Monday, February 13, 2012

RR - Jacksonville

Race Report

Sun, Feb 12/12
26.2 With Donna Marathon
Jacksonville, FL
4:31:16 – 1AG
Marathon # 353

I planned this race as the 2nd of my ‘training’ marathons although I don’t like the drive to Jacksonville and I think the $125 registration fee ($135 with online fee) is ridiculous. However it is all donated to Breast Cancer Research and it is still easier and cheaper than flying to another state to run a race. I ran the inaugural race in 2008 when I was sick and struggled to finish under 4 hrs and 2nd AG. That finish time seems like an impossible dream these days? I was hoping that I could run 20 to 23 miles as part of my training program to get back into race shape.

As race day approached the weather forecast became bleak. A ‘Northerner’ was coming through FL and temps were forecast to drop below freezing with brisk North winds. I drove up to Jacksonville on Sat and arrived in the afternoon to pick up my race packet at the Expo at the Prime Osborn Convention Center in downtown Jacksonville. The weather was sunny and cool.

I stayed at a hotel in Neptune Beach that was a shuttle stop for the race. The race starts and finishes at the Mayo Clinic and since there is not enough parking the race organizes shuttle buses to bus 7000+ runners to the start. Fortunately the hotel agreed to extend a 3 pm late checkout to all runners. When I went for pasta dinner the temps had dropped to the low 50s but with a blustery North wind it felt much colder. It didn’t portend well for a 6:30am start on Sun?

The race starts at different times each year because 3 miles of the course is on Jacksonville Beach and it needs to be low tide to provide room for the runners. I planned to catch the last shuttle bus to minimize the amount of waiting time at the start but somehow ended up on a bus at 5:15 am that arrived at 5:30am. Damn! One hour to wait! The temp was 31F and with a brisk North wind – it was friggin COLD!
There were no tents or buildings to hide in! I had 4 layers of clothes on and I was still freezing! I waited until 10 min before start time to remove my warm up clothes (1 layer) and store them at the gear tent. Unfortunately as I approached the start line they announced that the race start would be delayed 10 minutes because some shuttle buses were late. I later heard from a friend whose shuttle bus arrived 20 minutes after the start of the race and she and others had to start late and try to catch up!

Since there were 7,000 cold runners lined up we huddled together and used each other to stay warm until the race started at 6:40 am. I started the race with 3 layers of clothes and the usual garbage bag to trap the body heat. After climbing a long bridge over the St John’s River (Intercostal Waterway) during the 1st mile I discarded the garbage bag. The bridge was followed by two overpasses over the next 2 miles so when I reached mile 3 in 30:36 I felt toasty and removed a sweatshirt. I hoped I wouldn’t regret throwing that sweatshirt away later. I passed mile 5 in 49:36 and turned on to the beach. With no protection from the brisk North (head) wind it was friggin COLD – I wished I had my sweatshirt back! At mile 8 we left the beach and turned into residential areas that provided some shelter from the wind. I passed mile 10 in downtown Neptune Beach in 1:40:41. I was averaging a 10-min pace even though my legs still felt stiff and tight from the cold. At mile 12 the race turned west and we finally got some relief from the head wind.

I reached the Half in 2:12:25 and I knew right then that the 2nd Half would not be that fast. My legs were already starting to tire! I passed mile 15 in 2:30:53 where the course finally turned South and we would now have a tailwind for the rest of the race. I finally started to warm up with the sun out and the wind at our backs. When I passed mile 18 in 3:01:29 and a split of 10:05 my legs really felt tired and I figured I needed to slow my pace down by 30 to 45 sec/mile if I wanted to make it to Mile 20 or 22 w/o walking. I reached mile 20 in 3:23:08 and a split of 10:35. My legs had recovered some with the slower pace and I figured I could probably make it to mile 22 or 23 before walking? I decided to push on. Each mile was a new record for me for quite some time. When I reached mile 23 in 3:55:31 and a split of 10:58 I was really excited and happy that I had made it that far w/o walking. I became determined to finish the race w/o walking!

Only a few ‘wee’ problems in the way! The last three miles were the same two overpasses and bridge as the 1st three miles and my legs were wasted! Thankfully Maddog showed up – he has been missing for some time and many races! He was determined to finish the race w/o walking so he made me suck it up and gut it out through the final 5K. Mile 25 to the top of the bridge was the toughest mile and longest split of the race – 11:17. But once I crested that bridge I knew I would make it to the finish line w/o walking! That final mile was tough – it was ugly – and it was painful – but I kept the wasted old legs churning and crossed the finish line in 4:31:16! For the 1st time in more than 1 year I had run an entire marathon w/o walking! I was not pleased with my time – I really thought I was ready to break 4:30. And I was very surprised to learn that SLOW time was good enough to win 1st AG?

Once I stopped it suddenly became bitterly COLD again – it was a balmy 41F at the finish! Thus I retrieved my warm up clothes, took a mandatory finish line photo and quickly retreated to a shuttle bus. Only when I got on the warm bus did I realize how COLD I really was. Back at the hotel I filled the tub with scalding water and submerged the old bod for 30 minutes. Only then could I begin to feel parts of my body that seemed to be missing?

I was not looking forward to the long (5-hr) drive home. I was tired and my legs were sore. And I will never drive through Orlando again – I 4 was a parking lot through Orlando! When I arrived home I was so tired that I didn’t even have enough energy to cook dinner or unpack. I went straight to bed and slept 12 hrs.

Now it is time to begin training for the next marathon – next weekend! I am encouraged and ahead of schedule. I didn’t expect to run an entire race until next weekend. Now I can push the pace a little harder and try to lower my finish time?

Stay tuned!

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