Friday, March 30, 2018

GEORGIA HALF MARATHON - March 18. 2018


Georgia on my mind…but Lindsey in my heart.

Full disclosure…I have really enjoyed having a “running buddy” for the past two years.  Sure, Lindsey is much faster than me, but it was a pleasant change from the “lone wolf” life.  I did this race two years ago, and was anxious to try it again.  Lindsey was totally onboard, and we booked our flights.  It was a few weeks before the race when a bittersweet turn of events would put her participation in jeopardy.  Lindsey accepted a new position with the Weather Channel, and would be moving to New York.  Her first week was right before the race, but she was determined to do whatever she could to fly into Atlanta.  After exhausting every possibility, we came to the somber conclusion that breaking the bank was the only way to get a flight from NYC to Atlanta on such short notice..  Rachel was already committed to a USY convention in Tampa, so it literally looked as if I would be “flying solo.”  In a truly selfless act, Glenda stepped up to the plate and offered to be my companion for the weekend.  It was smack-dab in the middle of tax season, and she had been putting in outrageous hours at the office.  Nevertheless, a weekend away was a good remedy to recharge her creative batteries.

We flew in Friday afternoon, and stayed at the Hyatt Regency.  They were the host hotel this year, as there was a good amount of construction going on in front of the Omni.  We really liked this place, and the layout is very reminiscent of the Contemporary in WDW.  We grabbed lunch at Max Lager’s, which was less than one block away from the hotel.  The food was excellent, and we polished off the meal with their famous Fried Cheesecake.  Yes…it was as good as it sounds.  We then went to the expo, which was conveniently located in the hotel.  WHAT A DISSAPOINTMENT!  Two years ago, the expo was at the Georgia World Congress Center; I made several purchases, including two jackets.  The expo this year was tiny, and I couldn’t even make a pity purchase.  I would expect an expo like this for a race with 1,000 people or less; not nearly 7,000 runners.  The race shirt was very similar to the one from two years ago, but at least it was green for St. Patrick’s Day.  Back up to the room, Glenda pretty much passed out, and I watched the NCAA basketball tournament.


We made plans to have lunch on Saturday with Susan, Betsy, and Mark.  They all live in Atlanta, and it was a great opportunity to get together.  Betsy and Mark picked us up at the hotel, and we met Susan at Marlow’s Tavern.  With the St. Patrick’s Day parade taking place, the trip to Marlow’s was a bit more time-consuming (and scenic) than expected.  We had a great time catching up, but for some reason, I wasn’t feeling that great.  We checked out the start and finish of the race, as it was moved just a bit because of all the construction.  A couple offered us their tickets to the CNN tour; it pretty much sucked.  Back at the hotel, it was now my turn now to pass out.  It got too late to go out for supper, so we ordered in some chow from room service.


The race start on Sunday was at 7am, with my particular wave going off at 7:12am.  6,563 runners took their mark (1,008 for the full; 4,555 for the half), with the temperature around 53°.  For reasons I can’t fully explain, I was a little disappointed in the course two years ago.  I think my expectations were too high at the time; I realized it later on.  This year, the plan was to soak in each and every mile.  Unlike the previous day, I felt great.  This course was very scenic, and there was no shortage of hills.  Nothing like Mount Dora, Ocala, or Gainesville, but I knew I would be feeling it several days after the race.  Some of the more picturesque highlights include Georgia State University, The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum, and Georgia Tech.  All I can tell you is that every inch of the race was aesthetically pleasing; how did I miss that last time?  I felt strong from start to finish, and I can honestly say it was one of the most enjoyable races of my running career.  Glenda was waiting for me as I crossed the finish line, and she was in good position to take a photo.  The medal was just okay, but they did have chocolate milk for the finishers.  The after-party took place in the area between the Atlanta Aquarium and the World of Coca-Cola.  They had some good snacks, but we needed to get back to the hotel to catch our flight.


  The trip home was very eventful, but not in a positive way.  Some of the highlights included: spending an hour going through TSA, Glenda losing her iPad (thanks TSA), and the television not working on the plane (thanks JetBlue).

This is a race I hope to do again, but only if Lindsey runs with me.

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Friday, March 2, 2018

GASPARILLA DISTANCE CLASSIC – February 24 & 25, 2018


My favorite race weekend had finally arrived.

Going into my third half marathon in a row, the excitement known as Gasparilla was upon us.  My only concern was how my knee would hold up on back-to-back days of races.  It had been fine the prior weeks, but you never know about these things.  Doug would be joining us again this year, but not the fabulous ladies of Ocala (we banned Doug from our room because of the snoring fiasco from last year).  They all had prior commitments, but I was sure it would just open up the floodgates to create new shenanigans.

