When my first two halfs of 2016 (Shipyard Maine and Craft Classic Phoenix) didn’t result in PRs, I was just sure that 2016 wasn’t my year for a half marathon PR. Because I was going to run my last half of the year in FL, and although I was praying for a cold snap, I was positive it would be sunny and humid — conditions I don’t perform well under.
Sometimes prayers are answered.
Fair warning though: this recap is long & photo intensive.
Packet Pickup was at Dave & Buster’s, a short ride from our host’s Holly @ Hohoruns beach house. You looked up your bib number, then got your “swag” bag (and I’m using that term loosely), bib, and tee. No problems.
Not too much swag: a few coupons, a pencil — really nothing to get excited over. Which is part of why the entrance fees are lower.
The unisex race tees were pretty universally disappointing, but we all knew that going in.
My Race Plan
There wasn’t much of a plan. Assuming it would be warm and humid, my plan was simply to go out at about 12:20 mm and hopefully pick up the pace from there. Slower if the conditions seemed to warrant it. Shooting for negative splits . . . maybe.
So how’d that work for me?
- Mile 1: 11:40. Oops. A little too fast.
- Mile 2: 11:57. Slightly breezy, but nothing too terrible.
- Mile 3: 11:56. It still felt easy here; I knew I was on pace to PR.
- Mile 4: 11:56.
- Mile 5: 11:52. They ran out of cups at the water station. It wasn’t a hot day! But I had my water bottles with me. I think this is where I saw all my blogger friends go by — since they’re speedier than me, I was running looking over to the left.
- Mile 6: 11:48.
- Mile 7: 11:58.
- Mile 8: 11:57. This is normally where I get tired, but I wasn’t. The pace still felt easy. I knew I still was on pace for a PR, and a big one at that, but you never know what 13.1 miles will throw at you.
- Mile 9: 11:48.
- Mile 10: 11:58. Cramps were threatening. Should I take those saltstick tablets? I hadn’t had time to test them out on a long run. I was afraid they’d upset my stomach and cost me that PR I was headed towards.
- Mile 11: 12:14. I was beginning to tire by this point, but I don’t think that’s why it was a slow mile.Those cramps set in with a vengeance in my toes and my calves. I was fishing in my pocket for the saltstick tablets I’d brought, but somewhere along the way they fell out, apparently.
- Mile 12: 11:54.
- Mile 13: 11:27. If I’m not injured and there’s not an insane hill, this last mile is usually the fastest of the race. Which begs the question am I running too slowly earlier on? I could see Darlene waiting to take my photo, and I had real trouble mustering up a smile because the cramping was so painful.
- Last .09: 9:14. Sprinting to the finish line — oddly enough, this was the same pace as the last .1 in my last half!
2:35:17 — Official Time
11:51 Average Pace
That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, I snagged myself a shiny new PR. By 8 minutes!
Deep down inside of me, for years, I knew that I had a faster half in me. But I have also had a long string of very hilly halfs, unseasonably warm halfs, and one insanely windy and hilly half, and a half afterwards that was even hillier . . . and sunny and hot. Throw in a few minor battles with IT/hips.
My first half was my only flat course, and I really had no idea what to expect from a flat course. Even while I was running, even though I knew I was on pace for a big PR, I never looked at elapsed time or did the math in my head. I find I’m better just concentrating on my pace, and not worrying about finish time or possible PRs.
Of course I knew early on that a PR was quite possible, but my mantra is “run the mile you’re in“.
The weather & dressing
The weather was a gift from the running Gods — cloudy, cool (50s), and dry. My prayers for a cold snap were answered! I went back and forth between a tee and a tank, but I’m glad I settled on: a sparkleskirt and a Skirtsports Eclipse Tank (I’m a Skirtsports ambassador — use code CRJ20 for 20% off regularly priced items). My outfit was perfect for the day and the conditions.
A lot of people mentioned the breeze. It wasn’t a factor for me at all. My previous half PR, Green Mountain Half, was insanely windy. I nearly lost my favorite running hat and almost got blown into Lake Champlain. Trust me, this was nothing.
Was the race well run?
Mostly I’d say yes, but running out of water and/or cups — even for the speedier racers? And it wasn’t even a hot day. I giggled at the Floridians in their sweatshirts complaining about how “cold” it was, but I lived in TX for 17 years, so I get how temperature is relative.
The volunteers were enthusiastic, but not always on top of things at the water stops. On the other hand, water stops were plentiful — every mile. Gotta love that!
They did run out of the promised gumbo — so if you weren’t a super speedy marathoner (or half marathoner), no gumbo for you. Chili instead. I don’t drink, so didn’t avail myself of the free beer, but I heard complaints about how little there was in the cups (although you could have as many cups as you wanted).
Spectators and scenery?
Sparse spectator support. If you thrive on people cheering you on and high fiving you, this may not be the half for you. The scenery is nice, but not spectacular. Or maybe that’s just my feeling because it’s the Gulf, and the waves aren’t big — I love to hear the waves crashing on the beach.
Keep in mind that the course is not closed to traffic, either, so you are mainly on shoulders and cars are coming through.
What I learned
My body loves flat and fast. Sure, I got tired around mile 10, but it usually happens much sooner. And I wasn’t the least bit sore afterwards. Those cramps? Still not sure what that was about. It usually only happens when it’s a hot race.
And while it’s always great to have Mr. Judy at the finish line, having an entire group of ladies waiting for me is pretty darn good, too. Sometimes it pays to be the slowest runner out of the group.
Snagging a PR with runner friends who get it? Priceless! Yes, I missed having Mr. Judy there, too, since he’s been with me on this journey from the start.
I am so happy to have finally achieved a time I knew I was capable of. Even better sharing that with friends and seeing others do well, too, although of course, some of my friends struggled with this race.
That’s the way racing is: so many things have to come together to make a race great, and you really just never know when it will happen. And it doesn’t happen all that often. As they say, the hard is what makes it great.
Would I do this race again? Now that is a difficult question. If I were invited along with these ladies again next year, it would be so very difficult to say no. Yet with the exception of Vegas, I’ve never run a half more than once. I loved the ease of the weekend (not so easy for all our hosts and chaffeurs!), the camaraderie, and of course the flat course.