Thursday, March 24, 2016

Half Marathon of the Treasure Coast

In the beginning of March we took a whirlwind trip to Florida and New York to visit family.  We are all still traumatized from traveling with a toddler so let us not speak of that again.  I had a 16 mile run on the schedule and no idea where I would get it done in Florida.  My husband suggested I look to see if there were any running clubs in the area.  I did a quick search and realized that there was going to be a half marathon in the town we were in the exact day I needed to do my long run. What were the chances? Huzzah!!

We did not arrive at our hotel in Florida until around 10:00 pm and the race started at 6:30 am.  I was completely exhausted and my alarm went off at the California equivalent time of 2 am. Not cool.  I somehow managed to sneak out of the hotel room without waking my husband or son and my cab was downstairs waiting to take me to the race (Sidenote:  When we arrived at the hotel I asked the guy at the front desk if they had Uber in the area and he looked at me like I had two heads).

I had written to the race director beforehand about a good area to knock out my 3 miles pre-race and he assured me the whole area was safe and well-lit.  I ended up just going out a block or two and coming back and then eventually found a parking lot that I circled until I logged 3 miles. My main concern about running in Florida was that it was going to be warm.  The low temp was already at the equivalent of an average San Francisco day.  A few runners were parking in or near the lot I was running around and heading in to the race.  I was probably only a quarter mile from the race start and I found it really odd that there weren't more cars coming into the parking lot.  I guess it has been a while since I ran a small race.  Or more accurately, it has been a long time since I ran a race that had lots of free parking close to the start.

I got back to the start area with about 10 minutes to spare which had been my plan.  It wasn't urgent but I figured I should use the portapotty before lining up for the start.  For a while I didn't think I would make it but I was able to get in and out before the gun went off. So kudos to them for having just enough toilets.  They had on-your-honor start corrals based on your pace.  My goal for the day was to run the first 8 miles easy (about 10:00 pace) and then pick-up the pace for the last 5 miles.  I had been doing these fast finish long runs since Disney.  I alternated a week of a long slow run, then the next week I would cut-back on mileage a little bit but do the last 3-4 miles hard.  In my training runs I had been averaging a low-8:00 pace for the last few miles of 14-15 mile runs which for me nowadays is pretty phenomenal.  I was looking forward to doing this in a race setting.

They let us off in waves in a very low-key start. The race sort of criss-crosses through downtown Stuart, through residential roads, over a bridge (the only notable hill), more residential roads, back over the bridge to the finish.  There were A LOT of turns which doesn't make it the fastest course I have run.  My favorite part was the boardwalk.  It was a wooden walkway about 7 feet across that had no railings and was suspended over the water.  The sun was coming up over the water and the view was gorgeous.  I wondered if anyone had ever fallen over the side into the water trying to get around someone.

I am not sure if the temperature stamp is from the beginning or end of the run, but I call foul if that is the end temp. Felt like 70s at the end to me. Edited to add: Yes, that is the start temp. Phew, I'm not crazy.

I had a water bottle on me, but I also walked through every aid station to keep hydrated.  It was warm for this San Franciscan.  I kept my running pace in the high-9:00s, low-10:00s which was right where I wanted to be.  Honestly, it felt just right in the heat. I had been feeling so awesome on my long runs recently I had been worried about holding back in a race setting but that wasn't a problem.

As we were running by some houses, a woman by me said, "Now there is a piece of social history!"  There was a Trump sign on the lawn.  "We should knock on their door," she joked.  "Come on out and let us see who you are!"  We passed two Trump signs on lawns I remember during the race.  No comment.

The course had tons of turns but also had excellent signage.  There was a full marathon also going on and it was easy to tell where we should be headed.  The full marathoners peeled off right as we crossed the bridge.  I didn't envy them.  There wasn't a cloud in the sky and I couldn't imagine what it would be like to run a full on this day.  There was thankfully a nice breeze which kept the temperature from feeling too horrible.

Everything in life is relative and it is neat to see this in full effect when you take yourself out of your element.  At the start people looked downright cold as they huddled crossing their arms to keep warm.  Coming from San Francisco I thought it was quite pleasant.  One person out cheering yelled that there was a downhill coming up.  It was the teeniest dip but a woman running by me was so excited about the decline.

I do think the race can work a little on traffic control.  For the most part through the residential areas it is an open course.  I guess the race is early enough in the day that there are very few people trying to leave their houses.  However, there was one point when runners were going in both directions on a narrow shoulder and cars were trying to come from both directions when I thought it would have been nice if someone had been controlling vehicle traffic to allow for travel just one direction at a time.