We met Doug at the hotel around 3pm, and made our way over to the expo.  As silly as this may sound, I really look forward to seeing the race shirts for the first time at the expo (some races show them to you prior to the race weekend).  They are always spectacular, and did not disappoint again this year.  They went in a different direction for the challenge jackets, as it was more of a raincoat than a windbreaker.  Nevertheless, it was very nice, and the colors weren’t too shabby (orange and blue).  Spoiler alert…I did not buy a jacket from the official merchandise booth!  I know that’s shocking, but it looked too similar to last year’s model.  This is a very nice expo, and I was able to pick up some accessories.  We later got together with some of Doug’s friends at Fergs Live, which is right across the street from the hockey arena.  It was not crowded at all; I wish we knew about this place three years ago!  A quick stop back to the expo after dinner, and then lights-out for our big day tomorrow.


Here are the numbers for the weekend:
15K:       6,511
5K:         13,206
Half:       6,303
8K:         5,524
Total:     31,544 (around 400 less than last year).


The three of us signed up for the Amber Challenge, which is everything except the 8K.  We met up with Terri at the starting line, which was a very pleasant surprise.  She agreed to run with us during the 15K, but I don’t know that she truly knew what she had signed up for (I have become progressively slower, and then there are all the visits to the bushes).  Lindsey was going to run by herself, and Doug was sticking it out with me.  I made my first bathroom trip around two miles into the race; that was the last I saw of Terri  😎.  It was extremely hot and humid, but the conversation helped us overcome the “swap-like” conditions.  Around the four-mile mark, we decided to do 3 x 1 intervals.  This really helped, even though my knee was feeling great.

 
Once the race was over, Doug told us he would not be running in the 5K.  He had some free money at the Hard Rock Casino, and would be gambling instead.  Lindsey and I walked the 5K, which seemed to take forever.  We grabbed our celebratory beer at the “after party,” and went back to the hotel room to shower.

 

I received a message from Erin, whom I’ve known since fourth grade.  She lives in Tampa, and wanted to meet us for lunch.  This was very exciting, since I hadn’t seen her since our last high school reunion.  Once Doug came back, we met Erin and her daughter at Columbia Restaurant, which is a mainstay of Gasparilla race weekend.  It was fun catching up, and Erin’s daughter was truly a breath of fresh air.  We took them to the expo after lunch for some free ice cream samples, which really hit the spot.  After we said our goodbyes, it was now down to business…nap time!  We were out for a pretty long time, so we ate supper in the hotel.  The service was very slow, but they made amends by giving us our food for free.  Despite our extended slumber, we had no trouble falling asleep right away.


The half marathon started at 6am, which was an hour earlier than Saturday’s 15K.  This was a good idea, as it was going to be another scorcher.  Lindsey was going to run with me, and Doug wanted to try and stay with one of the pace groups.  Lindsey and I had predetermined that we would run 3 x 1 intervals, but she could take off anytime she became bored. Once the race started, I was pleasantly surprised how good I felt (it must have been the nap).  No pain at all in the knee, and bathroom breaks were at a minimum.  There was a good amount of cloud cover before the sun came up, but that was short-lived.  This may have been the hottest half marathon I’ve ever run (85° when all was said and done).  We saw fellow “Turtles” Amy, Debbie, and Liza early on, which is always an added bonus to any race.  Lindsey left me at the nine-mile mark, and I was dripping like a faucet.  As I crossed the finish line, I could not get over just how good my knee felt.  Not even one twinge the entire weekend.  Of course the medals were first-rate, as I mugged for as many photos as possible.  Walking over to the food area, we saw many runners holding bunches of bananas.  Our initial reaction was why so many?  It became obvious, as some very overzealous volunteers were giving them out that way.  I felt like a schnorrer walking back to the hotel.

   

This Gasparilla Distance Classic traditionally coincides with Disney Princess.  I would like to give that race a shot, but I can’t imagine giving up my annual trip to Tampa.  This is why I run!

 


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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

5 POINTS OF LIFE HALF MARATHON - February 18, 2018


“The second part of the “Reunion Tour” brings me back to my happy place.

It had been two years since I’ve participated in this race, since scheduling issues put it up against Gasparilla.  Lindsey had Jacqui’s wedding, so I would be making the drive up to Gainesville by myself. I booked a room at the Hilton University of Florida, which is literally right across the street from the start of the race.  I obviously could have stayed with Jen (or Paula and Bill), but I’ve never had a good enough excuse to stay at this hotel.  I drove up Saturday morning, and met Jen and Mary at the Hilton.  They were not running in the race, but they were kind enough to meet me for lunch.  The expo was right next door, so I picked up my race packet before we stuffed our faces.  I will say one thing about this event…the design for the shirts and the medals are always very creative.  Unfortunately, the quality is always lacking just a bit; it is understandable.  With 653 participants (77 for the marathon, and 653 for the half marathon), they would probably be financially hard-pressed to do something on a more grandiose scale; I am certainly not complaining.  We met Mary’s son and daughter-in-law at the restaurant (both very nice), and then did a bit of shopping at the UF Bookstore.  I picked up a sub at Publix for supper, and stayed in for a night of college basketball.  Not having to get up super early was certainly a benefit of staying so close.




