Who would have thought I could come back a week after running the Disney Marathon and run one of my best times at Best Damn Race Jacksonville?
I most definitely wasn’t expecting to have an exceptional race when I woke up Saturday morning. To be honest, I wasn’t even certain I was going to make the trip to Jacksonville at noon on Friday. My hubby was still working and I wasn’t feeling too inspired to run a race. I had several doubtful thoughts about going. I think the only thing that kept me motivated was that I hate to miss a BDR event.
Thankfully I didn’t skip out on the race, because it turned out to be one of my best races and I was thrilled with my performance.
Going into this race I really didn’t know what to expect of myself. My legs were still feeling a little tight from Disney, Even when I was lining up in the starting corral talking with Andrea, I still didn’t have a clue how the day was going to pan out.
I wasn’t planning to leave for jacksonville until late afternoon. I wanted to wait until my hubby was done working for the day so he could devote his full attention on the two kiddos. Around 4pm he told me he had one last conference call and then I could get on the road. Jacksonville is about three and a half hours from us. Making it to the expo before they closed up for the day was not a possibility this time. My only plan was to arrive in time to check in to my hotel and grab a quick bite to eat. Traffic was very light, so I was able to do exactly that.
I settled on dinner inside the hotel at the lobby restaurant. It wasn’t my first choice, but I didn’t want to venture too far from the hotel once I checked in. I was feeling lazy and too dang tired to put much effort into finding someplace else to eat.
I ordered shrimp ceviche and a chicken sandwich with sweet potato fries. The meal was just meh. I picked at my food, drank my glass of Pinot Noir then signed for my tab and retired to my room.
I laid out my clothes for the morning and double checked my belongings to ensure I wouldn’t be fumbling around looking for my hydration belt or breast pump parts at five in the morning. Then I turned off the lights and drifted off to sleep.
My alarm woke me at ten ’til five and I restfully rose out of bed. I pumped, made coffee, put on some makeup and donned my running attire before snapping a pre race selfie and heading out the door.
I easily navigated to the race start from my hotel and located registration and packet pickup. Once I acquired my bib, grabbed another coffee and bagel from the Dunkin Donuts table, I then walked over to the BDR merchandise tent to see if I could help out before the half marathon started. Beth was situated in the tent organizing merchandise when I arrived, later Jenn and Jamie arrived and then it became a real party. It was my first time meeting them IRL (in real life).
They are more than delightful and it was such a pleasure having chatting with them before and after the race. We even shared a moment of excitement when a team of stormtroopers arrived on the scene.
Soon enough, the 5k and 10k runners were released onto the course, so I excused myself to go line up for the half marathon. I swear, I didn’t even think about the fact that I was there to run. Apparently, I was all about the socialization aspect of this event.
I found my way into the starting corral and near the 2:15 pacers. I figured this was a good place to start. I could always fall back if I needed to.
Just before the race began, I bumped into Andrea. She had ran Dopey last weekend at Disney and wasn’t sure how she was going to run today. We chatted briefly about the course and then before we knew it, the national anthem was being sung. About two-thirds of the way through the anthem, one of the race coordinators began motioning with his hands for the singer to “hurry up” as the lead runner of the 5k was already nearing the finisher chute where she was standing. It was quite amusing and inspiring at the same time. His final time for the 5k was just over 17 minutes. Every half marathoner was cheering as he blew past us towards the finish line. It was the perfect send off for all of us as we were about to take our first steps onto the course.
The half marathoners started at Jacksonville Metro Park and ran West on Gator Bowl Blvd, parallel to the St. John’s River. Not even a mile into the course we could smell the coffee beans from the Maxwell House factory.
It was just one of the delicious aromas I encountered along this course. We soon approached the bridge on Bay Street and made our way up and over.
I slowed to a brisk walk up the incline and then crushed it on the downhill. I always find I do much better to walk the inclines instead of powering through to the top. It keeps me fresh for the long haul and that was exactly what I wanted today.
