Did I compete in an Ironman? No. Hell no! But my dad did and that is a huge reason why we planned this trip to Florida. For those of you that don’t know what an Ironman is, it’s a triathlon that consists of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile run. Totaling a whopping 140.6 miles.
It started four years ago, when my dad competed in his first ever Ironman. It was in Panama City Beach and I really wanted to surprise him at the finish line. Lo and behold, I had another trip planned (shocker). I was going to Michigan with the Way Too Beautiful crew for our annual college football trip and wouldn’t be able to pull off the surprise.
(Our W2B group picture at the “Big House”)
(Was able to capture this video of my dad crossing the finish line on the Ironman live stream while we were in the Michigan hotel)
Now fast forward to 2019 and I had the same plan, except this time I didn’t have any college football trips planned… at least for that weekend. It also worked out perfect because it fell on a week where Leen would only need to take off a couple days and get the entire week off. So, Leen and her coworker also planned a getaway in Miami. PERFECT! I convinced Leen that we could fly into Panama City Beach (PCB) on the Saturday of the Ironman, surprise my dad at the finish, hang around Sunday and watch some football, and then drive four hours to meet up with her coworker in Miami and spend a few days there. It was a flawless plan… except for the part where I screwed up the travel time from PCB to Miami.
Oops! I was WAY off. Turns out its more like a 9+ hour drive… who knew? If we wanted a flight from PCB to Miami, it was roughly $300+ AND it wasn’t a direct flight. We would have to go to Atlanta first. When it was all said and done, it would only end up being three hours shorter than driving. We opted to save a TON of money and drive. I mean, the rental car was only $51 a day.
Saturday (November 2nd) arrived and we were off. We still were unsure of how we would complete the “surprise.” When we arrived in PCB we picked up our car and went to the hotel. My mom said there was a part of the run that looped around an intersection and thought it would be a great spot to show up. Guess what, it was THE PERFECT spot.
I ran up to my dad as he turned the corner. It was dark and he didn’t have glasses on so he thought I was a drunk guy running up to him. After a few seconds he realized it was me. The look on his face was priceless. I do have to say, it was a pretty damn good surprise!
Now we had about three or so more hours until he would reach the finish line. Off to the bar to kill some time. My mom signed up for the VIP experience which meant when my dad crossed the finish line, she could give him his metal. So, when he was roughly a half hour away we went to the finish line.
We were able to sneak into the VIP area with my mom and the angle was perfect. If you have never been to the end of an Ironman, it has an entirely different feel this time of night. Earlier in the day, watching the racers finish (although it is still an immaculate accomplishment) just isn’t the same. The emotion at night has so much more energy to it. I had chills the entire time, especially when my dad crossed. These are the people that may have had to walk and probably had some serious struggles through the race and the emotion radiates off of them when they are crossing the finish line. It’s truly an amazing thing to witness.
The next morning we woke up early (or at least tried to) and started our venture to Miami. We would be losing an hour somewhere along the way with the time change and needed to get the rental turned in by 8PM. It was a rather easy ride. Leen slept for probably seven of the ten hours and thankfully it was Sunday because for me I was able to listen to football all day (literally, since there was also a London game that morning).
We stopped at a rest stop roughly two hours away from our final destination. When we got back on the road, a car passed us on the left. I caught a glance out of the corner of my eye and thought to myself, “Damn… that guy really looked like Chris. Nah it couldn’t be.” I noticed the car pull back into the right lane and decided I was going to make my move, just to be sure. I woke Leen up and said, “When I pass this car, look at the driver. I think it might be Chris!”
Side note… Chris is one of my best friends. We’ve known each other since we were about six or seven. He’s basically my Dominican twin. Its eerie how similar we are. Chris currently lives outside of Miami in Fort Lauderdale. I talked to him a week prior to this trip and we made plans to meet up for dinner in Miami one night.
As we pass the car, Leen and the driver both catch each other’s eyes. Leen screams. The driver freaks out. IT’S CHRIS!!!!! Holy shit… what are the chances!?
They were visiting family in Orlando and we just happened to pass each other on the highway about two hours away from our destinations. Crazy. The odds of that happening are near impossible. I mean just think about how perfect each rest stop would need to be for both carpools to happen upon each other at that exact moment. Mind blowing.
Ahhh… now it was time to relax for a few days in Miami. Our AirBnB was insane! We met Joel and Sarah there. Joel is Leen’s coworker and Sarah is his girlfriend. Joel did an amazing job finding this AirBnB. It was an absolute steal. Just a week after we were going to be there, the price would skyrocket by three times the amount we paid! The location could not have been better. Right in the heart of South Beach and two blocks from the beach. There was also this little market across the street that had Inca Kola (Inca Kola is my favorite soda that’s from Peru and I can never find it in South Jersey)!!! It honestly could not have been better.
The first day we spent entirely at the beach… it was perfect. Even though it was November, it felt like it was summer in Miami. The water was so blue. It was like being on an island. Typical beach day. I napped. We walked. Pretty sure we all got burnt.
That night we went out to eat at Havana 1957. Oh. My. God. It was soooooo good! It was the best meal I ate the entire trip and on top of that, the mojito pitchers were even better. This would be my top recommendation for someone going to South Beach. After dinner we went out for more drinks. We ventured down the street to a bar called Lost Weekend. It was literally a South Philly dive bar. Made us feel like we were home. Next to the Lost Weekend is a bar called Kill Your Idol. That night they were having a drag show. Why not? It turned out to be an awesome night. Worth the hangover.
Day two in Miami was another great one. We woke up and decided we were going to rent bikes and ride around South Beach. It was a nice workout. We rode all around. I wish two things… one, I wish I had brought my GoPro and two, I wish one of us was tracking the mileage.
Along the ride, we were crossing the street by a golf course. I froze in my tracks. I couldn’t believe Leen and Sarah missed stepping on this bad boy by less than a foot. I had to snap a picture…
We would meet up with Chris, his girlfriend (Steph), and her daughter for dinner. Mercato Della Pesheria is where we ate. The food was okay, but compared to the night before it was disappointing. The only thing more disappointing is I never got a picture with Chris. I’m still mad at myself for missing out on this opportunity.
Our last day, was really more of a half day. I made it a point for Leen and I to go to the Wynwood Walls. It’s a place that was recommended to us multiple times and I thought it sounded cool, but in reality I’m not much of an art guy so I wasn’t sure if I would like it. Even though it’s a very artsy place to go, its something everyone should see. It ended up being my favorite part of Miami (well, besides Havana 1957) and not to mention the restaurant (Wynwood Kitchen & Bar) next door had delicious food and beer!
Miami is certainly a place I could see myself spending a lot more time… if only it weren’t so expensive.
Well, thus ends another epic adventure. Will we go back? If so, when? Only time will tell, but until then… goodbye for now, Miami. Oh, and don’t forget rule #7!