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Race Recap: 2015 Cocoa Beach Half Marathon

9 Nov

Around the time my MBA program was winding down, I started to notice how far my weight had crept up from all of that stress eating I did my last two semesters. I dusted off my old running shoes and went for a run with my crew and told them I was thinking of signing up for a full marathon this fall to get my butt back in shape. Thankfully they talked me into signing up for a half marathon instead and we chose the inaugural Ron Jon Cocoa Beach Half Marathon. I’m not sure how we chose this race, but I think timing-wise it worked for us and it happened to have a really cool Genie Bottle medal. I’m not a big medal person (I end up stashing them all in a big fish bowl), but appreciated that the race was near Orlando.

The Training

Just three weeks into our training, I found out I was pregnant and not long after that I had to take three weeks off from running due to the pregnancy. I rejoined my friends in training at the start of my second trimester and knew this wasn’t going to be easy. Sure, it was muggy so the runs were a struggle for all of us but I couldn’t seem to get enough air! And what the heck was up with my bladder? Why did I feel like I needed to pee all of the time?

I kept up with the girls for a few weeks until one long run I just couldn’t keep up. After a mile I split from the group and finished my six miler on my own. From then on, I was running all of my runs on my own. Thank God my husband is terrified I’ll fall and die, so he’s been riding his bike or running with me. I even got to fit in some training runs during our vacation in Portland, Maine and Boston.

Our gorgeous fall run in Boston

Six miles made for a gorgeous fall run in Boston

Unfortunately, I approached the half marathon start with an 8-mile run being my longest training run. I like my longest run to be at least 10 miles, and knew I was going to pull 5 miles out of somewhere on race day.

The Expo

I knew the expo was being held behind the race’s main sponsor, Ron Jon, so I didn’t expect much out of the expo. My friends and I showed up around 2pm and got through the packet pick-up line pretty quickly. It took us about another three minutes to walk the “expo” and then snapped some shots as Jeannie before we headed off to find some lunch.

I just had one wish: let me finish!

I just had one wish: let me finish!

The Race

The race started at 7:45am, but we had to board our shuttle to the start of the race no later than 5:45am. Afraid I would not fuel enough before the race, I ate everything I could get my hands on over the course of three hours:

  • Starbucks oatmeal (bought the day before)
  • Apple (courtesy of our hotel)
  • Pastry (courtesy of our hotel)
  • Nutri-Grain bar (courtesy of our hotel)
  • Banana (courtesy of our hotel)

The only thing I ate in the hotel was the oatmeal. The rest I ate as we walked the mile from our hotel to the shuttle busses and once we got to the start line. I can say that running out of fuel was never an issue with the race. I was fully fueled for the 13 miles.

It didn’t take us long to get to the race start on our shuttle, and found ourselves there with two hours to spare as we waited for the race start. We used the time to take pictures, watch the sunrise, snack on our hotel goodies, stretch, and use the porta potties.

Look, ma! Even genies have to use the porta potties!

Look, ma! Even genies have to use the porta potties!

My friends and I, ready to run!

My friends and I, ready to run!

Watching the sunrise as we wait for the race start

Watching the sunrise as we wait for the race start

I started the race with my friends, but it wasn’t long before we split up since I’m now a slow, pregnant runner and they are not. For the first time in a long time, I popped in some ear buds and settled into my run while looking for the next set of porta potties. Basically, I have to stop every two miles to use the restroom. The first mile I feel okay, and then I spend the next mile looking for a restroom. It’s pretty much the story of my pregnant life.

Around mile 6 I saw my husband who told me he would jump into the race with me to keep me some company as soon as I looped back out of the park we were running into. I took the opportunity to use the park restroom, then he joined up with me as I exited the park. I’ve never run a race with my husband before, mainly because he’s a fast runner, so it was nice to have his company.

Around mile 8, that familiar IT band pain started to creep up on me and I knew the minutes I had to bend my knees were numbered. Around that time the beach portion of the race began as well. Don’t get me wrong, beach runs are beautiful. But running three miles at the end of a half marathon is hard, especially when you aren’t used to running on the beach. I knew it was going to be a struggle and I was right.

