A Simple Running Log

November 18, 2014

Training for 11/18/14

Filed under: Uncategorized — aschmid3 @ 2:23 pm

Well, Miami was FREAKING AWESOME!!!

The whole weekend was just the best. South Beach was fun, the race was probably the third best I’ve ever seen live in 22 years of attending these things and I’m just so pumped for NASCAR to start all over again at the 2015 Daytona 500! Is it February yet?

So, from the beginning: Thursday, I did take Pepper out for a very chilly lap around the 5.5-mile loop. I had on two shirts, tights, gloves and an earband, and he had on his dork jacket. After a couple miles, I thought I’d maybe overdressed, but then I got some pretty bad gut pains. Yup, a Code Abby. Only this time, it took forever to, uh, feel better, and then I had to stop a second time about a half-mile later. I was glad I’d dressed warmer than necessary, since I spent a lot of time not moving in the woods! I also wish I knew what I’d eaten to bring that on.

Anyway, when we got home, I went upstairs and did some strength training. Then I had about an hour to shower, get dressed and pack everything I needed for four days in Miami. That is the only time I ever get anything done — at the very last minute.

Luckily, Clark and Mike were both running a bit behind schedule too, and I was ready to go when Mike picked us up at our house. The drive to the airport and the flight went fine, and we landed in Ft. Lauderdale just before 9 p.m. We got our rental car, a pretty sweet Volvo S60, and drove to Miami Beach, where we were staying in the art deco district of South Beach.

Our room at The President hotel:

art deco hotel room

After checking in, it didn’t take long to find an Irish pub still serving dinner at almost 11 p.m. We didn’t even stay there long, but our tab at the end of the night looked like we’d been drinking since the afternoon — South Beach is extremely expensive compared to Delaware! Who knew, right?

Friday, we had tickets for the Truck Series race, but the track was about a 50-minute drive south and we wanted to see more of the Miami area, so we didn’t go. Instead, Clark and I ran a 3-miler together along the paved bike path through Lummus Park, which winds alongside the beach. It was gorgeous, and the people-watching opportunities were more than abundant. The only thing was we’d waited until almost 11 a.m. to go, and it was pretty warm, even just in shorts and a sports bra. I tried not to complain though, since I’d just been bitching the day before about how cold I was while running.

We got cleaned up and got some Cuban food for lunch, and then we walked down to the beach. The water was absolutely beautiful, a very turquoise blue, and when you stood in it, you could see clear to the bottom, a big difference from Maryland and Delaware beaches.

me on the beach

Clark took this picture for me so I could send it to friends in snowier parts of the country haha.

Looks like Ocean City in July.

Miami Beach in November looked like Ocean City in July.

Then it was time for the part of Friday I was most looking forward to — Dumb and Dumber To! The first Dumb and Dumber and the South Park movie are the only two movies I’ve seen so many times I can quote them, which probably says something unflattering about my choice in movies, but whatever.

We were a little late getting to the 2:30 p.m. showing Mike had pre-ordered tickets for, and I was worried about being able to find three seats next to each other that weren’t in the very first row, since it was opening day, but then I walked in the theater and saw exactly three other people already in there haha. Guess you don’t have to worry about that when you go in the middle of the afternoon on a Friday.

The movie was… OK. I mean, I did not expect it to live up to the first one. Nothing can. But the thing I liked so much about the first one was that Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels did not come off as actors trying to act dumb. They were believable, and it was funny. This one, especially the beginning, they both seemed like they were trying too hard, sometimes even overacting. However, once the plot was established and they set off on their road trip together, it got better, for the most part, and there were some genuine laugh out loud moments. Overall, worth the ticket price if you loved the first one, but I don’t think it’ll become the cult classic the first one is.

Friday night, Mike was bent on staying out until the bars close in South Beach, which is 5 a.m. I was 99.9 percent positive I would not make it, and was already bracing myself for the shit I was going to take for it the rest of the weekend, but oh well.

We decided if we were going to make it that long, we’d need a good dinner to start. Clark suggested Fogo de Chao, a Brazilian steakhouse. Mike and I had never been to one, but Clark goes to them sometimes when he travels for business. It’s a pretty good deal — there’s an all-you-can-eat self-serve enormous salad and side dish bar, and then waiters bring around plates of several different kinds of meat, and you can have as much as you want of all of them too.

