Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Such is Life

Remember that one time you signed up for a marathon in Florida in January so that you could hopefully PR in perfect weather all while having the time of your life with some of your amazing cousins? 

I do. 

Remember when everything worked out perfectly that didn't happen? 

Let's rewind. After Maryland ended up on a such a high note, I was more than ready to see what my legs could do in a marathon. Without a casual 2.4 mile swim and 112 mile bike ride warmup.  I was ready to test my SPEED.

I was a good girl and took my instructed RnR time during which I ate what I wanted and drank a few more beverages than I was used to.  Then it was time to play Santa Claus and squeeze in some training at the same time... Something I've never done before. Alas, the New Year arrived and I had 17 days until I toed the line of the Clearwater Marathon. 

I've never heard of that marathon Megan? 

Of course you haven't. I decided that I was going to run a race that was low key and included some palm trees and sunshine. My family has a condo in St. Petersburg, Florida. Clearwater is an easy 30 minute drive North. It was perfect. My Florida Pit Crew (cousin Joey and his Fiance Kristen) live in Palm Beach Gardens and were planning on repeating Pit Crew duties and driving up for the weekend. 

I arrived in Florida late Thursday night with only hours to spare before some serious weather hit the Atlantic Coast and traveled across the state to the Gulf. A Florida thunder storm always promises some excitement, and the heavy rains and wind were no exception this time around. By the time noon on Friday hit, the sun was shining and ready for me. Saturday was spent soaking up some sun at the famous DonCesar Beach Resort, lunch on the beach, followed by packet pickup in Clearwater. 

Joey is difficult when it comes to sunscreen.

Just some casual pre-race headstands on the beach. Ya dig?

Beach cocktails. I'll give you one guess which one is mine.

When I approached the not-so-nice-looking lady at packet pickup, she informed me that a weather decision was going to be made by 7pm that night. WEATHER DECISION. But what do you mean? 

Confession: I was purposely avoiding checking the weather forecast because I knew that nothing good ever comes of it. I had seen a few forecasts predicting another nasty storm on race day. But at one point I decided that if I didn't check the weather forecast, I was bound to have perfect race weather. 

I couldn't have been more wrong.

That night at 7pm, the decision was made to delay the race start by 1 hour on Sunday making the official start time 8am. There was another pretty serious storm brewing, this time on the Gulf side. The rains were predicted to be finished well before the start, but the resulting wind was the bigger concern. I later found out that Sarasota was hit the worst resulting in a tornado and killing 2 people. 

Standard pre-race Bison burger and beer. Please disregard Joey with his massive double burger and fried goodies in the background.

My Pit Crew and I arrived on Sunday morning with 1 goal: don't let Mother Nature win this race. Joey and Kristen were prepared with freshly pumped bike tires and a full charge on their portable speakers. The perfect support crew and course entertainment. Before the sun came up the air was still and damp from the heavy rains. As the sun lit up the sky, the trees started to rustle and I was suddenly very aware that these winds were not going to be in my favor. 

Beach cruisers are full of air. Pit Crew is SET.

You've run in much worse Megan. A little wind is nothing. Remember CIM 2012? Those 48 hours of monsoon also came with 30mph headwinds. You made it through Ironman Maryland TWICE in TWO weeks in the middle of a HURRICANE. Ugh, I can't run in this, am I nuts? This is Joey's fault, he was in charge of the weather...Just a little insight into my mind as I head into the corrals and departed from my beloved Pit Crew. As soon as I found my "spot" in the corrals I bring my head up and immediately lock eyes with someone I know I've seen before. It was obvious she knew me by her, "Megan! Megan Hode!?" screams. It only took me a few moments to realize I was heading down memory lane and had just ran into a girl I had went to high school with. Kim told me she lived nearby and was here to run her 2nd marathon while her husband and two kids were out on the course waiting for her. I explained that this was my 11th go at a marathon (O-M-GEEEEE I've done this 11 times?!) and that I was just happy to be out of Chicago in January. 

Love these random meetings 10 years later!

About the time we said our goodbyes and good-lucks to each other, the race director had an announcement. Let me give you the shortened version: 

The marathon was officially cancelled due to flooding on the 2nd half of the marathon course. The police chief would not allow the marathon to be run because "traffic would be to difficult to control with that much water on the ground." Everyone entered in the marathon will now be running the half marathon. 

