The Ortega River Run is a long-standing favorite race in the Jacksonville area. It’s got a large following, and it’s part of the local Grand Prix series. Runners use it as a warm up to the Gate River Run the following weekend: both races have two bridges. Also of note, the Ortega River Run is a 5 miler, a fact I did not realize until after I registered. Whoops.
Even though I signed up late (literally the week before the race), I still had the option to pick up my packet in advance. That went smoothly, and I was able to also grab a few HoneyStinger waffles for fuel. I had dinner, and tried to get to bed early.
It is worth pointing out that these were new shorts and I should have known better. Even though they are the same brand and style as my regular shorts, they fit differently, and I had to do some fancy maneuvers to tighten and knot the drawstring mid-race to keep them from ending up around my ankles.
When I have a new race on the schedule, I always get a little nervous about logistics. In this case, the race instructions advised that parking would be limited, and since I didn’t know where I was going, I decided to leave ridiculously early. I stopped for coffee and a plain bagel on the way, and then headed to the Jacksonville Episcopal School in Ortega.
Things were already crowded when I arrived, but I amazed to find a parking space not far from the school Victory! But it was also only about 7:15 AM, when the race started at 8:30. There was a one mile fun run scheduled for 8, as well.
I used the time to eat my bagel, read, and use the restroom. If we are being honest, I was a little off and a little edgy. Things have been hard at home, so it’s been difficult to relax.
I met up with a few people (I’m putting myself out there a bit more) from the local running community, which was fun, too.
But soon enough, it was time to start. This is a pretty popular race, so there were over 1000 people.
An 8:30 start time is already tough in Florida, but this day was especially hot.
I didn’t have a problem running five miles (even though I was really hoping for that 5K), but it was hard and I tanked quickly.
The course is really pretty. The Ortega area is full of gorgeous neighborhoods, and the river is a highlight, even if there are two bridges along the way. That being said, there isn’t a lot of shade, which made the hot day feel so much worse.
If I am anything, I’m intrepid, so I just forged ahead. The course spread out after the first time, as they usually do, but I was with a decent crowd for the duration. There were a few official water stops on the course, but some families also set up, handing out other refreshments, like donuts. It was too hot to even consider it.
The first bridge was pretty flat and went fine. the second was a little steeper and really rocked me.
By the time I got down from this bridge, I wasn’t feeling great. Ugh. I slowed my pace, and took a few extra walk breaks.
Finally, the finish line was in my sights, and I made my way through. I have never been happier to be done.
There was a really nice party environment set up in the courtyard of the school. Runners could get ice, water, and bananas as well as other goodies from the vendors who had their tents set up. There was also music and plenty of photo ops.
I didn’t feel like navigating the crowd, so I moved down to the water for my post-race photos.
Even though this wasn’t my day, at all, I really enjoyed the race. It was well-organized, well-attended, and all details were in order. I think I need a redemption effort on this one: I can do so much better.
That being said, it did shake my confidence for the Gate next week. I realize I have to be much more careful with my diet and hydration (I’ve been eating more veggies, and way less carbs and protein lately), and I need to lock that down immediately. Hopefully, these lessons will stick with me through Saturday.
Do you have any races that you love that just didn’t go great for you?
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