Drum roll, please. It’s time for the Great Space Coast Half Recap of 2015.
This would be my third, consecutive running of this race. Upon completion of the 13.1 miles, I would be eligible for the bonus, Milky Way Challenge medal, and I was pretty stoked about that. This year, I had set a pretty lofty goal, and even hired coaches, in the form of Jen and Stacey at Empower Coaching, to help make it happen.
Mr PugRunner and I left on Saturday morning to make the drive to the expo and our hotel. I wanted to get settled and situated so I would be able to get a good night’s sleep.
The Health & Fitness Expo was held in the conference center of the Radisson Resort at the Port, as it was last year. This time, however, it was organized much more efficiently, and we didn’t have to contend with the crowded lines for bib and shirt pickup. Unfortunately, there wasn’t quite as much electricity in the air, and there didn’t seem to be as many exhibitors. We mosied around for a minute, but nothing grabbed our attention so we opted to find a place for lunch.
We checked into our hotel, the Best Western Cocoa Beach, and really, the view couldn’t be beat.
I was able to take a little nap, before meeting our friends for dinner at Carrabba’s. We’ve been going to the same place each year, so it’s become a bit of a tradition. As usual, we turned in relatively early, after setting out our race clothes.
Sleep was meh. I was off. Very, very off. Unfortunately, I’ve had some bad luck with big races falling at very inopportune times in the month, and this time was no exception. I did my best to hydrate and keep my iron level up, but there was just this lingering, deep-seated exhaustion I couldn’t kick. Temperatures were also significantly higher than usual for the time of year, and the two combined created a bit of a dark cloud before we even toed the start line.
Mr PugRunner and I caught the first shuttle from the hotel to ensure we would be in plenty of time for the 6:00 AM start. Breakfast bags were available in the hotel lobby, which was a nice touch, even if I wasn’t hungry.
We found T and Stacey – Stacey planned to pace me for the duration of the race, and T was kind enough to offer to help. It was a little intimidating – I don’t think I’ve ever spent that kind of distance trying to keep up with someone, but I was also blown away by the support.
There was some time to wait. We went to the restroom, got coffee, took a quick wander. And then, before I knew it, it was time to walk to the start line. Of course, at that moment, I was hit by the urge to go to the bathroom again and I couldn’t ignore it. I was so scared I was going to miss the gun, but there was nothing I could do. By the time I made it to the start staging area, I was completely out of sorts. It was so crowded that we couldn’t even find our other friends nor could we get to the 10-11:00/mile pace indicators. We were stuck up close to the 8:00/mile pace group and that was just how it was going to be.
With the traditional space shuttle countdown, we were off.
My strategy was to run as far as I could until the crowd thinned out, and then fall into intervals. We probably got about a mile, which was fine. The course was way more crowded than I remember from years past, and the heat and humidity was pretty dreadful. For some reason, it felt darker, too. It’s so disheartening to come up across those uncontrollable obstacles on race day, but I tried to focus on the conversation and the ambiance so I could run my race. I was on pace and doing fine. Not great, but fine.
I took in the houses and the spectators along the main road. People were out with platters of eggs, and trays of bacon and oranges, and of course, shots of beer and whiskey. It was a little early to throw caution to the wind, but I appreciated the enthusiasm they brought to the day.
Things went downhill after the turnaround. Despite my Gatorade and Gus, I was struggling. I honestly could have laid down on the side of the road and taken a nap. I felt like my energy was just draining out of me, step by step. Stacey turned on music and T grabbed me a few things from the spectators on the side of the road, including a pretzel and orange slices, and that helped a little.
In hindsight, I should have just plugged in my ear buds and shut myself off from everything, but I thought I could gut it out. Then I started needing a restroom rather badly, and that was pretty much the end of me.
Stacey told me that I was going to have to speed up my walk breaks if I was going to make my goal time, but my legs just wouldn’t move any faster. It was terrible. I couldn’t focus on anything, and I reached a point where I just wasn’t seeing what was around me. A gentleman came up behind us and he fell in step with me, too. He started up a bit of a mantra, telling me to keep my head up and my arms pumping. Things got a little hazy, but I am fairly certain he stayed with us the rest of the race.
I could finally see the turn off for the finish line, but it was still so impossibly far. Usually, at that point of the race, I find myself able to take a deep breath and turn up the speed, but this year, I thought I was going to pass out. At one point, T actually started pulling on me to get me moving. We crossed that finish line one minute and thirty seconds slower than my A goal, and to be honest, I was just fine with it.
All I wanted was a bathroom. And a Diet Coke. I don’t remember getting my medals or my finisher towel, and I don’t think I snapped out of it until someone handed me an icy wet towel for my face. Once I got out of the bathroom, I could finally actually breathe again, and that’s when I was able to start processing that I had just completed my goal half with a huge PR.
I can’t thank these ladies enough. They were amazing and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them by my side.
They had to be off, so I made my way back to the post-party to meet up with Kristin and Mr MOTR and wait for Mr PugRunner.
I also got some pancakes and made a new friend.
Mr PugRunner has been having some pretty unfortunate knee pain. In fact, he had planned to bow out of the race altogether, but after thinking about it a little, he realized that he had enough time within the course limits to complete the race, even if he was briskly walking. He planned to run towards the end after he had warmed up some, and as long as he wasn’t feeling any pain.
He was able to finish the last mile or two at a run and did a great job! I was so proud of him.
We wanted to stay to see some of the marathon finishers come in, but our hotel didn’t offer much in the line of late checkout, so we had to get going.
I snapped this on the way to the shuttle. It was nice to see the local businesses getting in on the festivities, too.
After hot showers, we were ready to hit the road. We drove about an hour north before stopping for a late lunch. I was so tired of eating protein and red meat that I skipped my normal post-race burger in favor of a salad.
And beer. I had to have a cold beer.
While I was a little disappointed with the circumstances and with the fact that I didn’t really enjoy the event as much as I have the past two years, I had one of the best races of my running life. I know there is a lot of work still to be done, and I’m ready to take it on for next year.
In the meantime, here’s to three years of Space Coasts, and four medals! 2016, here I come!
What was your goal race this year?
Have you ever run a multi-year challenge race?