On the walk there, I tried to get some pictures of good examples of the art deco style:

miami at night one

miami at night two

Dinner was so good! I tried not to fill up on the salad bar, because Clark pointed out that’s how they make money off you, but there was a ton of good stuff there. Then the meats started coming around. I had bacon-wrapped filet mignon, ribs, chicken and some of the restaurant’s signature top sirloin. I was stuffed when I finally had to throw in the towel. We all ordered dessert, but I could only manage a coffee with Frangelico and Bailey’s.

Next stop was the Abbey Brewing Co., Miami’s oldest and only brewpub.

Remember Mike’s goal of staying up until closing time? Well, it started out OK at the Abbey:

clark and mike awake

And Clark and I were still going strong a little while later:

clark ready to party

abby ready to party

But pretty soon, we were down a man:

mike asleep

Ah ha! Who’s the party pooper now, huh?

Clark making fun of Mike.

Clark making fun of Mike.

It sure wasn’t me!

me and clark

I won that round!

We shook Mike awake and walked back to the hotel. Goal bedtime: 5:30 a.m. Actual bedtime: 12:30 a.m. haha. Hey, at least we made it past midnight. Barely. Mike claimed we’d eaten too good of a dinner, and he was in a food coma. OK.

Saturday, we went to the track for the first time, for the Nationwide Series race, even though Chase Elliott had already clinched the title the week before. Like most tracks, Homestead-Miami Speedway is nowhere close to the city, because that just makes traffic impossible (*cough* DOVER *cough*), but unlike any other track I’ve been to, the back roads leading from the main highway to the parking lot were lined with palm tree farms as far as you could see. It was pretty cool, but Clark pointed out you probably didn’t want to go in those woods, because most likely there’s some wildlife in there that would eat you in a heartbeat. It did look very… alligator-friendly.

The race was fun. Matt Kenseth won. I only took one picture the whole time:

sad gordon fan

That banner only rubbed it in that Jeff Gordon had missed a shot at the championship by one stinking point! Poor Clark.

We went back to Miami Beach after the race ended, and had dinner at this place called Yardbird, which is supposed to be one of the best restaurants in the city right now. It was the place at which Clark was most looking forward to eating, as they’re especially known for their chicken and waffles.

The place was packed, to no one’s surprise. We got drinks and two appetizers to share at the bar — smoked and roasted bone marrow with onion jam, which was delicious, and beef sirloin tartare, which was one of those things you try for the first time and you’re all WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE. I inherited a taste for raw ground meat from my dad. (I don’t know if this is common or not, because I’ve only eaten it in front of Clark, who was horrified, but he’s just a sample of one so maybe he’s the weirdo.) I mean, I’ll only eat a pinch or four of it when I first put it in a pan, not like a whole raw burger patty, but then someone set down an entire plate of raw ground beef that I was supposed to eat by the forkful and, well, I was in heaven. I admit I hogged that one.

Then we got seated and Clark finally got to order his coveted chicken and waffles. Mike got his own order too. I was full of raw meat so I just ordered a side of mac and cheese. (I did have a drumstick though, and it was damn good fried chicken.) Clark ate most of his serving, but he was so drunk by that point, the only part of it he remembered the next day was the chilled watermelon on the side — and he hates watermelon haha. Womp womp. At least he had Mike and me there to fill him in on how great it was.

Then Sunday dawned — RACE DAY!! The day we’d all been waiting for!

It was another warm, sunny day in South Florida. I wasn’t feeling all that hot by the time we left for the track, but I felt much better after we’d stopped to pick up beer and I found a Boston Market nearby. One three-piece dark meat meal with dressing, more mac and cheese and cornbread later and I was ready to go.

We parked at the track about an hour and a half before the race was to start, and hung out in the parking lot drinking for a little while. Then it was time to head into the track. I took a LOT more pictures Sunday.

First, a shot of our sweet ride:

With bonus shirtless hairy guy haha.

With bonus shirtless hairy guy haha.

Then, several shots of the track on the way in:

From the parking lot.

From the parking lot.

If every single driver is your favorite, you never go home disappointed, I guess.

If every single driver is your favorite, you never go home disappointed, I guess.

Front entrance.

