First up – The two day expo. The Palm Beach Roadrunners has a booth to sell merchandise, yes. We have singlets, visors, new license plate frames, stickers and shirts. We are also like the tourism board
Our pacer dinner went well, again at Stresa Italian. It’s good to catch up with pacers I already know and to meet new people at the dinner. I like to eat earlier on days before a race but the expo and other club setup duties had me busy all weekend. I hydrated all day Saturday at the expo, plus stayed off my feet as much as I could. I spent my day drinking water from a big refillable jug knowing Sunday would be humid and warm.
Here’s a first – The buildup on race morning went quickly… I arrived at 4am to help our folks setup the PBRR tent area and make final arrangements for the beer sales. Our club does the beer distribution and sales and gets the proceeds of sales + tips for our youth running scholarship fund.
I drank Pedialyte before going to bed and some during the night while getting up for restroom breaks. I knew to be well hydrated. after getting things ready but still before many of the runners had arrived, I did a solo 3/4 mile jog around the Clematis St area before visiting the portable toilets. Thankfully I only needed one pass at that, all before any lines formed like usual. This is when things happened quickly, with pacers arriving early and gathering for the 5:25 am group photo in the corral. There was a delay in allowing the runners to join us in the corral, not sure why that was the case again this year. I had a few starting with me that I knew from previous years – Kerry from Ft Myers, Sara, and Bobby from here in WPB. A good group of runners from West Virginia were near me, wanting to break 2 hours for their half marathon. Tina and Kristina were two of the four from WV. Tiffany and Sara, two girls who had run with me last year (but didn’t make the time) were back for another try at the marathon in my group.
There were no problems starting out – we went at 8:58 for the first mile as a group. This was surprising, it’s common to weave and dance around others and have our first few miles slower. This was starting out nicely! It was 66 degrees out but humid to the tune of 97%. I chatted as I ran with our group, learning who was in the half marathon vs the full and pointing out road hazards. The street is nicely paved until after Good Samaritan Hospital. Then it’s time to be careful & watch your steps – there are uneven streets and holes to avoid. I encouraged our group to drink often and stay ahead of thirst. The first two water stops were not chaotic, which was also a surprise! One or two of the water stops were self serve, not enough people on both sides of the road to hand out the cups. I showed some of the runners how I crimp my cup and run through the aid station, they tried it and were happy to have gotten the water in their mouths instead of on their shirts!
Our first 5 miles up and out of the Manatee Lagoon had us always within 8 seconds of the perfect pace we needed. I had good fans along the way and on an out-n-back course I knew enough of the local runners to make it exciting for my group. I’d tell a short story about someone, a sentence or two, then I’d have my group look for and cheer for that person. Guys, girls, leaders, other pacers, we spotted and yelled at a bunch of the runners. This was a good distraction for my group. It was light out now and getting humid. At miles 6 – 7 we were about 3 secs off pace and noticing the fog ahead. Landmarks across the Intracoastal Waterway that I pointed out on the way up were no longer visible. We saw the sun silhouetting the clouds and it was getting warmer. We passed through the “Night Runners” water station at 7.x miles and I got our group excited about passing the main Start/Finish area again. They’d get music, an announcer, fans and a chance to see family and friends.
We ran south and saw the male & female half marathon leaders, which was exciting. I explained the estimated pace and finishing times these leaders of the half marathon were chasing, which gets some good conversation among the runners.
Our group continued into the final 5 miles of the half, on what I call the “sunny” side of the course. Flagler Drive is very scenic but very exposed to the sun. And it was getting warmer as the fog lifted. A few of my group had slipped back, but we still had more than a dozen runners.
We were solid in the shady section along South Olive Ave. miles 9-11. This includes the turnaround at Southern Blvd and a 2 mile gallop north, still in a shaded area. My group lost a few halfers but they didn’t drift far away. I told them they’d still get under 2 hours if they could keep me and my sign in sight. We came around the Flagler Blvd bend and saw all of the relay teams waiting for their runners. We came to the final straightaway for the half marathoners, I wished them good luck and took the marathoners around the stage for Loop #2. I picked up a stashed bottle of The Right Stuff from my truck and we crossed the checkpoint chip mat. The timing website says that was “13.1” miles and I was there in 1:58 but that’s not true. It’s even with the finish line and we had to run around the stage to get to it. We were on time at miles 14-17 up at the second passing of the Manatee Lagoon. “Perfect” on time arrival I told my group – and it was true. At mile 18 it said we were 20 seconds off (slow) but no way did I/we run a 9 min 20 sec mile. I’m thinking the sign was misplaced.
