Read about the expo and the day before the Space Coast Half Marathon here.
The 3:15 alarm came sooner than I would have liked, but it was race day!
Yay, race day!
We showered and dressed and collected our water bottles and fuels. After a last check to make sure we had our room keys, we hustled to the elevator and joined the group of people in the lobby, who were also waiting for the 4:15 shuttle. Kristin and Mr AMOTR weren’t far behind and finally, a volunteer led us outside to board our chariot to the start line. (As a side note, even though this hotel was much nicer than last year’s, I did love that the front desk last year gave runners a nice breakfast goodie bag with muffins, bananas or apples, water and juice).
The bus ride felt long, but it was better than being out in the cold, and we took some selfies and I ate my bagel with some water.
At long last, we were deposited at the staging area. It was nice to see that a few of the local stores were open, and Mr PugRunner, Kristin and Mr AMOTR were able to get coffee. Then it was off to the restrooms.
Afterwards, we had all the time in the world to just hang out. I was hoping to meet up with some of the wonderful folks from my IRun4 group, but I somehow missed the photo opp :(. That’s ok, though. I ran into TK from back home, and A who was in town from Pennsylvania, running Space Coast for the first time (and loving the gorgeous weather). I also ran into a couple running friends from around my neighborhood, who were in for the full. It was great.
As the minutes ticked closer to 6:00, I hit the restroom one more time, because you just never know, and then we walked over to the start line and got some last minute photos.
The area was already packed, so we said our goodbyes and good lucks and wedged our way in to our starting positions.
The National Anthem played, the official shuttle countdown sounded out, and we were off!
Miles one through three were good. I didn’t start my 2:30/1 intervals right away because of crowding, so I just went with the flow and tried to rein in my excitement. The beginning of the Space Coast Half Marathon is twisty and turny with some uneven pavement, which becomes a bit more treacherous in the dark of early morning. I just kept my eyes ahead of me and enjoyed the view of the rising sun.
The scenery of this race is really beyond compare. I kind of regret not having photos from the course, but I had a goal in the back of my mind, and stopping for pictures would have destroyed that. On one side, there were gorgeous homes, some Victorian with wraparound porches and others more contemporary with entire walls of glass giving a view of the waterway across the street. The trees lining the road provide plenty of shade, but don’t really obscure the view of the docks and the river, and it’s breathtaking to watch the sun rise as the miles tick by. A lot of the homeowners come out and set up chairs in their driveways, and some even set up refreshments for the runners! Spectators were offering Blue Moon, a full bar, shots of mimosas and Bloody Marys, and even pancakes and bacon on the grill. It all looked and smelled so good and I hated to pass by without taking advantage, but I didn’t want to do anything to mess with how I was feeling.
My goal was to keep up with the 2:30 Galloway Pace Group, and they caught up to me somewhere in the first few miles. Unfortunately, due to the narrowness of the course and size of the group, it seemed incredibly disorganized and was ruining my groove. I didn’t need to stay with them to get a PR, and so I let them move on past, hooking up instead with a lovely woman named Donna, who was having a hard time staying with them. Donna was shooting for a PR of her own, but hadn’t trained in a while due to injury. She asked if she could stay with me for a bit, and it seemed to work out perfectly for both of us. I was comfortable enough with my breathing to chat (when does that ever happen?), which seemed to keep her from dwelling on the humidity and challenge of the 13.1 miles, and we passed a few miles side by side. After a while, she needed some extra walk time and my legs were feeling good so I wished her luck and went off on my own again.
At the turnaround, I felt like the course eased up a bit. There were still plenty of runners around on both sides of the road, but I seemed to be in a prime spot where I wasn’t crowded or struggling to find clear pockets for my walk breaks. I saw Mr PugRunner heading towards the turnaround and texted him to see how he was doing. He responded “ok” and I hoped he was enjoying himself.
Between miles seven and eight, I hooked up with a woman named Tawny. She had just finished a half Ironman a few weeks ago and was going strong at this race. We started chatting and I told her how I was feeling remarkably chipper. She said that was a great sign, and that showed my body was on board with all my training.
I remembered how I was feeling at this time last year: fatigued with painful cramps in my calves that brought me almost to tears. Not so this time. In fact, I didn’t cramp once the entire time.
Tawny and I continued in our intervals companionably until about mile 11, when I made a huge mistake.
I looked at my Garmin.
And I realized that, short of an alligator lunging up out of the river and clamping down on my leg, I had my PR.
And I started hyperventilating, right there, in the middle of the race course.
I pulled off to the side, and told Tawny to please go on, that I would be ok. I had to calm myself down and catch my breath. I think I almost threw up and I was so mad at myself for letting my head get the better of me.
It took a minute to get myself together, and then I got right back out there. I was hoping I could catch up with Tawny again, to thank her, but it wasn’t meant to be (there really should be some kind of runner business card, for those of us who didn’t have the presence of mind to get a bib number). There were, however, plenty of volunteers and spectators lining the streets, cheering, offering high-fives and holding up great motivational signs. The twists and turns started up again, and I just put my head down and focused on my cadence.
Finally, I hit the cobblestones, the last corner, and I was on my way to the covered curve to the finish line. With a last burst of energy, I sprinted through and collected my second Space Coast Half Marathon medal.
And a PR time of 2:38:01, a 90ish second improvement from last year.
I grabbed a Diet Coke and a plate of pancakes and then went to find a seat to watch the finishers coming in. By luck, I happened to bump into Andrea, from Once Upon A Run. It was great to catch up – we haven’t seen each other since the GATE River Run.
Mr PugRunner made it in and I can’t tell you how proud I was of him. He said that he started experiencing calf cramps at about mile 6, and ended up running with an older woman who had fallen on the course, for quite some time. I was glad that he had someone with him out there, especially knowing how awful those cramps can be.
We all basked in the post-race glow for a bit,
But Mr PugRunner and I had to get home quickly, so there wasn’t time to linger.
We had a bit of a snafu with the shuttles for our particular hotel (something about the bus hitting a parked car and hence being out of service, leaving us down one vehicle), but we got back to our room eventually and were able to head home.
I loved every second of this race. The temperatures were a little higher than I would have preferred, but there was no wind and plenty of shade, so it balanced out. I also wished that there were as many spectators on the course as last year. I remember the return side of the route being lined with people along the river, while this year, the people were far more sparse, but I was having such a great time with Tawny that I guess the additional stimulation and encouragement didn’t matter.
It was the first time, I think, that I have been completely immersed in a long distance run and really, truly enjoyed it, even though I was working hard towards a goal. I was able to talk and laugh and make friends on the course. And when it was done, I was able to walk away from the finish line, legs a little sore, but not limping or wincing in pain. All those hours and miles out in the blazing sun this summer really seemed to have paid off. Even if I hadn’t PR’d and even considering my little breakdown, I would have considered this day and this race a complete personal victory and I was flying high on that feeling for quite some time.
Obviously, I plan to be back in 2016, for another huge, sparkly half marathon medal and to collect my 3 Year Milky Way Finisher Award.
Has your head ever gotten the better of you in a race situation?
Besides your time, what makes a race a total success for you?