Welcome to the latest installment of Tuesdays on the Run with me, Patty from My No-Guilt Life and Erika from MCM Mama Runs. Our topic is “How I Stayed Healthy over the Holidays”. I was at Walt Disney World the entire week of Thanksgiving, so “eating healthy” did not happen. Nope, not one little bit. I did run a half marathon on Thanksgiving weekend, so I decided a race recap would be a great contribution to this topic!
The Space Coast Marathon and Half Marathon always takes place on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. This worked out perfectly this year because the race is only an hour from Orlando, so while my family went back to Gainesville on Saturday morning, I headed off to Cocoa. I checked into the Courtyard by Marriot Cocoa around ten in the morning and they were able to get me into a room immediately, which was nice. I drove to the race expo, picked up my bib and shirt and decided to skip the shopping and head right back to the hotel. To be honest, I didn’t feel great on Saturday. My legs were tired from lugging a 35 pound preschooler around four theme parks on my back for a week (we stopped using a stroller a couple of years ago). I always hate packing up on the last day of a vacation and I was worried about the race, so I felt worn out and anxious and just ‘off’.
I wanted to rest my legs, but the Sonny’s I wanted to eat at was just 1/2 a mile away, so I decided to walk there and back. I think that even though it was a short walk, it really helped me get out a little anxiety. I hadn’t eaten yet, which was probably also contributing to me not feeling quite right. After a delicious sliced pork big deal and some half and half tea (yes, I was totally off my “don’t eat crap” diet) and a short walk back to the hotel, I felt much better. I took a nice hot bath to relax a little and got into bed at 2pm. I downloaded the first season of The Big Bang Theory and proceeded to spend the next six hours watching it. I wanted to go down to the beach, but apparently you have to walk through the Hampton Inn next door or something and it just seemed too complicated to deal with (see how tired my poor mind was?).
I ate a bag of potato chips for dinner (I had no intention of leaving the room and plain chips sounded nice and easy) and went to bed around 8pm. I think I fell asleep by 9pm. I woke up around midnight from a nightmare that I had slept through my alarm and it was 6:30 and the race had already started and I wasn’t going to be able to complete the five race series. Whew! After that I woke up about every hour for a few minutes until 3am when I finally just got up and started getting ready. I’m glad I got up early because while the bus was scheduled to leave at 4:15am, when I got downstairs at 4:00am, the line to get on was already pretty long. The bus filled up entirely (some runners were sitting in the aisles) and they asked the spectators to get off and to let the rest of the runners get on. We actually left around 4:12, so anyone who came down at the last minute had to wait for the 5am bus. I would have been so steamed!
It was a pretty short drive to the race site which was set up just like last year. Lots of port-a-potties, huge line for the one park bathroom, NASA themed displays (including a bounce house) and lots of people already milling around.
I ran into a couple of friends as soon as I got off of the bus, so it was nice to get to chat instead of getting all turned around in my head with pre-race nerves. I had a Diet Mtn Dew and a peanut butter Luna protein bar and managed to get most of both down. Took a short trip to the port-a-potties (thankfully some ladies right in front of us replenished the TP!). While we were waiting in the corrals (you self-place yourself in this race), the international space station flew overhead. That was pretty awesome, considering the theme of the race.
After a dramatic countdown to launch, we slowly headed towards the start line. I knew I wouldn’t be beating last year’s time (not enough training and too many added pounds) so I lined up between the 2:45 and the 3:00 pacer. It was pretty crowded for the first couple of miles, but the scenery was beautiful! The sun started to rise soon after the race started. The half course is an out and back with the ocean on one side and fancy-pants houses on the other side.
After a couple of miles, people started finding their pace and it opened up enough that I could easily run the pace that felt comfortable to me. For the first part of the race, runners can spread out over both lanes but once the front runners head back, you have to stay on your half of the road.
There was a funny moment when I started hearing cheering and I thought that it was way too early for the front runners to be passing us on the way back. Then I heard that it was a woman, which while it would be awesome, was a bit improbable. So this woman comes running in the opposite direction and everyone is cheering her on and she looks annoyed and a little confused. She wasn’t wearing a race bib and I think she was just out on a morning run (although this race has been happening on this course on this day for years). Awkward! Quite a while later the actual front runners came running past us in the opposite direction, with a police motorcycle escort, which kind of confirmed that we’d all been cheering on a random runner who wasn’t even racing!