Front entrance.

front entrance

Homestead-Miami has only hosted NASCAR races since 2002. It has a much more modern feel than, say, Martinsville in southeastern Virginia, which was built back in the ’40s and is the only track that has hosted NASCAR races since its founding in 1948. Neither is better, they’re just different, and I think it’s pretty cool that there’s such a wide variety of old and new among NASCAR tracks.

We got to our seats just in time for the end of the huge spectacle that was the introduction of the four drivers competing for the championship, Kevin Harvick (my pick and my favorite driver who currently has a ride — but my heart will always belong to Bobby Labonte, of course), Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman. They had huge mobile stages built, enormous banners for each driver, loud music and even a WWE announcer.

pre race spectacle

Then they hooked up all those stages to semi trucks and hauled them out of the way for the start of the race.

Our seats were just before the start-finish line, 27 rows up. We had a pretty good view of the track:

Looking down the frontstretch toward Turn 1.

Looking down the frontstretch toward Turn 1.

And looking the other way down toward Turn 4. The field was lined up at the end of pit road.

And looking the other way down toward Turn 4. The field was lined up at the end of pit road.

We asked someone else in the stands to take our picture:

Me, Clark and Mike.

Me, Clark and Mike.

And then it was time to go!

The bottom line of the new Chase format was that four drivers would go into the final race of the season with equal shots at the championship — whoever finished highest took all the marbles. Ideally, all four would be fighting for the race win and therefore the championship, but this of course also meant two teams could blow engines and the remaining two could be fighting for like, 17th place at the end of the race, and the result would be the same. Just much less exciting.

This was a big part of why we chose Miami for our destination race this year. We figured the first attempt at this Chase format would either be a huge success or a giant flop, and either way, we wanted to be able to say we saw it firsthand.

I expected Harvick and Logano to be frontrunners for sure, Hamlin to have a decent run but not be in contention for the win necessarily and Newman to bring up the rear, barring things like blown tires, blown engines or accidents, of course.

The race got under way. At first, I was right. Harvick, Logano and Hamlin had all qualified well, and were all running in the top five or six, while Newman trailed by a long shot.

Scoring pylon at lap 43 of 267: Three of the four Chase drivers, whose numbers are yellow, run second, third and fourth, while Newman is running 11th.

Scoring pylon at lap 43 of 267: Three of the four Chase drivers, whose numbers are yellow, run second, third and fourth, while Newman is running 11th.

Also, it was killing Clark that Gordon lead a big chunk of this race. He wound up making a pit stop at an odd time near the end and finished 10th, but he was in contention for the win for most of it — just not the championship. At one point, Clark said, “I’m not even mad anymore about what happened to him at Texas, I’m just upset.” Poor Gordon fans!

Anyway, as the race went on, Harvick, Logano and Hamlin were all in the mix, but a curious thing happened. Newman stopped sucking! It took him about half of the race, but by the time the sun started to sink, he was running with the rest of them.

In other words, it was pretty exciting, start to finish. It seemed like every other lap one of the Chase drivers was passing another one to change up the final points standings. They all lead at one point or another too. No one had a clear advantage.

Used the "miniature" setting on my camera to take this shot of the field coming down pit road for pit stops.

Used the “miniature” setting on my camera to take this shot of the field coming down pit road for pit stops. Gordon is still leading, but all the Chase drivers are within a couple positions of each other, so flawless pit stops were even more important than usual.

There were a couple fans a few rows in front of us who’d made a bunch of JELL-O shots, and were throwing them to anyone who wanted them. So of course, we got a couple each.

NASCAR's patron saints of JELL-O shots.

NASCAR’s patron saints of JELL-O shots.



And this guy was probably Harvick’s biggest fan at the track that night — he waved that cardboard cutout of the championship trophy with a big ‘4’ on it pretty much the whole race.

no.1 harvick fan

Soon, the sun was getting lower and lower, and the only thing the fans were paying more attention to than the race, which was still going strong, was the sky, because it looked like this:

sunset four

And then this:

sunset one

sunset two

For some reason, no one was taking a bunch of pictures of the other end of the track:

sunset three

Finally, the sun went down and the sky stopped being such a damn showoff, so we could get back to watching the race.

When a caution came out on lap 248 — 19 from the end — the four Chase drivers were lined up nose to tail.

all four together

(And Harvick was still the leader among them, by the way.)

