We had a warm day for our race – A week ago forecasts were pointing us to believe that the start temps would be 49 degrees. It’s a PR day they said!
Not even close.
Our weather was humid and 74 degrees at the start. a breeze was coming out of the southeast.
My brief time in the Pacer Expo tent went well, I arrived 1/2 hour early with two apple pies from our Thanksgiving “Run 4 The Pies” event. I knew exactly how to distribute them. The first two people that asked if they could have a slice of pie (Among the roving Publix employees handing out free food samples) received a whole pie in disbelief!
I like to work the expo shifts from out in the “aisle” like at a real trade show. More people are comfortable coming up to you if you’re NOT behind a table like every other vendor. It works. I will see a person look over towards our stand, they definitely have a question brewing, and I’ll put myself right there to help. I think it makes it easier. I met one lady that did not run in my group but after the race thanked me for suggesting she run with a pacer, it made her day very enjoyable she exclaimed.
The pacer dinner was at a familiar spot for Italian food, Di Lorenzo’s, which is off the A1A strip of hotels & eateries. This time to food was already prepared for us – large pans of spaghetti & meatballs, eggplant parmesan and lasagna. It made for a quick meal instead of each person ordering and then having everything brought out to us some 30 minutes later. For a large group this was a good arrangement.
Our meeting and check in at the Radisson was easy and routine. The parking was difficult due to construction and the use of many parking spots by cruise ship passengers. I saw a bunch of familiar faces at the meeting, also a fresh batch of new people that hadn’t been at this event in prior years. I roomed with Chris Twiggs, the 2 hour Galloway method pacer. He is the Galloway Team leader. We chatted about his effort to race, drive back to Jacksonville, then join his wife at the Jaguars game that afternoon. Nice guy!
Sunday morning I woke up at 4am, took a quick shower and left my room. Jim had a banner and supplies for me to bring to Palm Beach marathon expo, so I went to the hotel lobby to get those. The drive to Cocoa Village was easy, the shuttle buses were rolling as well, I parked at the familiar condo building near the Truist bank. It’s easy to get and drop off things after the race from this spot.
I met the group for the team photo then took a jog the long way around the block in hopes of convincing anything else that was still looking to cause a restroom break to “present itself.” I was thankfully done with all of that and ready to line up in the corrals. I started out surrounded by a good group of runners I already knew from our area back home. Many said they’d start out with me for whatever reason, which was a first. Some were recovering from injuries, others didn’t want to “go out to fast.” None of that lasted however as only one of my local runner folks stayed with me past the first mile – Grant Schwartz. A gal named Laura joined in with our group, too. She was running in what looked like a dress. She hadn’t done a half marathon in a number of years and thought my group would be a reasonable pace for her to start with. I spoke with everyone about the water stops and making sure their shoes were tied on securely. The usual routine!
I think the race started a few minutes early. Not many of us standing around knew the movie on the big screen would lead to a countdown with small numbers on the bottom of the display. I think the big hint was the blast of CO2 from the simulated smoke stations. I had two ladies from Miami with me that were very excited to go for the 1:55 goal time, Gabriella & Maria. I asked one of them to send me the photo they took before the race began – that’s this below:
Off and already starting in the lead corral, I found we were weaving around runners who started up front but weren’t even at a 10 minute pace. It worked itself out well, however, we took two quick turns and we headed down the dark riverfront straightaway road to Rockledge. Grant was next to me, as was a guy in a white t-shirt with something close to ” Running this for Benjamin” on the back of the shirt for all to see. I told everyone to disregard the beeps on their watches because as we were experiencing, we don’t get to run straight down the road. We scrambled a bit and passed people on either side to get among those that were doing our pace. I got to my watch’s first mile mark in 8:46 pace, and crossed the true “1 mile flag” course marker a few seconds after that. I told the group how to drink from crimped cups while running as we approached our first water stop. That worked, and a few of the runners said they’ve never done that before & it helped them shave some time. Nice!