I was feeling pretty good, but still a little worried about how my legs were going to hold up. My stomach had cramped up after my last half marathon and after my ten mile run a couple of weeks ago, so I was a little concerned about that recurring. I decided to just stick with watered down Gatorade instead of my Honey Stinger Chews to see if that helped. I think that all that extra hydration is what caused me to take two port-a-potty stops along the way. Those two stops really impacted my time because the only port-a-potties were at the water stops and each only had two or three potties. This is the ONLY part of this race they need to improve. I had to wait over ten minutes for the first potty stop and I didn’t ever see one where the line wasn’t five people deep for each potty.
While the weather was a little chilly waiting before the race, as soon as it started I peeled off my arm sleeves and gloves and stuck them in my skirt pockets. The weather was pretty awesome for the half (although I think it warmed up quite a bit for those running the full). And the course is just gorgeous!
This is the view the entire course. Just beautiful! And there were lots of pelicans splashing around, getting their breakfast and even a few dolphins swimming along with us!
I know, it looks like a shark, but it really was a dolphin splashing around. I saw them several times along the route and there’s something so special about seeing them in the wild.
The neighbors were much more involved in the race this year than they were last year. There was a house handing out orange slices, beer and shots of alcohol. One had mimosas. I think one had pancakes and Bloody Marys. One guy was giving out whole bananas. There seemed to be more spectators cheering and holding signs too.
By this time, I’d passed the turn-around spot (and I forgot to look for the house with the spooky person in the attic window…again!) and was headed back. My race outfit held up perfectly. I was going to do this elaborate Dr. Who themed outfit, but between work and our Disney trip and the Disney Parks Moms Panel application process, I just never got around to it. I ended up wearing my new InkNBurn shirt with a SparkleSkirt and Bondiband compression socks. Nothing fancy, but it was just about perfect for this race.
I was starting to feel more confident and sped up a little on my run intervals (I did this race with a five minute run/one minute walk interval) and started skipping my walk intervals. I was passing a lot of people (that I’d gotten behind on my two way-too-long potty visits), which is always a great feeling towards the end of a race!
We started seeing the marathoners heading out (they do the half marathon course as the second half of their race) and there were some great costumes and one “memorable” one that is now referred to as “the speedo guy”. He had a sweet seventies ‘stache, aviator sunglasses, a small shield with his bib number on it, a Chippendale’s style collar and bowtie on and an American Flag speedo. And that’s it. And he was running a marathon. It just didn’t look comfortable at all!
I had a goal to finish the half before any of the marathoners finished the full and I succeeded! While I finished in a much worse time than last year’s race (my half marathon PR still), I was really happy with my 2:40 finish, especially once I factored in the potty stops. As per usual for this race, the medal was outstanding! And we got a full sized beach towel as well.
The race after party is well done and not too crowded. There was a Publix booth with orange juice, bananas and granola bars. There was pizza available and also pancakes!
I need some time after a half marathon before I eat real food, so I headed towards the buses to get back to my room. They’d given me a late checkout, but I wanted to hit the road before noon. The drive back was uneventful, but the driver seemed a bit confused about which hotels he was going to and didn’t take the most efficient route for dropping us all off. I did eventually get to my hotel and hobbled up to my room for a bath and change of clothes. I was really happy with the race and it’s retained its spot at my favorite half marathon (sorry runDisney!).
I packed up, watched a couple more episodes of The Big Bang Theory and headed out. A quick stop for a late breakfast (mmm breakfast) at a Cracker Barrel (where I saw several other racers) and it was time for the three hour drive back to Gainesville. My legs felt fine, but I was so tired! That crazy 3am wake-up made for a really tough drive! I was so glad to get home!
The reasons I love this race are:
- The course is just gorgeous and mostly flat (just a few small inclines/declines).
- The medals are outstanding!
- Space shuttles!!
- The runners are pretty laid back and out to have fun.
- The race is well organized.
- They moved the Expo from The Kennedy Space Center to a hotel conference center which was much more spacious and more conveniently located.
- The weather has been great both years I’ve run it.
- They have a costume contest (next year I’m going to enter!)
What they need to improve:
- More port-a-potties along the race route.
- There were some mix-ups with the medals, partially caused by people who signed up for the marathon and who bailed at the half-way point and took half marathon medals. I’m sure they will send half marathon medals to the finishers who didn’t get one, but it would have stunk not to have gotten the medal I earned at the finish line.