As I approached mile 8 and the work was about to start, I can't say I was very excited about it.  I told myself to run by effort and to not get too concerned about the paces that I saw.  My pick-up conveniently started before the bridge-hill.  My pace those last five miles hovered in the high-8:00s to low-9:00s which is about a minute per mile off the pace I was hoping to run.  But in the heat it felt plenty tough.

There was a long straightaway to the finish which I find rare for races.  Knowing exactly where the line was I put up a good effort the last 3/4 of a mile.  I don't know why, but I got confused as to where the actual finish line was located.  They had an arch with a timer on it so of course that is the finish, right?  But for some reason I thought it was around the corner (there was a sharp turn of the finish chute right after the line) and I ran hard until the turn when I realized that there were people standing there ready to adorn me with water bottles and medals.  Sheepish me. In retrospect I thought the finish was in the same location as the start which would have been around the corner.  But how often do races start and finish at the same line?  So again, I have idea what I was thinking. I blame it on the heat.

I got an ice-cold bottle of orange juice and completely downed that.  It was now about just before 9 am and I wasn't expecting my son to wake up until about 10 am (we keep him on California time when traveling to the east coast).  So I had some time to kill in the finish area before I could go back to the hotel.  I have to say, this race does finish areas right.  I was planning on taking advantage of the free finish line massage for the first time ever, but I was such a soppy sweaty mess I didn't really feel like forcing someone to touch me.  The race had one of the most amazing food spreads.  I took advantage of the pizza station but they also had salad, pasta and a burrito station, I think.

Piles of cold pizza!

A vendor had adirondack chairs outside their mobile home and I camped out on one to wait until my husband texted me the all-clear to come back to the hotel.  A woman affiliated with the company asked that I like them on FB in exchange for sitting on their chair.  They were an IV company.  They actually administered IVs at the finish which were supposedly souped up with all kinds of stuff to help you recover.  Kind of strange, but I saw two men take the bait while I was sitting there so I guess there must be a market for this type of thing. I'm not sure I am into letting non-medical people stick needles into me and inject me with magic soup, but that is just me.

I sold my FB soul to sit on this chair. Which reminds me, I don't think I have unliked them yet...

This was also the first race I ran that had a PR bell. I've seen photo of these things at other races and I always thought it was a genius idea.  I truly believe that every single race should have one.  All things being equal I would choose a race with a PR bell over one which didn't have one if I was trying to PR.  I mean, can you imagine the satisfaction from ringing that sucker?  Every time the bell rang it felt like a fairy got their wings and it just made you happy for the person.  Right when I finished it was especially fun to see people who had been running by me through the race ring the bell.  When you are out there together you don't know who is on PR pace or who is out for a training run.  I was really happy for the people I was running with who PRd.  I didn't realize that a PR bell could bring such happiness to a finish area even if you never got to ring it yourself.  Seriously race people, get on this.  This race's bell was fancy, but even a plain one would do.  How much could it possibly cost?

The swag was fun.  I didn't take a photo of the stuff in the bag before I left most of it in Florida (a pink whisk for one, which I gave to my niece) but I did keep a cowbell they handed out.  Now that I think of it, considering they handed out cowbells there weren't really that many out on the course.

I stashed my medal in my carry-on after the race.  No issues leaving Florida.  A week later when we were leaving NY for CA we got stopped at the TSA checkpoint.  They kept rummaging through the bag taking out this and that and rerunning it through the scanner.  The guy who read the bag scan kept shaking his head when the TSA agent would pull out something to see if that was what he had seen.  They kept asking if we had a bottle opener and I was racking my brain to think of what could be flagging the bag.  Of course, when you are on vacation one week and one state ago is like an eternity.  Finally the TSA woman found the medal (which was in a pocket in a pocket type deal in the outer layers of the bag).  When I explained what it was she said, "We thought it was a gun."  So yes, State of Floridas look like guns.

My husband really liked the gun, err, medal.  The sun spins around which he thought was cool.

Overall, if you find yourself in Stuart, Florida during this event I definitely recommend it. It was well-organized and I thought the quality of it was excellent. I am a fan of smaller races myself and it was nice to take part in this.  If you are a Floridian and acclimated to the temperatures I imagine it is a fast course (though with all the turns it rings up long on GPS if you know what I mean).  I am so thankful for this race if only because it got me running early.  Two days later I didn't get started on my run until after 11 am and it was the most miserable 7 miles in the heat I have experienced in a long time. I don't think I would have made it 16 miles if I had started later than 6 am.