On Monday as I was typing up my recap from the Celebration Half, I started to feel sicker and sicker. I still don't know whether it was food poisoning or a stomach bug... All I know is that I ended up throwing up for the first time in eleven years, and was sick for more than 24 hours. I had a fever over 101 and the dehydration was so bad my calves and thighs were cramping up. In short, I was miserable. I called in sick from work for three days, though that last day was more about resting than recovery. Friends online and at work on Friday all asked if I was going to skip the race on Sunday, and I never hesitated before explaining why I would be there at the start:
If I can't finish, then I'll hop on the van of shame. But I'm not going to not start just because I'm worried I might not finish. Sure, it's not as eloquent as DFL>DNF>DNS, but I said it without thinking. I totally meant it.
So anyway, on to Melbourne...because I did go.
The race expo was small and pretty peaceful when I got there around 3:00 on Saturday. I was easily able to navigate the separate tables for picking up my race number, hat, and timing chip before heading into the actual expo room for my shirt. I was told they were out of XL shirts, and was offered a XXL. I took a L instead, knowing how huge the XXL I got from Celebration was (I'm actually wearing it now - it's pretty much like a sponsored night shirt). I was told that there would be XL shirts available at race morning packet pick-up, which seriously annoyed me. Why was I being penalized for showing up and going to the expo? Anyway, as soon as I got to the hotel I tried on my L shirt and was thrilled to realize it pretty much fit as well as the women's cut XXL shirt from Princess last year. It's tight, but not unflatteringly so. That said...
Dear Race Directors, Please stop it with the white shirts! Do an internet search for high impact sports bras and you'll see why!
This race had I think 2000ish participants between the half and full, but it felt very small and fairly disorganized at the start. There weren't any of those "line up near your pace" signs set up, and it seemed like we were all just kind of bunched together looking confused. Eventually we were off across the start line (with timing mats that were like lumpy throw rugs...).
The first two miles were tough for me, not because of my exhaustion/dehydration, but because of the inconsiderate walkers spread across the course. I know I was leap-frogging some of them, but there were some big time jerks strolling along just being in my way. By the end of the second mile, I finally cleared the worst of the walkers and was able to settle into a decent pace.
The end of the second mile was also the point where I thought "woah...I'm kind of woozy!" I had a big handful of Craisins and continued along. It seemed like there was at least one water stop per mile, and they were well stocked. Unfortunately, their yellow Gatorade was full strength, and I had to mix each with a cup of water just to get it down. And I'm not sure how to explain it - whether it was tap water or really cheap paper cups - but the water tasted really unpleasant.
One of the really cool things about this race was the on-course entertainment. Not only were there a wide variety of local bands and DJs, but there were really bizarre acts like a woodwind trio (oboe/clarinet/bassoon, playing the Rocky theme when I passed them), an accordion group, bagpipers, and a pianist. The pianist was at the top of the first bridge, just past mile 5.
...and let's talk about the bridges, shall we?
The race is one big loop that involves crossing two causeway bridges. These bridges are pretty high and steep, but absolutely awesome to conquer. Fog was so thick on the first bridge that I couldn't really see the grade - I just knew I was going up. I did all of my intervals, but definitely slowed the pace. And on the way back down, I let my stride open up and enjoyed the pull of gravity. The second bridge pretty much covers most of the distance between the 11 and 12 mile markers. Though it was clear at the bottom and the top, there was a weird fog layer halfway up. The payoff was reaching the top and looking out over the water - blue sky above and clouds below. It felt like I had run up into heaven.
Or maybe it just felt like I had died. Truth be told, somewhere in that last bridge I used up my reserves. I was getting chills and was starting to get woozy again, but I kept going. My jog intervals were slower, but I didn't quit. Yet.
Dan (of the Orlando Half) had long-since finished, but intersected with me right after mile 12 to take an "action shot" of me. He pointed left and told me that's where the after-party was, and I went right. And then realized I had to run another 3/4 mile. I hated this part of the course with a hatred previously reserved for the hills after the Epcot on-ramp at the Disney races. I hated the fact that scores of runners wearing medals were walking the opposite direction - some rudely in the course. I hated the lack of cheering spectators. I hated every turn in the road. And I hated that I had hit the wall HARD and decided to walk the last half mile. I was so happy to turn the corner and finally see the finish, but still walked halfway before I started running again.
After crossing the finish line, a wonderful volunteer put my medal around my neck and asked if she'd see me again in three weeks at Princess (I was wearing my Princess shirt) and I talked to her for a minute while another volunteer snapped the timing chip off my shoe. I got a cup of water, and then another, and then I wandered down to the after party...where I immediately got a bottle of water out of a kiddie pool full of ice.
The line for pizza and pancakes was pretty long, so I got a banana instead. Dunkin Donuts were there, but their line was also long. I decided to get in the beer line, and stood in it for five minutes before realizing that it wasn't moving at all. So I gave up, grabbed another bottle of water, and started back up towards the parking lot.
Side note: there was no directional signage from the after party back to the start/parking area. More than a few of us non-locals were incredibly turned around getting from one to the other.
Anyway, I guess I was a little bit bi-polar about this race. It was awesome and horrible and exhilarating and frustrating. I brought a lot of baggage along though, so I can't really blame them for some of my issues. And I have to say, I was thrilled to not only finish this race but finish it only 3.5 minutes slower than my PR the week before.
I loved the bridges.
I loved the entertainment.
I will likely do this race again some day.
Chip time: 3:12:58
Overall place: 1077/1181
Division place: 103/111
My Splits (per RunKeeper):
Mile 1: 12:43 min/mi
Mile 2: 13:09 min/mi
Mile 3: 13:39 min/mi
Mile 4: 13:54 min/mi
Mile 5: 14:04 min/mi
Mile 6: 14:03 min/mi (first bridge)
Mile 7: 14:27 min/mi
Mile 8: 15:03 min/mi
Mile 9: 14:47 min/mi (chasing the elusive Gummy Bear station)
Mile 10: 15:10 min/mi
Mile 11: 14:51 min/mi
Mile 12: 15:30 min/mi (second bridge)
Mile 13: 15:34 min/mi
- Mocha-flavored CLIF shots are like delicious frosting that you squeeze directly into your mouth. I'm not sure how it would taste if not mid-race, but was in love with this flavor!
- The race had a gummy bear station "on mile 8," which I expected to be near the 8 mile marker. It wasn't until nearly mile 9, and my run mantra quickly became "where the F--- are my gummy bears?" over and over again until I finally got them. You wouldn't think three gummy bears in a dixie cup would do much, but POW! they were amazing. I am thinking about swapping craisins for Starburst in future races.
- I like orange wedges.
Up next: Glass Slipper Challenge - 10K on 2/22 and Half Marathon on 2/23.