I didn’t plan for it to happen this way. Heck, I didn’t even check the calendar. I just picked these four races because I’ve run them before, and I knew I’d be running with friends. It just so happens that all four marathons take place in the span of five weeks. As intimidating as it sounds, I was actually excited about the challenge. Last year, I ran Donna and Gainesville back-to-back. I know I’ve trained harder this past year (535 more miles in 2011 than in 2012), but will my body hold out? Apparently, I’m the only one not really concerned about it.
Ocala was first up on the list. If you’ve read my past blogs about this race, you know that there are typically less than 500 participants that do both the full and the half combined. This year was no different, with a total of 494 runners (175 competing in the full). It is a beautiful race, taking you through the scenic horse country of Ocala. Elaine and her husband Joe entered the full, along with one of my new Turtle friends, Toni. Pam was going to do the half, as she does still not want to push too hard after her knee operation last year. Jen had volunteered to work the water station with the Ocala Turtles at mile marker 11, but would jump in and run with us the rest of the way when we got to her station.
I drove up early Saturday morning and met Jen at the Paddock Mall in Ocala. This was the location that the marathon would begin, and also where we went to pick up our race packets. There was no real “expo” to speak of, with just one vendor selling his wares (with no men’s clothes to be found). The race shirt was a long sleeve blue tech shirt, which I gave two thumbs up. I tried on the large, but it was too short. I asked to exchange it, but they told me that they had just enough shirts for the participants, and I would have to wait for tomorrow after the race for a potential exchange. I asked Toni (who was working the packet pickup table) to do the old switcheroo for me when the woman turned her head. Five minutes later, it was all good.
From there, it was a short trip to Gainesville and an enjoyable afternoon with Lindsey. I made my way back to Ocala to spend the night with Pam and her husband Joe. Elaine was making a nice pasta dinner for us, along with Jen and her husband Dan. Elaine lives in the same complex as Pam, so we made our way over via Joe’s golf cart. Elaine and her husband Joe had invited some other friends to join us, and it was a great evening, capped off by a marshmallow roast outside. We got back to Pam’s house around 10:15, and I went straight to bed. The race was starting at 7, and my plan was to get up around 4:45.
Unlike the past two years where the temperature was in the forties during the race, the high this year was going to be 79 degrees. When we got to the starting line, the temperature was 48 degrees. Knowing full well that it was going to heat up quickly, I opted not to wear my jacket. I had on compression sleeves under my short sleeve shirt, and would take them off once it warmed up. For some unknown reason, they start the half marathon 15 minutes after the full, so Pam would not be running with us. The course had changed a bit from last year, and it now entailed making two loops around the same areas. After I made my customary potty break in the beginning of the race, Elaine’s husband Joe and Toni decided to run ahead. I felt unusually sluggish for the first ten miles, but running alongside of Elaine certainly helped. By that time, the sun was now out in full force, and I was shvizing like a pig.
As we approached mile marker eleven, we could see the Ocala Turtles at the water station. To my total surprise, they had made signs for me and posted them on a tree. That made me feel special (not stop eating the paste special), since no one had done that for me before. Lisa, Robin, Terri, Sharon and Chuck were all there cheering us on, and Jen was now ready to join in on the run. Maybe it was the excitement of my friends going out of their way to make the signs for me, but I got a real energy rush, which would carry me for about the next 13 miles.
When I run with Elaine, we tend to stop to take pictures more often than usual, but that is what makes it so much fun to run with her. We saw a guy who was really laboring from a cramp in his leg, so I hooked him up with a packet of Biofreeze.
We passed the Turtles again at mile marker 19 during our second loop, and Jen decided to stop at this point. Her car was parked there, and it would just be an easier deal for her to get home. Joe met us at mile marker 23 (after already completing the race), and ran the rest of the way in with us. I really got tired during the last two miles, but finished as strong as I could. Our finishing time was not our best, but I did get some really great pictures.
I went back to Pam’s house after the race, took a shower, and joined her and Joe for lunch at Horse & Hounds Restaurant & Pub. I hit the road after that, and made it home around 9. It was another great weekend of running with great friends.
One down, three to go. Next up, the Miami ING Marathon.