There were several cautions in those final laps. None involved any of the Chase drivers, but the pit stops — when to take them, how many tires to take — proved to be the difference maker. Unfortunately for Logano, his car slipped off the jack while his team was changing left side tires on one stop, and he lost a ton of track position, restarted 29th at one point and only regained 16th, where he finished.

So we were down to three.

after logano bad pit stop

Harvick had taken four tires after the first late-race caution on lap 248 and restarted 12th. He gained five spots back before the next caution a few laps later, restarted sixth and then blew past Newman and Hamlin on his way to the lead. There was a green-white-checkered finish after yet another caution a few laps later, but Harvick held off freaking Newman and won the race AND the championship — with Newman and Hamlin right behind him, finishing 1-2-3.

Pretty much spot on what NASCAR was hoping for, other than Logano’s bad pit stop, and just about the most exciting race I’ve ever seen, flag to flag. The only two better races I’ve seen live were, No. 1, Bobby Labonte’s win at Dover in 1999 (which was probably only exciting for Bobby fans, as he won on fuel mileage), and No. 2, Ricky Craven’s win by inches over Kurt Busch after beating and banging on each other the entire final few laps at Darlington in 2003 (which most people agree is one of the best race finishes ever.)

This was also only the second time in about 70 live races where I was wearing the winning driver’s colors! There were a lot of Harvick fans in the stands that night, and I high-fived a few while Harvick did donuts on the frontstretch.

Used the miniature effect again.

Used the miniature effect again.

Part of the ticket package we’d bought allowed us on the track for the championship celebration, so Clark, Mike and I made our way down there. Under the stands, I got the best picture of the weekend:

mike and clark smooch

When we made our way out on the track, Clark and I didn’t really have a great view of the celebration:

Stuck behind a media stage off to the right of the main stage.

Stuck behind a media stage off to the right of the main stage.

Buuuut, we were standing right there when Tony Stewart — Harvick’s team owner — came around to go up the stairs to the media stage! Clark patted him on the back. We also saw Stewart help up a photographer who somehow managed to fall right off the side of the steps trying to walk up them. (He was fine.)

That's Tony Stewart, second from left, asking the photographer if he's OK.

That’s Tony Stewart, second from left, asking the photographer if he’s OK.

And we got to hear some dumb idiots standing off to our right yelling at one of the professional photographers on the media stage, presumably taking pictures for his employer, to MOVE so they could take some crappy cell phone pictures of the main stage! Really?!

Before we left the track, I got my picture taken in the middle of Harvick’s donuts:

Got the sponsor's product in my hand too!

Got the sponsor’s product in my hand too!

And that was our Homestead-Miami Speedway experience. This was never one of the tracks I was most excited about when we made this pact to attend a race at every single track, but I really enjoyed it. More than worth the trip!

With this one, we’ve now been to 11 of 23 tracks. We’ve already settled on Chicago for our destination race next year, in September. When we go there, we’ll be at 12 of 23, and therefore past the halfway mark!

Back in South Beach on Sunday night, we had one more dinner along the oceanfront. The next morning, Clark and I went down to the beach one last time.

beach in the morning

It was nice, except for the guy feeding 3 million seagulls right down the beach:

dude feeding seagulls

And I got one last picture of Clark, making the same face he always does when I take his picture:

Um, OK.

Um, OK.

We left Miami Beach for the Ft. Lauderdale airport with plenty of time to catch our noon flight. Turned out we left with even more time than we expected. Our flight got pushed back twice. It was almost 2:30 when we finally left warm, sunny Florida. Baltimore was dark, cold and drizzly when we landed. Blah. I was really happy to see Pepper when we picked him up from Clark’s parents though, and he seemed pretty happy to see us — when we got home, he made these happy little groaning/whimpering sounds while Clark and I petted him all over haha. He also laid on the guilt trip even thicker than usual when we both had to leave for work this morning, unfortunately!

As far as running goes, I’m technically in Day 2 of Shamrock Marathon training, but I’ve not yet run a step haha. I did not feel like getting up and running before my meeting this morning. Plus, the wind was howling and it was down below freezing, which I hate anyway, but really couldn’t face after all that nice warm weather the last few days. Maybe I’ll run later today when I get home, but I’ll probably just wait until tomorrow to get started.

One final note on the race: This was the first year in Jimmie stupid Johnson’s entire NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career that he finished outside the top 10 in points — he wound up 11th in points after finishing ninth in the race, and I was there to see it!


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