We left the last pieces of shade in the Old Northwood neighborhood and ran again towards downtown. Neisha and Susan were running strong next to me, as was Kerry. Bobby ran slightly ahead and with music. He faded back near us and then sped up a few times only to join us again. Paul and Paul, Susan and Neisha were each dressed in black, both shorts and tops. I felt like I had a “secret service” escort! Tiffany had faded back, Sara repeated what she had done last year and slowly edged ahead of us. We came in front of the hospital again, tried our best to get ready for the race photographer, and drank at every waterstop. I told our group that even if you put the fluid in your mouth and swish it around, your body responds positively thinking that hydration is coming! We ran back past the Start/Finish area, still I had a sizeable group of marathoners… That was a temporary boost of enthusiasm and energy. I was repeatedly encouraging my runners to always drink plus add any gels or nutrition along the way. We saw Kerry’s husband and kids, the same place they were three years ago when she ran in my group for a PR.
Our group went under the Okeechobee bridge and south on the sunny road again. I had maybe 6 runners left. It was good to get off Flagler Drive and back on the shady /aid section for miles 22 and 23. The aid station in the middle of the street was well staffed and refreshing, all of our group took drinks. We ran down to the turn off Flagler Drive into the shade (22nd mile) and we were on pace for a great finish. Bobby again moved up but then we passed him at Mile 23. Susan and Kerry were with me, on the side, a little behind me, then right back up next to me. Water at every stop, I felt my upper legs tightening, more on the right side. This was odd, I’d done the hydration and not skipped any opportunities to drink. Usually any cramping would begin in a person’s lower legs, calves and such. I wasn’t at a high heart rate, so this was not a “post covid” issue similar to what I experienced a few times last year.
I was glad to see the faster pacers heading back up the road towards us, that meant we didn’t have too much longer to run south. We made the turnaround and headed back north, finally to the mile 24 marker. I told the runners I was going to walk through the aid station to drink and stretch, they could do the same if they wanted, we could speed up again. I hopped back on pace again and ran towards home.
Once we made it back down to Flagler Drive and the sunny area, my legs began to feel the effects of cramping. I told people it was getting difficult but we were still on time and heading home. Neisha ran steady and was ready to speed up. I said if any of the runners had that extra energy, this would be a good time to use some of it! Susan felt good, Kerry walked a short bit then rallied to run again, Bobby was behind me somewhere. (I wouldn’t see him again until the finish area) I made it about as far as my friend’s Caribbean drum station, then had to slow to a walk and to stretch. I told the runners to keep the pace as now we had crossed through Mile 25 still in proper time. It’s amazing how fast the gap opens when you slow or stop. Cecilio, the drummer, ran up behind me, offered some cold water and poured some on my head. I wasn’t going to dash back up to the group, it would trigger a worse reaction from the large muscles in my legs. ahead of me I saw Susan, tall and running strong and Keery behind her also heading home at a good pace. I ran slower up to the aid station in the middle of the road, took more water, and made the slower trek back on the final 8/10s of a mile. I went through the relay station, saw many good cheering friends and lined up the last straightaway. Yes I was moving forward, but now at a 10 min pace – ridiculous! I saw Chris Ely & Frans DeColonne at the entrance to the finishing chute, waved and ran in alone. Those runners from my group were already wearing iced towels and drinking Gatorade. They had really done really well. I saw Bobby and two others that followed me in finish and were very happy to arrive as promised, under the 4 hour mark.
It’s such a whirlwind of a weekend with all that happens for this race. Out of town pacers looking for credible advice, our run club having a nice presence at the expo plus selling the beer after the race, and so many people I know over the years that pop up for this event.