside me on his scooter, backing up traffic, music blaring, and shouting inspirational messages for all us runners in the vicinity. Oh wait. That would have been me. Only me. I had lost sight of just about every other runner both ahead and behind me, we had become that spread out. Onward and upward!
Something like that.
A right turn over the bridge – thank you tailwind for once – and down into the neighborhoods adjacent to Old Town we go. Remember I mentioned I had lost just about every other runner out there? Not good when you come up to an intersection AND YOU DON’T KNOW WHICH WAY TO GO. Granted I had looked over the course a few times, but when you’re dupa is broken, your previously busted up knee is starting to complain, and you’re starting to feel a bit goofy in the head – more so than usual – it gets a little nerve- wracking until you notice some nice race person had placed some cones basically MAKING you turn where you need to go. Score one for the non-goofyheaded race peeps!
Now. Repeat after me. LONGEST TWO MILES EVER.
Good job. Great audience participation on that one.
After what I swore was previously mentioned LONGEST TWO MILES EVER, the finish line was in sight. Actually it was around a couple more corners, but I could see it in my mind. A right turn here, a left turn there, (oh look, Schooner Wharf Bar! I’ll be right back guys!!), and THERE YOU ARE YOU GREAT BIG BEAUTIFUL FINISH LINE!!
Let me just interject said beautiful finish was momentarily marred by large muscley sweaty dude FLYING by me with about 50 yards to go. Why marred you say?
He was the winner of the marathon. Yeah. The FULL marathon. Turns out Mr. Speedy had finished 15th OVERALL at the Ironman World Championships in Kona.
STAY IN YOUR OWN PROFESSIONAL PLAYPEN SPEEDY MCQUEENEY. Leave the Keys to us pathetic amateurs.
A sweet little old lady handing out medals, a big hug from Grouper, and an ice cold Gatorade later, we were back on the scooter and heading back to the hotel. I would have liked to hang out for the post race festivities, but girlfriend just wanted to get off her feet and into a nice refreshing shower. Because. KEY WEST. Time to get this party started!
For all the bitching about the race conditions, it was still a well-managed race. MultiRace puts on a good show and I would absolutely recommend any of their events. If you’re intrigued enough to give this one a shot just remember to bring a light. And extra apple juice.
Nothing but smiles…
Enjoy the ride.
What is your favorite running destination? Have you ever run a race in the tropics?