Making our way down the beach

Making my way down the beach

Struggling on the beach but smiling anyways

Struggling on the beach but smiling anyways

Somewhere during the beach part of the race, I started to notice that my run was pretty much as slow as my walk and decided to switch to walking permanently. My husband didn’t seem to mind. He said he was enjoying our beach walk. Ha!

I think I tried to shout out with glee when I saw the runners ahead of me heading off the beach, but what actually came out probably sounded more like a grunt. Around this time, my husband ran off towards a bar that was open to see if he could use their bathroom and I walked ahead knowing he could catch up. I should probably mention that there were plenty of bathrooms during the first half of the race, but the second half of the race was seriously lacking rest stops. Oddly enough, after my six mile restroom stop, I think my bladder became numb to the bouncing and squishing by my little one and I didn’t have to go. Thank goodness because I would’ve been out of luck.

Admittedly, I wondered aloud several times if it would be silly to quit with less than a couple of miles to go. It was nice having my husband there to remind me that I would have to walk back to the start regardless. When we hit the final mile stretch, I tried to run but my legs were shot. I decided to save my legs for the final 20 yards.

Finally we approached the park where the finish line was and I could see the finish line. I sucked it up and started to run and managed to finish the race in under three and a half hours. As soon as I finished, I sought out a medical tent to wrap my knees with ice. That ice was glorious.

We found my friends sitting nearby and we all congratulated each other on finishing a tough race. It turns out that I wasn’t the only one that struggled running during those three miles on the beach. But guess what? We all finished! And I finished my first race pregnant!

We all finished!

We all finished!

I finished, largely in part to this guy :)

He made sure I finished my first half marathon pregnant with our little one 🙂

Afterwards, we had to walk a mile back to our hotel, which was torture. We quickly rinsed off, tossed on our bathing suits, checked out of our room, grabbed breakfast at the Waffle House and then spent the afternoon laying on the beach.

Breakfast at the Waffle House

Breakfast at the Waffle House

Overall, I would consider running this race again if I needed a local half marathon to run, but I wouldn’t put it on anyone’s “must-run” list or choose it for their first race. This time of the year in central Florida is still pretty hot (we were lucky enough to have cloud coverage but it was still in the 80’s) and running 13 miles is hard enough without tossing in three miles on sand. And if bathroom stops are important to you, be weary of the lack of bathrooms towards the back half of the race. The race, however, does get props for letting me watch the sun rise on the beach while waiting for the race start.

Race Stats:

  • Time: 3:25:23.0
  • Distance: 13.28 miles
  • Avg. Pace: 15:28

PROS:

  • Local race if you live in the Central Florida area
  • Watch the sunrise at the start of the race
  • Cool genie bottle metal
  • A lot of runners dressed up like Jeannie so that was fun
The medal

The medal

CONS:

  • It’s typically still hot in Central Florida in October
  • Running on the beach for three miles is brutal if you’re not used to it
  • Course lacked restrooms on the back half of the race
  • Most of the course shared the road with vehicles

Did you run the Cocoa Beach Half Marathon? What did you think?

Race Recap: 2014 OUC Orlando Half Marathon

31 Dec

I knew that I needed to sign up for a half marathon to keep me somewhat running on the regular. My half marathon race requirements for the fall were simple: race has to be local and inexpensive (less than $75). Lucky for me the OUC Orlando Half Marathon is both. I registered early back in September and used a discount code that was in one of my race packets so the race was only $65. And on race morning, I rolled out of bed and had less than five miles to travel to the start of the race, with a slight detour to pick up my friend, Beth.

We got there early and parked alongside one of the downtown streets. I wished my husband good luck and he took off for a warmup, as serious runners do. Beth and I are not quite so serious and instead walked to the start. Along that walk I realized that I had forgotten my water bottle in the car, but my husband took off with the car keys. Instantly I panicked… I train with a water bottle in my hand and am used to sipping as I run. It was an unusually hot day for December and I knew it would be harder than usual to wait for each water stop. But I didn’t have much choice at that point so we carried on to the start line.

As always, the start was crowded, but not so crowded that there’s a need for runner corrals. That’s one of the reasons I like this race, it’s big but not too big.

All of the people.

All of the people.

