Breaking Through in Miami

Breaking Through in Miami

Kelli-at-Miami-finish-low-rby Kelli Z.

Every Thursday at 5:30am I “Run to Become” with Coach Joe and a small group of Experience Triathlon teammates. It is a great way to start my day and get in a good run workout. I always look forward to seeing my friends and talking about the many things that are going on in our lives. We often get a “Sunny and 80” perspective from Coach Joe and have the opportunity to support each other in challenges and successes. When the opportunity to Run Famous in Miami with ET came along, it didn’t take long for Marge, Tanya and I to join the group. All of our spouses were very supportive and we were grateful and EXCITED! We trained together for months in anticipation of our next racing challenge.

I had my own demons to face after having a pretty negative racing experience last fall. I ran my first 13.1 at the Fox Valley Half and sustained a pretty debilitating IT band injury. I made the mistake of lining up with a faster pace group and exceeding my typical 5K pace for the first 5 miles (totally ignoring my race plan). I felt a snap in my knee that had me wincing in pain for the remaining 8 miles. I remember watching the pace group signs passing me, each one like a punch in the gut. I thought about quitting. I felt like a failure. Brutal.

The injury required quite a bit of physical therapy and strengthening to rehabilitate. Additionally, it required me to get my head screwed on straight. I was so angry with myself after that rough race. After some heartfelt coaching from Coach Joe I started to see things more clearly. I was focusing on the wrong things. I was thinking about my time, and how fast I should run 13.1, and how I would compete compared to EVERYONE else. How could I possibly enjoy myself with all that negativity? Miami was my chance to start fresh. It would be a different kind of redemption; one rooted in positivity and appreciation, not trying to settle the score or avenge my previous finish time.

On the flight to Miami, I was running through my expectations for my second half marathon. After a really inspiring discussion with Coach Suzy, I decided I would simply focus on enjoying my experience. Also, I would stick to my race plan. AND, I would enjoy a couple of days in the Miami sun with my friends while my fabulous husband stayed behind with our two toddlers.

Saturday was a great day. The entire team was gathering and we were all taking our turns going to the expo and the local CVS. Everyone was in great spirits and the energy for the race was really building. It was so nice to have a group of people who were encouraging and all had the same agenda. We had a big group at dinner and almost took over an entire restaurant. There was a lot of water drinking going on, much to the chagrin of the sommelier. After dinner, a bunch of us went to CVS (again) for supplies (side note: we went to CVS about 4 times a day, seriously).

When my alarm went off on Sunday morning at 3:30am (2:30 am Chicago time), I was ready. It was a balmy 70 degrees before sunrise. Tanya, Marge and I made our way to the convention center to take the shuttle to the starting line. We laughed that there were so many crazy people who were “up and at ‘em” at 4:20am. The bus smelled like Ben Gay and bananas and my nerves were starting to really kick in. I was less worried about the race and more worried about bathroom traffic, availability and placement. You know you are a runner when everything revolves around the potty and you discuss it with everyone.

I was honest about my anticipated finish time during registration. Because of this, I was in one of the “back of the pack” corrals. I had no issue with this at all. Except I could not find my corral ANYWHERE! I was wandering around with Susan and Amy looking for “H” and I never did find it. Oh well, I found “G” and that was good enough for me. We heard the elite runners start at 6am. About 20 minutes later, I was crossing the start line.

Per my plan, I was to take it easy the first 5-6 miles. “Keep it in the box” according to Coach Joe. I didn’t need any music for at least the first 3 miles. The sunrise and the scenery were just too beautiful! Also, there was a lot going on. We ran up the causeway and past several huge cruise ships. A guy was dribbling two basketballs while he was running (WTH?). Another guy was decked out in a Navy uniform and ran carrying the US Marine Corps flag the entire time. He was yelling “COME ON, EVERYONE! LET’S TAKE THIS HILL!!!!” as we climbed the bridge. I had a permanent smile. For some reason, there were also a few weird guys holding fifths of booze and riding bikes through the pack. I thought to myself, “That’s strange.” I laughed and chalked it up to being in Miami.

I know many people go into races thinking about a PR. I have to admit the thought did cross my mind, but I just kept squashing that voice. Around mile 6, a new voice appeared. I had passed the “pain point” from my previous half marathon. I became overwhelmed with feelings of gratitude. I actually got choked up thinking about how fortunate I was. I thought about my husband and kids who supported me through all of the training and allowed me to travel to Miami. I thought about my journey over the past two years. Also, how special it was to be a part of a great team with a coach who cares about my success. I realized that I was part of a tiny fraction of the population that “gets” to do something like this. It was such a privilege. I’m not sure I can ever repay my husband for allowing me the experience of running Miami. It was an amazing gift.

Honestly, the rest of the race was a bit of a blur. It got pretty warm out there. There were a lot of people slowing down or sitting on the side of the road. I relied on my training and kept on trucking along. I was knocking down the miles at a nice, even pace and slowing for water every time I saw it. The last two miles were a little tough because I had a bad cramp in my right foot. It was not going to stop me! I was a little slower because of it, but I was so very happy. I was feeling no pain as I crossed the finish line and I was all smiles. It was so awesome to see Coach Joe, Coach Suzy, Coach Cathy and several ET team members waiting for me afterwards. I was very proud of my team.

That afternoon, after a major lunch and a nap, Susan and I had a great time walking the beach and drinking mojitos at a fancy hotel bar. We capped it off with a delicious team dinner and a little “girls night out” at the Delano for more she-she, frou-frou beverages. It was such a fun bonding experience!

I stayed true to my race goals and I had an amazing experience. I stuck to my race plan and enjoyed a really great event. It is one that I will surely do again! I am already looking into ways to get my family to Miami for a few days of post-race R&R (it will most definitely include mojitos).

Oh, and you know what’s funny? On top of everything else, I did get that PR.

Enjoy all the photos from our fun weekend in Miami on the ET Photo Gallery!


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