Ride the Wave 50-Miler consisted of three legs: two checkpoints at miles 10 and 31, plus the finish line. The directions and course map were unknown for each leg until we arrived at the checkpoints, where we received the directions and maps on laminated cards to assist us in getting to next leg. The thing was, you had to follow the directions mapped out—this was not an orienteering event.
In full adventure race style, there were no aid stations, but you had the option of using a crew who followed and supported you along the course. I opted to run sans crew, or self-supported, which meant that I was out there fending for myself when it came to everything from water to ice to Coca-Cola – oh, and directions. The great thing about urban races is that gas stations and supermarkets are easy to find.
If you have spent any time living in southern Florida, you know about the heat and humidity, which is nothing less than oppressive and stifling. At the 6 a.m. pre-dawn start, it was clear we were going to be in for a steamy day. One mile in, and I was already drenched in sweat. By 9 a.m., the heat was overbearing.
My long-time running buddy, William “Chip” Corley, and I had agreed to run together, which was fortunate for me, as he’s faster and always pushes me. And because I had two melt-downs: the first one being more of a mini-heat meltdown as I was able to recover after some Coca-Cola and ice, and keep pushing. The second meltdown hit harder and there was no disguising it.
When we started out on the long bridge towards South Beach, I felt off (edgy and dizzy) but I kept quiet until, with less than a mile to South Beach, a full-blown headache started, along with chills and fatigue. Eventually, I was sitting down and when Chip ran back to me, he knew I needed help. He ran ahead to a snazzy bar for help, and after some soda and ice cubes, I was okay again.
There’s rain, and then there’s south Florida deluges. Around mile 30, when we were on the Venetian Causeway heading back into downtown Miami, the downpour hit us hard. After all of the heat, it was a relief. Until we were soaked and cars driving through puddles drenched us further. My feet were sopping, as there was no avoiding puddles. On the positive side, it was still hot, and being hot and soaked is definitely better than being cold and soaked. The more it rained, the more I gave into it – the big sloppy mess of it – and was thankful for the respite from the sun.
The Final Stretch
When my watch clocked 45 miles, the finish line became attainable. We intersected with another runner, Lucian Boulet, a few miles back, and together, we navigated the course. At one point, we began to doubt if we were heading in the right direction. When we finally saw the lights up ahead (US 1) relief came over me and we made our way into the parking lot where we had started some 15 hours earlier. Ultimately, we won the Dead Finish Last (DFL) award.
So much in the world is complicated and confusing now – political and social unrest and a pandemic. Races bring me back to the basics. They remind me about putting one foot in front of the other and being there for others.