Eleven years worth of medals. Eleven years of training miles, laughs, some years being undertrained and one year of a shoe mishap that made me drop down from the full to a half marathon due to my feet hurting so badly I was limping. This race never fails to disappoint and is one of my favorite races. The medals are amazing and this truly is a community race.
On Friday November 25, my husband, Keith, our puppies and myself made our way out to Running Zone, a local running store located in Melbourne Florida, to pick up my packet. The first great thing about this race is you have all of Thanksgiving week to pick up your packet at the store. On Saturday, there is an expo that has all of the running stuff you could need or want. Packet pickup is always quick and easy with little to no line. I quickly picked up my packet, purchased a few things and was on my way in twenty minutes. I had a relaxing rest of the day and Saturday. I was excited and ready to race.
On Saturday night, I laid the things I would need for the race out and headed to bed early. The alarm was set for 3:30 am with a goal of leaving by 4:00am. If you are driving, I recommend getting there earlier than you think. If you get there late, parking can be an issue. We were in the car at 3:50am and headed to the coast. After a quick restroom stop at Wawa, we arrived and were parked by 5:15 am.
I quickly walked to the park where all of the festivities were held. I was excited. I hadn't been this excited to race in a long time. For the first time in a long time I felt so prepared. I finally had the energy to workout and run, and have felt the best I had in a long time. My story of the last few years can be found here.
In the last few months, running had become fun again. Even though I'm not fast I have been feeling light on my feet for the first time in years. I love the feeling of the sun on my face and the air blowing through my hair on training runs. I have even started running up hills. I had been stopping and walking due to lack of energy. Most of the time I had been undertrained for this race but if you run the South Course half marathon, you have seven hours to complete a half marathon.
I found a few of my teammates. We said hello and talked until it was time to walk to the start. The full marathon and the North Course half marathon started twenty minutes before us. As we lined up to start, I waited until I spotted the 3:15 pace group and lined up behind them. My goal was to average around 15 minute miles and stay consitent.
The race begins with a rocket launch on a projector. Soon after the launch we were off. I reminded myself to take a deep breath and that this was my race. Everyone always begins fast at the start of the race. I stayed doing my pace, running five minutes and walking for two minutes. It was a little humid but a beautiful overcast morning on the coast.
I heard my watch beep. I looked down and could hardly believe the first mile was already done. I felt so good and was having so much fun weaving in and out of people and running my race. I had completed the first mile in 14:24. Okay, I thought to myself if you are feeling this good, your goal is to stay between 14:20 and 14:40 for the rest of the race.
I ran the next five-minute interval and looked down at my watch. The average pace read 13:25. For a minute, I thought wow I feel great right now. I could run really hard and be under three hours. The next thing that popped into my head was everyone who had ever coached me telling me to slow my role. I knew that was the truth. If I tried to run that fast I would be completely gassed at the end of the race and it would be a very long last half. I slowed down and enjoyed the beautiful view of the coast. I smiled at numerous race signs along the route. Several people of the community were handing out different types of alcohol. I didn't partake because I wanted a true half-marathon time. There were people with their dogs and someone even had a huge turtle. It felt like running through a party.
The miles continued to fly by as I passed mile 6. I knew this route well, and smiled. It was the last mile marker I would see before heading back to the start. The water station at the turnaround was tropical themed with the volunteers wearing tropical shirts and handing out gatorade and water. I was ecstatic to be to the turnaround in just a little over an hour and a half. The party continued. Most of the community that was out cheering was still out and a few more members of the community had woken up, had their coffee and were cheering all of us on. I enjoyed watching people, running my race and looking at the water.
At mile 10, my legs began to hurt. By mile 11, the thought to walk the rest entered my mind. I was tired, chaffed, and sore. I'm proud of what I did, I thought to myself. I will get better and this won't happen next year. I walked for the first 4 minutes of mile eleven having these thoughts. I heard my friend Matt's voice in my head. Toughen up is what he always tells me when I want to whine and give up. I took a deep breath. I'm so sore I thought I can't. Am I really going to walk the rest of this over less than half an hour to go. I sighed and looked at my watch. Okay try to run until you are back to a 14 something average mile pace. I picked it up and ran a pace that I could run all day. I checked my watch every other minute or so. Soon enough I saw 14:45 for the average pace. I ran intervals the rest of the mile.
Soon enough, I saw the sign for mile 12. I'm walking I thought. I just can't. I was tough for a mile but I can't do it again. My watch buzzed. Keith was texting me running inspiration. I ran for a little bit, walked and then ran some more. At the last quarter mile, I saw Keith. He encouraged me and told me to keep going and finish strong. I ran through the park, around the corner, and there was the finish line. I crossed it and paused my watch. The volunteer handed me medal, and another put an ice cold towel on my neck. I looked down and was so surprised at myself. I had averaged a 14:26 mile.
I stumbled over to the finish line. This race has one of the best finish lines ever. You have a choice of beverages. There is soda, chocolate milk, gatorade, water and beer for anyone that is over 21. For food, there was a breakfast of hardboiled eggs, pancakes and fruit. Everyone socializes in the park telling their race stories, enjoying well earned food and beverages and enjoying the awards ceremony.
Well Space Coast, it was another fun year. As always thanks for a fantastic race. I can't wait to see you next year. I'm so excited for what this year brings. I can't wait to see how much I improve on the course next year and might be an Ironman finisher by the time I see you again.
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