We settled in to wait for the start. I passed the time by trying to lock in and keep a GPS location on my Garmin. We joked that we could always borrow Beth’s husband’s gold watch instead (like we had to do after a Garmin malfunction left us sans watch during the Chicago Marathon). Thankfully such measures were not needed.

Beth and I ready to run 13.1

Beth and I ready to run 13.1

Our training leading up to the half was rocky: both Beth and I had traveled for work more than usual during the past couple of months and had missed quite a few training runs. Consequently our longest training run had been ten miles. I knew it was going to be tough, and with the heat and no water bottle I knew this race would have an extra level of “fun” attached to it.

Around mile nine, I was started to feel the effects of the heat from the sun in the cloudless skies. Temps were well on their way to the 81 degree high of the day and I was getting angry. Then I saw this:

Did you say cold?? Okay, fine.

Did you say cold?? Okay, fine.

I’ve learned a valuable lesson in life: If someone offers you a free, cold beer, take it. Even if you’re running a race. It might just be the coldest drink you get on the course. I learned this lesson running the Flying Pig Marathon and didn’t hesitate to grab a cup.

When someone offers you free beer, you take it.

When someone offers you free beer, you take it.

The cold beer was like sweet nectar from the heavens. I was temporarily distracted from the hell that was the half marathon. Unfortunately, that only lasted for a short while. Around mile 10 Beth and I celebrated only having a 5k left. We also cursed that we still had a 5k left. We ran in silence and forced ourselves to keep fueling up with peanut M&Ms and pretzels (it works!). Thankfully I had accepted a water bottle from a complete stranger somewhere along the course, so I had plenty of water to keep me hydrated. Also, this is probably a good place for me to remind you that taking food or drink from strangers isn’t the smartest thing to do. However, I don’t know about you, but when I run anything over 10 miles, my brain usually goes to mush. This totally explains all the free pretzels I took during the Chicago Marathon.

We ran on and I remember the heat getting worse. I was legitimately concerned that I would puke or pass out or both. When Beth mentioned that she was scared she was going to puke, I didn’t say a word even though I felt exactly the same way. I was scared that just trying to say it would have me blowing chunks. Instead, I told myself to keep putting one foot in front of the other. WE… WERE… ALMOST… DONE.

Finally, we rounded the corner from Rosalind Avenue to the final stretch on Robinson Street. Seeing the finish line always puts a pep in my step and I have to be careful not to push too hard too soon. It would be a shame to run out of steam right before actually crossing the finish line. 🙂

Alas, both Beth and I crossed the finish line. She captured this pic of me trying to breathe again with my medal.

13.1 done.

13.1 done.

I looked down and saw our time: 2:41:08. I can’t complain.

Not my best, but not my worst!

Not my best, but not my worst!

We walked like zombies to gather important rewards: chocolate milk and beer. Kudos to Track Shack for making sure both were available!

Chocolate milk never tasted so good.

Chocolate milk never tasted so good.

Don't let the cup fool you. This was Mich Ultra.

Don’t let the cup fool you. This was Mich Ultra.

Afterwards we found my husband, who had run into some friends. They captured this awesome picture of him on the final stretch.

My husband finishing strong

My husband finishing strong

Yep, his bionic foot held up just fine. But he agreed that the sun had been brutal. Hence, his topless running. 🙂

This was my third time running the OUC Orlando Half Marathon (you can read about the first two times here and here) and I always like running it. It’s a local, hometown race that won’t burn a hole in your wallet like some of our more famous Disney races do. Plus, it’s easy for friends and family to come out and cheer you on. If I’m not busy next year, I’ll definitely keep this race in mind.

Race Stats:

  • Time: 2:41:08
  • Distance: 13.1 mi.
  • Avg. Pace: 12:10/mi.

PROS:

  • Local Orlando race
  • Easy for your friends and family to come cheer you on
  • Easy, flat course
  • Nice, long-sleeved tech shirts
  • Track Shack always puts on a good race

CONS:

  • There are stretches of shared roads with vehicles (seemed like more than usual this year)
  • The middle of the course is not the most scenic of routes
  • Bumpy, brick roads for much of the course (watch your feet people!)

What’s your favorite hometown race?