Here it is! The race report for my fourth ever Space Coast Half Marathon!
2016 marked the 45th anniversary of the iconic race in Cocoa, Florida, and it also meant than I am 80% through with the Big Bang Series. I committed to the series before ever running even a 5K, and I am pretty darn proud that I have stuck with it thus far.
Usually, Space Coast is my goal race: the one into which I throw everything. This year, I had to check myself. After my injury in January, things have progressed a little more slowly, and I’ve been a little more hesitant about pushing myself too hard. I’m sure a lot of it is mental, but in my head, it’s not worth aggravating my hip flexor. For the most part, it’s felt great, but I try to stay conscious of it.
After a great run at the Thanksgiving Distance Classic 6K (seriously, the best race I’ve had all year), I was feeling pretty confident about Space Coast. Not in a “I’m going to PR” way, but in a “I’m going to be strong” way.
I traveled to the race with my coach, Stacey, but I didn’t realize she had planned to stick with me for the 13.1 miles. I’m actually glad I didn’t know – we had talked a lot about having fun and enjoying the run, and then when she broke the news that we were going to be spending the next few hours in lockstep, I didn’t have enough time to get anxious about it.
We arrived on Saturday afternoon and did a quick tour of the Expo before check in. It seemed a little smaller this year, but I was able to pick up the extra Gu I needed.
Our room wasn’t ready, and the Radisson Resort at the Port comped us each a drink at the tiki bar. It was an incredibly thoughtful gesture and we enjoyed some outside time in the gorgeous weather.
When we did get checked in, we took a moment to rest and then headed out to Carrabba’s. I had done call ahead seating, so we only had to wait a few minutes for a table.
With full bellies, we returned to our room, laid out our clothes and worked on falling asleep.
We took the 4;15 AM shuttle from the host hotel to the start line. Gear check was a snap, and we were able to use real restrooms instead of the portapotties. The weather was meh: a little warmer and a little more humid than I would have like, but with such an early start time, I was hopeful it wouldn’t be too much of a problem.
Miles 1 – 3
I made a point of recognizing that I went out way too fast last year. Obviously, I had no interest in repeating that mistake, and I voiced that concern to Stacey. She agreed and we maneuvered through a ridiculously crowded start (we couldn’t even get on to the main street and had to merge into the runners), with intervals of 3:00/1:00.
It was still dark and we used the slower pace to watch our footing. What I didn’t remember from years past was how much the street rolled. It wasn’t anything you could call a hill, but there were subtle ups and downs.
Miles 4 – 7
Even though I had talked myself into being logical and not worrying about the PR, it was pretty demoralizing to see the 2:30 pace groups pass us. For a few minutes, I thought about kicking it into a higher gear and trying to catch up, but I knew in my heart that would lead to a crash and burn, so I shook it off.
Early in this set of miles, my hip started chattering. It wasn’t hurting and it wasn’t dragging, but it definitely had something to say. I mentioned it to Stacey, just so she would be aware. I had no interest in aggravating it – staying healthy trumped everything.
We made the turnaround at the halfway mark and started back. I was really pleased to see that our splits were very close together. I was barely looking at my watch at all, which is unusual for me (I seem to always watch and wait for those intervals). At around mile 6, I started sipping on my Gatorade and at mile 7, I took a Gu.
Miles 8 – 11
We were headed back and feeling great! At this point of the day, things started to get more crowded with the bulk of the half marathoners on both sides of the already tight course and the marathoners about to start adding to the traffic. I was hot but not uncomfortable. In fact, the only big issue was my hip started hitching a little. We got slowed up in a particularly thick bottleneck of runners, which gave me a bit of relief. Towards mile 11, at a water stop, I told Stacey I needed to just take a bit longer of a walk break to try to work out the kinks. Again, I wasn’t in pain, but I was having a harder time turning over that left leg and it was wearing on me.
I continued with little sips of my Gatorade and had two more packets of Gu. I probably didn’t need the third one, but I felt tired and figured I could try for an extra jolt. There was a “Booze Mile” set up on the outgoing side of the course, with shots and cocktails and bacon and pretzels, but Stacey escorted me right past that, both times. Because clearly, a little packet of jellied fuel is so much more delicious than a shot of Wild Turkey.
Miles 12 -13.1
The home stretch was lovely. Last year, I was long done, barely able to see, let alone hold myself upright and move forward. Not so this time. I was feeling good and my energy was fine. Before long, we were turning into the park and rounding the walkway to the finish line.
And with that, I completed my 10th half marathon.
We got beer,
I met up with one of my fellow Best Damn Race Ambassadors (remember that code RUNPUGS save you $5 on any Best Damn Race event)
My hip worked itself out with some nice walking and stretching around the finish area: no harm done. And we are ready for the last year of the Intergalactic Challenge! (PS – huge thanks to Stacey for keeping me company for the morning. I couldn’t have don’t it without her).
All in all, it was a solid race. Eleven of thirteen miles were all within 20 seconds of each other, pace-wise (the other two were just a little slower due to the reasons listed earlier). For me, that was a huge accomplishment. I am known to go out too fast in an (futile) attempt to “bank” time, and then fall apart. While I currently lack the skill to negative split a distance event, I feel like I am figuring out how to progress to that point. Stay tuned on that.
The volunteers were wonderful as usual, but there was a noticeable downturn in course support from the families along the way. The course is gorgeous on its own, but it was always nice to have the extra cheers and motivational signs along the way. Extra thanks to those who did make it out for the runners – it was definitely appreciated.
I was able to walk away from this feeling like my race year had ended on a positive. And with 10 half marathons down, I’m ready to go for 15!
Do you ever set goals other than pace for a race?
Have you ever committed to a multi-year challenge series?