Cue the Chicago in me. {edited version}  Dude. Traffic? Wow, remind that guy to never put in a transfer request to the Windy City. You can't figure out how to CLOSE A STREET so that runners can run a race they've paid for?! I've run a marathon in MUCH worse conditions. You have GOT to be kidding me people! OK, back to reality. I understand it's for everyone's safety. They made the right decision. But still, I have personal issues with this. People were booing him. (I wanted to, but didn't.) People yelled "Let us run the half marathon course twice!" Alas, he refused. My mind instantly started crunching numbers. Well if I can't run a fast marathon, I'll run a REALLY fast half marathon. What's my PR? 1:43, on a hilly course. OK Megan, let's try and go... under 1:40? Anything under 1:43. 

I had less than 5 minutes to digest this information before the gun went off. I was off and racing with absolutely 0 plan. I did my best to try and think of an old workout Ryan had given me so I could have something to follow in my head. Well, even if I could have thought of a workout, let's just say that there is NO WAY I would have been able to follow ANY sort of plan that day. And here's why. 

8:18am (which also turned out to be the ACTUAL start time of the race): winds at 22mph and gusts at 26mph
8:30am: winds hit 31mph and gusts hit 36mph
8:48am: winds hit 33mph and gusts hit 40mph 
9:00am: winds hit 33mph and gusts hit 38mph
9:36am: winds hit 36mph and gusts hit 43mph

Have you ever ran INTO a 43mph wind gust? It's actually physically hard to move your legs. There were a few times I found myself "shuffling" my legs. Now, normally I wouldn't bore you with my splits. But this is actually pretty funny. 

Mile 1: 7:36 - The wind is at my back for the first 6 miles. So it's actually kind of cheating. But we had plenty of random gusts to the face and crosswinds. 
Mile 2: 7:41
Mile 3: 7:48
Mile 4: 7:50
Mile 5: 7:26 - I remember thinking "slow down you need to conserve for the turn around!" but the gusts were actually propelling me forward. Free energy! 
Mile 6: 7:38
Mile 7: 7:50 - (turn around at 7.25) 
Mile 8: 7:41
Mile 9: 8:08 - Now if you do the math, (which I have) this is when the winds started to gust at about 40+mph.
Mile 10: 9:04 - Yep. I'm shuffling at this point. And I'm on the biggest bridge I've ever seen.
Mile 11: 8:49 - Remember, I'm running right along the beach. I don't remember being charged for a sandy facial, but I'm getting some GREAT exfoliation. 
Mile 12: 8:10
Mile 13: 7:58
Finish: 1:45:17

This race did offer a free photo download. Unfortunately, this is the only decent picture.

That wind though...

Please notice the direction of my hair and the palm trees.

Yep. So this look happened. 

Pit Crew checkin' in on me before movin' on up the course. They were KEY in this race. Seeing them often kept my spirits up. 


I'll take it. I started that race pretty pissed that the marathon was cancelled. I was more than ready to see what my legs were capable of. But once I crossed the finish line I was thanking my lucky stars that I didn't have to do double that distance in those winds. A PR would have been a HUGE success in that weather. I ended up snagging 3rd place in my age group and accepted my award from Bill Rodgers, 3 time Boston Marathon winner, 3 time NYC Marathon winner, and 2 time Olympian. 

No, of course Kristen didn't wipe out on her bike at the finish line... (Beer is good for boo-boo's)

Remember, this weather is all his fault.

Accepting my award with the race director and Bill Rodgers!

I really had no reason to be upset with my performance on such a challenging day. But I couldn't help but wonder "what if." I have had my fair share of bad weather mishaps when it comes to racing. I have plenty of funny stories to tell. I've been through crazy rains, hurricanes, unexpected heat and humidity. And now I can add "tornado winds" to the list. We arrived back to the condo and everyone went their separate ways for an afternoon snooze. I threw myself a little pity party. It didn't last long. Because at the end of the day, what was there to be upset about? 

1. I still ran a damn good race in some crazy weather.
2. I'm healthy and able to run. 
3. I was lucky enough to spend so much time with some of my favorite cousins and make some great memories. 

The 3 of us went out that night and I can't tell you how much fun it was. We started at your typical Florida dive bar playing darts. And ended up in a college town dance club. I watched my cousins dance and let loose. I hung out on the sidelines, sipped my beer, watched all the craziness and tapped my foot (missing my dance partner). I was reminded that you're never to old to be as young as you want. By the time we made it home and in bed for the night, my day was approaching 24 hours long. My legs were aching and my eyes were burning. But damn. It was a great day.

Can't thank these 2 enough for the memories

What's next, you ask? Stay tuned. 2016 is looking to be one for the books.