I believe some of you know that Sunday was not exactly the race I had planned and trained for. I also think some of you already know that I’m actually A-OK with how everything went down. As I said on the DR FB page, sometimes in the marathon, finishing is winning.

I’m going to save the photos for another post because I want to get the words out of the way first and then get on to the really fun stuff.

On Saturday, bright and early my carload of Hollster, P-Funk, and myself loaded up and headed down to the beautiful (and hot) Miami beach. We picked up our race packets, checked into the hotel and headed back out for a lovely group dinner with about 30 folks (some from the running group and a few bloggers and friends).

Not surprisingly, I was nervous at this point and just wanted to enjoy the camaraderie and then get back to the hotel to rest up for Sunday’s race. I knew it was going to be a warm one but I was trying not to use the temperature as an excuse going into it.

Come Sunday morning, it was warm as we walked to the start corrals. I had a throw down long sleeved shirt on as I finally exited the porta-potty and headed to my specific corral. It wasn’t too long before I was sweating standing in a very, very crowded corral D. Off came the throw down.

The gun went off and we inched forward like cattle. I mentally went over what I wanted to do that day. I had my 3:35 pace band on and reminded myself to start with an easy pace and then speed it up to race pace by the second and third mile. It was crowded.

I began the bob and weave through what seemed an impossibly huge crowd. It was a jam-packed race at this point and I almost started cursing when I came across a group walking at about the three mile marker. I know that everyone deserves to race, I just get upset when the walking groups are in a front corral. I don’t know if they finish in the time they put down or if they just want in an earlier corral or if the marathon just goofs and throws people everywhere, but it’s one of those things I find frustrating.

Anyway, as I got to the 10K mark I was running at about an 8:27 pace and knew I needed to pick it up. It was weird though because my legs just wouldn’t cooperate. I knew it was hot out but I was thinking that I just needed to warm up and get going and then I’d be fine. However, by mile 8 I knew it wasn’t going to me my day to BQ. I let that sink in and decided to go to goal A or goal B. I kept chugging along but just felt so sluggish and I was dripping with sweat. Not to mention, my face felt hot and I was reminded of those runs at the end of triathlons. (I think I saw Xaarlin around this point? We said hey and I believe I yelled something about 3:35 not happening.)

By mile 11 I started thinking I may need to stop altogether. I had slowed to an 8:35 and could not get my heart rate down. My IT bands were yelling at me and my legs already felt sore. What the hell was going on here? I considered pulling out at the half and taking my DNF. At this point I got to the half marathon turn off and was at a 1:52. I realized this wasn’t too far off and decided that I’d suck it up and keep going.

My legs didn’t feel good or fresh and my heart rate seemed way too high for the pace I was running. I started worrying about how mile 20 was going to feel since miles 13-15 felt pretty awful. I think it was at about mile 14 that I decided I was just going to finish the marathon and consider it another learning lesson in the annals of my marathons.

I think that decision helped me get through the rest of the race. I had a lot of time to think about disappointment from miles 15 to 20 and I knew in my heart that I was good with myself and would be good with however this race turned out. I hate to make an excuse for it, but it was indeed too hot for me and many of the others I ran with and met on the course. The high got up to 76 degrees and the low was about 69 degrees. It was humid and muggy and I got a little relief with a breeze by the ocean and again when it sprinkled a bit toward the end. While I do live in Florida, it’s been much cooler in Tampa. My body just wasn’t ready to regulate for those temperatures.

By mile 18 I started some walking. I was shocked at how badly I wanted to walk and it just sort of happened at a water stop. I was saying to myself, “You’ve run multiple 20 milers, what are you doing?” But again, my legs just wouldn’t cooperate and I was breathing heavily running slower than I normally do. I was taking my gels and water and doing all the right things as far as fueling but it didn’t seem to help.

As I kept moving and tried to keep running, whenever I started to walk someone on the course would literally yell at me to keep running. It was quite possibly one of the most awesome things about this race. One man with a Venezuela shirt said, “This is Miami! No one walks in Miami!” I laughed and started running again. It was one of those moments where I knew someone was looking out for me.

The other moment was when I again started to walk and a woman wearing a shirt that said “Goodwill Runners” came up and said, “Come on! You can do it! Come with me.” And again I did. I followed her for as long as I could and again thanked whoever was looking out for me.

By mile 21ish when Coach EK hopped in to help me I knew I would finish and I was perfectly ok with whatever that clock said when I finished. I just realized it was a day to finish the marathon and that was good enough for me. I also knew that I had the support of so many friends and family and how could I ever be disappointed in myself knowing that just being out there was a huge accomplishment?

Coach EK was wonderful and helped get me to mile 23. He’s been a great coach and an even better friend. Just having him out there for those few miles was amazing. He not only helped me, but several of my buddies who were also running. In addition to Coach EK, I saw my buds Navy Steve and Little J who were also running folks in.

As Coach EK left it wasn’t too long before the Lazy Runner appeared. He had completed the half and was also coming back through to help others. He had promised to run me in and he had all but lost his voice from cheering for folks at this point. As per usual, he made me laugh and we hammed it up for the cameras as we headed toward the finish line.

I’d like to point out that I did talk to a lot of people during this race. I met a man from London who said he wasn’t used to the heat. I met another man from Tampa who said he hadn’t really trained but he looked like he was doing fine to me. Near the finish line Lazy Runner and I picked up a woman from Atlanta who wanted a 3:45 or so but she felt the same way I did. I really love this about running. I enjoy meeting lots of people on course and I often wonder when someone is just going to tell me to shut the hell up. Heh.

The final mile in I saw the woman from earlier with the “Goodwill runners” shirt on. She was walking.

I knew this was my pay it forward moment and I said, “Come on! You helped me, now I’m helping you. Let’s go!” And so she started running behind me.

As I ran up this final hill (it was REALLY RUDE) and toward the finish chute (which seemed to go on for damn near ever) I started waving my arms to get the crowd pumped. I know I needed it and I felt like at least I could help others around me who may have needed it too. I saw some of my buds holding a sign that said, “Suck it Miami!” and I started laughing and shot them double birds to echo the sentiments. All in good fun though because Miami is a great city and they can’t help if it’s too hot for me on marathon day.

I ran through the finish line with a big goofy grin on my face because I had just finished my 6th marathon and got my big, shiny medal. PR and BQ be damned. I’m proud of myself for not quitting and for holding my head up high. Not a single tear was shed, nor will it be shed. I earned this one, that’s for certain.

I turned back after I got my medal and went to talk to the “Goodwill runners” lady. We hugged and I told her congratulations and thanks.

The bottom line is that my biggest fear going into this race wasn’t that I wouldn’t BQ or PR (I thought PR’ing was in the bag. Ha!). It was that I’d be super disappointed and sad if I didn’t meet my goals and I didn’t want to do that to myself. I didn’t want to finish the race and be bummed out or be a total Debbie Downer to any of my friends. I guess in a way, having to finish this marathon in the way that I did helped me realize a lot about myself as a runner and as a person.

Again thank you all so very much for the continued support and encouragement. I’ve still got the hunger and will certainly be running another marathon. I’m thinking about redemption come next fall.

Congratulations to all of my racing buds! You all did amazing and I’m proud of each and every one of you. Felicidades Jessica de Cuban Running Crisis! You did it girl!

Final Time: 4:06:04 (average pace 9:24)

Adios Miami y gracias.