Last weekend was the inaugural Best Damn Race Orlando. As you might remember, at last year’s Safety Harbor half, I experienced a whole new racing experience, one that was everything a runner could expect from an event titled the “Best Damn Race.” When I was asked to become an ambassador for this organization, I was beyond excited and thrilled. And after last Saturday’s race events, I’m even more proud to be affiliated with Best Damn Race.
Friday afternoon, I drove over to Orlando from Tampa to volunteer at the expo for packet pickup. I had the pleasure of working alongside some of the most spectacular people, two of them being other ambassadors for BDR. Meghan and Andrea joined me and other volunteers as we handed out race bibs, shirts and race bags to participants at Lake Eola Park.
The weather was gorgeous and the entire expo was well organized and full of awesome vendors.
That night, I shared a hotel with my neighbor Matt who was also running the half marathon. Race morning, we woke up, got dressed (I had to take a pre-race picture) and headed down to the park to prepare for the half marathon start.
We arrived downtown with just enough time to find parking, scarf down some fuel and hydration, hit the port-o-pottys and line up in the starting corrals. My friend, Matt, is a little speedster compared to me, so we parted ways at the start line when I headed towards the back near the 2:15 pacers. I had been feeling really good the past few days, so I was going to setup near my usual pace group and see how my energy levels would allow me to perform.
One thing about running through this pregnancy that I have come to terms with is that I cannot predict just exactly how my body is going to perform on any given day. I hate to use the phrase “wait and see”, but that’s how I feel going into a lot of these long runs and races. Even if my training is there, I might have an off day and my energy levels could be lacking the stamina to keep me afloat during a longer distance.
Another thing I definitely knew going into this half was that there was going to be the need for a bathroom break at some point(s) along the course. It doesn’t matter which trimester, the pressure and need to pee is always there. I purposely kept my morning hydration under 24oz that day because I wanted to avoid the port-a-pottys as much as I could. I only drank one small coffee and a small bottle water with a Nuun tablet. I skipped the first few water stations also in attempt at staving off the urge to pee.
Once inside the starting coral, I searched for a couple of my running pals to gather nearby. I didn’t spot anyone near my pace group, so I kept to myself and decided to turn up the tunes. When the start gun signaled the beginning of the race, I was in such a trance listening to my music that I completely zoned out and forgot to sync my Garmin. I stepped over the start line and had to step off course to get synced up. That was definitely a first for me. I’m never letting that happen again. Rookie mistake.
The first few miles winded through some of my favorite downtown Orlando neighborhoods. One, in particular, was where I looked into purchasing a home many years ago, when I lived in Orlando. One of the nice features of downtown is the brick roads. However, they are not the most race friendly surfaces. There were many areas where I really had to pay attention to my footing to insure I did not trip and wipe out. It kept me on my toes for the first mile, then we hit the asphalt streets and I could finally relax into my pace.
I had told myself that I was going to attempt to keep a 10 min pace for as long as my legs would let me. My goal was to hold out on the walk breaks until after I hit the 8 mile mark.
The first couple miles went by very well. I took it slow and let my legs warm up before I began to notice a gain in my speed. Little by little, I began to ease into my normal race pace. It felt good and easy and I was really happy about that.
We weaved down and around a bunch of side streets through downtown before we crossed East near the Orlando Executive Airport and the 408 Expressway. That lead us right into the 4th mile at Lake Underhill park. The course directed us onto the trail and around the lake for a beautiful view of the park and lake. I had to stop to snap a quick picture.
When I rounded the Lake near mile 5, I spotted a port-o-potty. There was only one, but it appeared to be unoccupied so I decided to slow down and make a pit stop. I paused my Garmin, and did my business as quick as possible. However, when I jumped back onto the trail, I forgot to un-pause my Garmin and I lost a couple tenths of a mile. I was not having a good Garmin day. I decided to push my pace slightly so I could try to make up a little time from the potty break.
Miles 7, 8, and 9 were setup in an out and back fashion. I ended up seeing a lot of my friends along this part of the course. Of course, they were all ahead of me. It was good to see everyone doing so well. I made sure to holler at each one and give them encouragement as I passed them.
Even though I was aiming to keep a 10 pace through most of the race, I ended up surprising myself when I read that I was maintaining pace around 9:45. This made me smile every time I looked down at my Garmin. I actually got a little emotional and almost cried. I was really worried that pregnancy would take my ability to love running away from me, but this was a day that I could rejoice in my redemption. I celebrated inside and patted myself on the back for doing as well as I was.
I decided to push myself a little farther before mentally agreeing to take a walk break at the 10 mile checkpoint. I was still feeling good, but I didn’t want to push my luck. I wasn’t trained for 13 miles. I needed to listen to my body.
Right after the 10 mile water station, when I decided to take that walk break, there was an extremely brief moment when the 5k speedsters crossed paths with the half marathoners. It was very inspiring to see them zoom past us with their fresh legs and aggressive strides. I wanted to pick my pace back up and hightail it with them, but my body just wasn’t where it needed to be. It was there at this moment that I got to see the race organizer, Nick Zivolich, pass me by as he raced his own race. I didn’t know it was him at the time, but discovered it at the finish line when awards were announced.
Our last three miles directed us down to South street where we were once again reunited with the 5k ‘ers. It was at this portion of the race that I began to struggle to keep myself from walking. There were a lot of participants on the course at this part and unfortunately, there were a lot of walkers amongst them. I kept telling myself that this was my race and it didn’t matter what everyone else was doing, but it was so easy to slow down to take a few walk breaks. I was tired and my hip and IT band were beginning to throb. By the time we hit Rosalind Ave and the final stretch before the finish line, I was battling my mental endurance. I searched on my iPod for a power song to take me the rest of the way. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis carried me the remainder of the course with Can’t Hold Us. I gave it all I had and pushed to the finish line.
I was beyond excited to pass through the chute and cross that finish line. When I did, my friend, Matt, was right there waiting for me. He had finished his very first half marathon in 1:41. WOW! I was impressed! My official chip time was 2:21. It wasn’t my best time, but I’m going to go ahead and call this my PPR. (pregnancy personal record). We immediately went over to take a finisher picture with our medals.
I was starving, so we made our way through the food and beverage tent and grabbed plenty of carbs in the form of bagels, fruit, and the most delicious chocolate muffins. We then moseyed into the beer area where we lounged on the soft grass, stretching, eating our carbs and enjoying the gorgeous weather. Matt had a beer or two, but obviously, I skipped the beer and instead hydrated with H2O.
It was an absolutely fabulous day with perfect race conditions. I couldn’t have asked for a better morning.
The icing on the cake was the email I received a week later with my free race photos. Yay! Once again, I cannot express how honored and privileged I feel to be affiliated with the Best Damn Race series. It truly is the best experience for a runner. And to have these memories to share down the road to my unborn son or daughter, makes me so proud to have accomplished it.
I look forward to next year’s races even more now. It’ll be hard to top this year’s events, but somehow, I think Nick and his crew can make it happen. Until then, I’ll keep ya updated on all the important info leading up to registration. =)