After the first mile marker we made a couple turns near the Jacksonville Landing and past my hotel towards Riverside Ave. Here’s where the enticing aroma of either bacon or pancakes tempted me towards an early exit from the race. I swear. If I had seen the establishment where the smell was coming from, I would have ripped off my bib right there. It smelled so good. My tummy began to rumble as I fought off the urge to follow my nose to breakfast haven
We continued along Riverside Avenue and then rounded a little loop into a quaint neighborhood before touring the Shoppes of Avondale where I caught another whiff of breakfast, undoubtedly from one of the nearby restaurants. I shook it off and checked my garmin to see how I was doing with time and pace. I was keeping an even pace near 9:45 for most of the first half. And at this point, I still felt good. I was stopping to walk through every hydration station and that seemed to be all I needed at the time. My breathing was only slightly labored and my legs were feeling pretty light compared to earlier. I didn’t think it’d hold out for the entire race – I know, I’m exhuming positivity here – but I was going to let it carry me as long as I could.
We hooked around another neighborhood for a little out and back and then we began making our way back North up St. John’s Avenue. I knew we had passed the half way point of the course and I was optimistic for a better than average finish time if I kept it up. It was at this point that I made the decision to maintain my current pace and push it. I knew a PR wasn’t in the plan for me, but I was going to come closer to my second best time if I kept the momentum. However, I knew the toughest portion of the course was still way ahead of me, so I planned to continue walking through the water stops, but not exceeding more than thirty seconds for each mile.
Miles eight, nine and ten crossed back over previous portions of the course and then we made it to the boardwalk along the riverwalk. Mile 10 was flat and fast around the water. Even though I hate running on cobblestone, I was able to maintain my average pace. Being along the water, you could see just how thick the fog was. Even at mid morning, you could barely see a few yards in front of you. I resisted the urge to stop for a picture along the water.
Eventually we reached mile eleven and the largest incline of the race. I slowed to a brisk walk and used the break to stretch out my arms and back. I have a horrible running posture. My shoulders slump as I fatigue and my upper back ends up very cramped. I slowed to my slowest pace of the race here, 10:34, but I resumed running as soon as I reached the peak. The final mile was back on Bay Street and towards the park. I pushed myself to ramp my speed slightly and finish strong.
When I crossed the finish line, I clicked off my Garmin and did some quick calculations in my head.
My Garmin was off by 0.19 so I figured I actually finished this half at about a minute faster than my second best time. My PR is 2:04, but next fastest is 2:10:24 I was thrilled to have this time today. What a great surprise!!!
Chip time 2:10:16
Average Pace 9:49/mi
Best Pace 5:43/mi (this has to be on the downhill)
Mile 1 9:19
Mile 2 9:58
Mile 3 9:37
Mile 4 9:46
Mile 5 9:53
Mile 6 9:49
Mile 7 10:29
Mile 8 9:44
Mile 9 9:36
Mile 10 9:39
Mile 11 9:52
Mile 12 10:34
Mile 13 9:23
Mile 0.29 8:54
After taking a few minutes to cool down and grab some water, I made my way through the food tent. Pollo Tropical, which is my favorite Latin fast food, is a sponsor. They always have a spread of hot rice, beans and chicken at the athlete tent. I grabbed a bowl of the warm chicken and then walked over to get a celebratory Bloody Mary. As I made my way back to the merchandise tent, I mentally patted myself on the back. Not only did I run a great race today, but I gave myself the confidence going into the next half of racing season. I have 3 half marathons left to train and race towards that sub 2 goal of mine. Having ran strong today made me realize I have so much more that I’m capable of. I just need to train and put in the work.
With that decision made, I knocked back a couple Bloody Marys and celebrated a race well done. And mentally prepared myself for the next several weeks devoted towards speed work.
Have you ever ran a race when your performance took you by surprise?
How long do you typically recover from a marathon before racing again?