Making my way to the starting line, I spotted Terri, Tara, and Debbie.  It was nice to see some familiar faces, even though we would not be running together (they are all faster than me).  The temperature was around 67°, which was about 8° warmer than originally predicted.  Once we started, I knew it was going to be a great event.  As I’ve mentioned countless times before in this blog, I LOVE THIS RACE!  Being in Gainesville really gets my adrenaline going, and the knee could not have felt better.  I was originally going to do intervals, but scrapped the mission way before the gun even sounded.  I really took the time to soak in each and every mile, which made those enormous hills more bearable.  I met some really nice folks along the way, and the crowd support was not bad at all.


It was all smiles crossing the finish line, and I’m always impressed with the post-race food assortment.  After a brief walk back to the hotel, I was on the road.  This is a first-class event (Ocala should take notes).


This was my eighth time participating in this race; I hope there are at least eight more opportunities.
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Friday, February 16, 2018

26.2 WITH DONNA HALF MARATHON - February 11. 2018


The “Reunion Tour” kicks off with half marathon #50.

Due to scheduling conflicts, I have not been able to participate in this race since 2012.  If you are a loyal follower of this blog, you know it was around 18° when the race started (and it never really warmed up) when I last ran in Jacksonville.  Once I signed up for this year’s event, it seemed as if everyone else followed suit.  I’m not saying I’m a trendsetter, but it was quite a coincidence.  Mary’s sister was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and she was running the full marathon in her honor.  She also formed two relay teams, so she would have lots of company throughout the race (both Pam and Elaine would be joining the party as well).  Since it was apparent that all of the cold weather had made its way out of Florida, we could expect some tropical conditions during the race.

I picked up Lindsey from work on Friday afternoon, and arrived at Cyndy and Al’s house around 8pm.  Elaine drive down from North Carolina, but she was staying too far away to meet up for dinner.  We ate at Bento (of course), and spent the rest of the evening watching the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.

Saturday morning, we met up with Pam, Elaine, Mary, Tara, Haidee, and the rest of the Turtles at the expo.  The race shirt was extremely nice (long sleeve), but the expo was sub-par. They had some official race merchandise, but only with the breast cancer ribbon; not the race name.  As we parted ways with the ladies, Cyndy and Al took us to the Mossfire Grill for lunch. The food was very good, and we were joined by Lindsey’s friend Jordan.  He works for the city of Jacksonville during many events, and the two of them have been friends since there were “tweens.”  We walked around one of the parks after that, ordered in pizza for supper, and went to bed before 11pm.


The race route had changed since the last time I participated.  The DONNA Full Marathon, Half Marathon and Marathon Relay events now start at ATP Tour Blvd. in Ponte Vedra Beach. The official race finish, and the finish of breast cancer, is at Mayo Clinic.  Al graciously volunteered to drop us off and pick us up for the event.  We got to the start around 6am, and immediately met up with everyone.  There were two unexpected surprises for this race: Jill came down from Georgia to participate, and Pam would be running the full with Mary.  Pam had not trained for a full marathon at all, but wanted to give Mary support, in what could only be described as a totally selfless gesture.


As 3,423 runners made their way to the start (722 for the full; 2,701 for the half), the temperature was now 67°.  The race started in waves, but it only took us about ten minutes to get going. If you care at all about four beautiful beach communities in Northeast Florida along historic coastal A1A, then this is the race for you.  The crowd support was fantastic, with many of the residents setting up tables outside of their homes.  They were offering everything from water, Gatorade, and Jell-O shots, to words of encouragement.  Despite the fact that my knee felt good (and I had lots of energy), I seemed to be running in slow motion.  Mary and her squad caught up to us two miles into the race, so we ran with them for the next few miles.  They were doing 2 x 1 intervals, and it allowed me to keep pace with everyone.  Once we got to the point where we split up (the full marathoners went straight and the half marathoners turned), Lindsey took off on her own.  I continued to run my sluggish pace, but was truly enjoying myself.  The last three miles were over the Intracoastal Waterway Bridge, and I ran the entire time (except the uphill parts).  I crossed the finish line very strong, and met up with Lindsey, Jordan, Cyndy, and Al for some post-race celebration.  In a move that had us all scratching our heads, there was free beer for everyone; you needed a drink ticket for water and soda.  After packing and showering, we had lunch at the Flying Iguana in Neptune Beach.


On the drive home, Elaine called us to report that Mary and Pam had finished the race.  They had to walk the last few miles, but no physical ailments were reported.  At the end of the day, smiling faces, pride, and no regrets.

The “Reunion Tour” continues next week, as this young man returns to the promised land.
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