The course was still dark as we ran miles 3, 4, and 5 towards the turnaround. I told my group we were within 8-10 seconds of perfect pace timing, they liked the updates each mile. I mentioned there was usually a neighborhood bar setup ahead, but this year that was on the other side of the road near Mile 8. I had most of my group together, Wyatt and Grant were running next to me. Grant was working hard to keep the 8:45 pace. Caroline mentioned in our conversation that she was a 1:55 pacer in a half marathon near where she lived in Maryland, so if I needed to take a restroom break she’d run with the sign. I didn’t need that, but it did spawn the talk in our group about running ahead to a portable toilet, stopping at one and catching up, or peeing on the run and splashing water on your groin area. Surprisingly this was familiar to one gal who was running next to us, she said she’d done it before, much to the surprise of the others in my group.
We saw the lead bike and following close behind was a handcycle athlete. I don’t remember seeing those in the half marathon before. Soon we saw the lead two runners, then a third guy, then my friend Daniel. He was moving well but he had a full coating of shiny sweat on him. I told him he was in fourth place and hoped he’d catch at least one other person to get on the podium for overall finishers.
(He did, finishing in 3rd place with a 1:24:34. A full half hour before me!)
Our group lost the Miami girls, but I didn’t know that one of them, Maria, was close enough to have us in sight. We kept our pace through Mile 6 and for the turnaround. The spectators at the turnaround timing mat were all silent, so I pepped them up by introducing them to my group as the “quiet cheering section.” That got a few cheers from the onlookers! I got my runners excited by telling them that we were now the “fast ones” that those still running towards the turn were seeing and encouraging, as we had done for the race leaders. They liked that!
The sun rose but didn’t feel warm on our backs as we ran through Mile 7. Now we were right on perfect pace. Wyatt had faded back, Caroline and another gal were with me, and I ran through two consecutive water stops making sure they each got a cup, even as I ran by. I knew I wanted water at the next one, though. We were running with the breeze so it didn’t feel as cool out as the first half of our race. Caroline dropped off pace for awhile but Wyatt cam back up with me. Every time I said something to him, even a comment in passing, he replied with, ‘Yes sir.” I spoke about anything I saw to keep them focused hopefully on what I was saying and perhaps not on whatever may be bothering them.
We came down the road to Mile 8 and 9, still on pace, and picked up a bearded guy moving slowly on the side of the road. His name was Doug, I told him he should run with us and have a good chance at coming in under 2 hours depending on when he started. He did it, staying with me on my right side. As we approached the water stop with the bar and small beer shots, I asked if anyone needed a quick carb shot – Doug did the 3 oz dentist’s office sized beer with me plus a cup of water right past that. The rest got water as we were just shy of the 10th mile.
Once we passed Mile 10 it’s easy to explain that we had less than 27 minutes to go. The big causeway bridge by the finish line area and the tall condo right before the Cocoa Village amphitheater we in sight. We ran down the only hill on the South Course, I reminded them how good this was going to feel when we came up it early in the race. We ran the last curvy portion of the course and on to the long straightaway that had us pass Mile 12 right on time. Now things got familiar and interesting! There’s where we picked up the shirts and packets yesterday I said. We saw a guy holding a sign that read “Run like her father just caught you in her room!” and laughed. We came into the town and I told everyone that I had to finish as close to 1:55 as possible, but if they had extra energy they could go faster. Doug did this, Wyatt said he was working hard to keep this going. I saw him hold his back as he must have felt a good deal of pain in that final mile. Caroline and Maria, one of the Miami girls, has caught up again and were running in with me! I told them to wait at the finish and we’d take a celebration photo, the one you see up near the title of this story.
Wyatt ran under the finish line arch with me, with both girls right behind by only a few seconds. Doug was already getting his GIANT medal, we gathered and took the group photo.
My finish time was 1:54:29.
Our local Palm Beach Roadrunner group did well this year. We bring more runners each year and they keep coming back as the course and race amenities are great. It’s an easy trip and the lure of the race series and new space-themed medals is exciting for our runners.