This past Saturday was the best damn race Orlando. If you’re not familiar with this race series, then you might not know that it has three different distances to choose from. There is a 10k, 5k and a half marathon. I would be attempting the half marathon for the second time. I ran it last year for the inaugural race, but if you remember correctly, I was about 11 weeks pregnant at the time and not necessarily feeling 100%. So this year, I was determined to not only beat my time from the previous year, but to beat my last two postpartum half marathons.
Going into race weekend, I was already really excited for many different reasons. Probably the biggest reason was because my best friend, Marci, was flying in from California to run this race with me and my girlfriend Diane – her sister-in-law. I hadn’t seen her since my birthday last year, so her visit was very much anticipated. She was also bringing her boyfriend along, who I was meeting for the first time, to run his first official half marathon along with us.
I had planned to drive over to Orlando with Harrison on Friday afternoon to pick up our bibs, and then drive over to the airport to meet my friends, but traffic was ridiculous and I barely made it to the airport with enough time to pick them up. Traffic on the I – 4 corridor from Tampa to Orlando is my least favorite and the most unpredictable. I ended up coordinating with Diane to pick up our bibs instead.
We all met back at the hotel and then we found a nice little Italian spot in downtown Orlando to grab dinner. Since I had driven over with the baby, I had to wait for my husband to drive over and pick little man up before I was even able to start getting ready for bed. My hubby drove over around 8 o’clock and met up with us at the hotel for about an hour or so. I was able to nurse Harrison one last time (remember he doesn’t take a bottle very well) while Rosalyn played and entertained everyone else in the room. Eventually I had to say goodbye to them so the rest of us could get to sleep and take our flat runner pictures.
I woke up at 5 am the next morning. The half didn’t start until 7:15, but I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time to pump, eat something, get dressed, take my obligatory hotel bathroom selfie, and grab some coffee – not necessarily in that order.
We drove from the host hotel to the start line – about a mile – and found parking super duper close to where the finish line party was setup. We had plenty of time to kill before the start of the race, so we hit the Dunkin Donuts tent for coffee and bagels and then made a pit stop at the port-o-potty lines. We chatted for a while and then took a couple group photos before heading to the back of the corral to line up for the race.
I didn’t really mind lining up in the very back for a change. Since I didn’t have any specific race goals, other than beating my last two race times, I was really laid back and focused on having fun. The weather report was predicting rain, so I wasn’t feeling too hopeful for a hugely successful race. Truth be told, I was more worried about getting my iPhone wet than having the rain impede my race strategy. (I had a little plastic baggie tucked into my Flipbelt to shield my phone from the rain, if it came down to it) My plan was to run for as long as I had it in me, then start 3:1 intervals when I began to feel fatigued. I’ve been running intervals on all my postpartum training runs longer than 6 miles, so I figured I would most likely be doing something of the same for this race.
As we took off, I remember telling Marci and Diane to pay attention to the cobblestone streets. There were so many dips and uneven spots. I’m really surprised I didn’t see anyone trip this year. (last year I witnessed two different runners eat it at the very beginning). We bobbed and weaved a little for that first half mile or so. We kept our pace at a very slow and steady 10:30. I took the lead through most of the congested traffic, so I kept looking back to see if my girls were still there. We had previously discussed running at a 10:30 pace for the entire race, but I just didn’t know how my legs were going to feel going into this day, so I just played it by ear. If I felt good, I wanted to run hard.
The first mile was a slow one. I took my time; with each step I carefully studied the road for perfect placement of my foot. I did a lot of sidestepping to avoid potholes and uneven areas of the cobblestone streets. I hadn’t hit my comfort zone just yet. t wanted to make sure my legs were good and warmed up before I began making my way through the packs of runners.
Once we made it past that initial mile, I stopped turning around to check for my girls and instead I just settled into a nice comfortable 9:30 pace. I didn’t want to leave them, but I felt good, so I kept moving forward on my own.
The course starts on Central Blvd and takes runners through a tour of the downtown neighborhoods with a turn onto Maguire, leading over to my favorite part of the course rounding Lake Underhill. It’s only about a mile loop around the lake, but I love this loop, because you get to catch other runners as you enter and exit the loop. I always see half a dozen or more friends during this point in a course, but I hadn’t noticed any familiar faces this year. In fact, I didn’t even see my girls as I was leaving the lake. So that led me to believe that they had fallen way behind me, which made me a little concerned. Nonetheless I just kept moving forward.
By the time I had made it to the six mile mark, I was beginning to feel fatigued. I went ahead and ate my Salted Caramel GU (best flavor of all time) and downed some water at the next hydration station. I figured it would help push me past this hump, but I didn’t feel much better nearing the 7 mile point. This is when I decided to go ahead and begin rotating in the 3:1 intervals.
I took that first break and within an instant felt recharged. Why is it that I feel so deflated whenever I’m forced to take a walk break? I’m always so tough on myself and I feel defeated if I have to walk. I should know by now that it always recharges my body and keeps me finishing strong.
Even though I was still feeling good and wanted to keep pushing forward, I knew that I needed to pull back just a little to maintain my stamina for the remainder of the race. Instead of keeping exactly with the intervals, I skipped a few of the “walk” portions in favor of keeping up with a pace group.
Around mile 10, I started loosing steam. I resolved to take a couple minutes to walk it off and then restart my intervals on the next cycle. After doing so, I felt a little better and decided to take another GU. I don’t typically eat two GUs during a half marathon, but I figured it couldn’t hurt. I needed something to jump start my engine again.
As I was nearing the 12 mile mark, my knee began to hurt a little. It wasn’t feeling too bad, and thankfully it wasn’t anything like how it was for Space Coast, but I knew it was going to slow me down more.
I went into this race not expecting much, but I got a little hopeful in my head during the first half, thinking I was on point to bring home a shiny PR or something ridiculous like that. Being that i’m just 5 months postpartum, and have only been back running since December, I truly lack the training and haven’t put in nearly enough training runs this season to race at peak performance. At this point, it’s just been wishful thinking.
On the final stretches of the course, there’s about a mile and a half of a straightaway on South Street. I had my little moment where I kept praying for God to give me the strength to finish strong. That straightaway kept getting longer and longer in my head. At this point I just wanted to be done. And then, what do you know, Marci and Diane pop up out of nowhere and tap me on the back. Thank you Jesus. Just what I needed to keep me honest and pushing to the finish line – which was less than a mile away at this point. The three of us pushed each other through to the finish line and we collected our medals and met up with their family immediately after. We were done. I wasn’t able to stay at the finisher party too long because I had to get back home to feed little man, but we were able to gather for a group shot with our medals.
Every year this race impresses me with the turn out, on-course support, and finisher medals. It’s slowly becoming a recognizable brand and I’m so extremely proud to be affiliated with it as a race ambassador. This particular venue is probably my favorite of them all and I can’t wait to be back in 2016 for another go at it.
If you’re interested in running the BEST DAMN RACE CAPE CORAL, registration opens this Friday at 12:00 pm noon I’ll be signing up for another half.
Have you ever ran a race with your best friend?
Have you ever ran one of these races before?