Three down, one more to go!
After a much needed week off from the marathon circuit, it was now time for 26.2 With Donna in Jacksonville. Unfortunately, I actually had a cause for this year’s race. My first cousin Ricki was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and I planned to run in her honor. Lots of folks have told me how touched they were by this gesture on my part, but I’m thinking it was the least I could do. I was running with Jen and Pam, and this would be Pam's first full marathon since knee surgery last year.I left early Friday morning and made a pit stop to pick up Jen at her house in Belleview. From there, up to Jacksonville. Pam would take her own car, since she planned on staying over Sunday night, and we would head home after the race. We met up around 3:30 at the Palms Retro Hotel. Pam’s running friends from the Marathon Maniacs and the Running of the Ears (ROTE) were staying there as well. With only ten rooms in total, you could say that we had taken over the place. At this point, the forecast for the race was lows in the mid-forties and highs in mid-sixties. Little did we know how quickly and how drastically that was going to change.
After we checked in, we decided to go to the expo. It wasn’t very crowded, since most of the runners typically go on Saturday. I picked up a pink running shirt to wear for the race, and reacquainted myself with my friend from the iFitness booth.
From there, we met up with the Marathon Maniacs and ROTE at Taps Bar and Grill for dinner. It was at this point where we saw that it may be just a wee bit colder than expected for the race. Make that MUCH colder! It was now expected to dip into the mid-twenties on Saturday night, with a race time start of around thirty degrees. Clearly, I needed to do some last minute shopping.
After breakfast Saturday morning, we took a tour of the Anheuser-Busch Factory. It was interesting, and the beer didn’t suck either. From there, we took a short trip to the Premium Outlet Mall in St. Augustine. I picked up a pair of throwaway sweat pants for seven dollars (thank you Bealls), and even found something to give Glenda for Valentine’s Day in the Nike Outlet store. We ate an early dinner at Al’s Pizza, sang happy birthday to one of our running buddies staying at the hotel, and then off to bed.
I woke up at 3 am on Sunday morning determined not to let the cold weather get the best of me. I put on a short sleeve compression shirt, followed by a long sleeve compression shirt, followed by the pink running shirt I picked up at the expo, topped off with a throwaway sweatshirt. On the bottom half, I was rocking my compression sleeves on the calves and thighs, shorts and sweatpants. I took one step outside and…BA-BAM!!! It was freaking cold! We left the hotel at 4:45 and caught the shuttle bus to the race village. We had close to a 90 minute wait until the race started, and everyone tried to huddle up around the portable gas generators to keep warm. Pam hooked me up with a pair of throwaway gloves and even had hand warmers to put inside the gloves.
It was finally time for the race to begin. There would be a total of 6,356 finishers, with 1,793 competing in the full marathon (4,563 would complete the half). This was clearly the coldest race I have ever participated in, but it wasn’t too bad once we started running. I of course had to take my traditional bathroom breaks early and often, but no issues like those encountered in the Miami Marathon (thank goodness). I was wearing the hoodie from my sweatshirt over my hat, and didn’t take it off until we were a good 15 miles into the race. If you’ve read my post from last year’s race, you know that we run on the beach from mile marker five to mile marker eight. It was magnificent last year; it was torture this year. Just picture a scenic beach run…not a cloud in the sky…30 degree temperature…and wind gusts up to 20 miles per hour blowing in your face (not to mention sand). Pam’s hat kept blowing off her head, and she collected an eyeful of sand for her troubles. Once off the beach, it was a little easier to run, but it was still cold. This is a beautiful race, with fantastic crowd support. Around the 14 mile mark, we ran past a house where the owners created their personal version of a winter wonderland.
This was where the race really became interesting. We caught up with an older guy who was running the race in a pink skirt. This was not as unusual as it sounds, since it is a race where all of the proceeds are used to help cure breast cancer. What was unusual was that the guy was running with a beer in his hand! Now Pam and I have been known to take a few sips of a brewsky during a race, but running with a longneck in hand? Not only that, the dude was picking up brews from spectators along the way (I saw him drink seven, not counting how many he may have consumed during the first 14 miles of the race). He told us that he had been in a nasty car accident and this was his first race back. I chalked up the beer drinking during the race to a possible celebration of life, sine he told us how happy he was to be looking down at the pavement, rather than being flat on his back looking up at the sky. Then out of nowhere, he proceeded to tell us a story about a three-way he once had with his best friend and his girlfriend. TMI!!! He now officially transformed himself from running/drinking buddy to running/creepy guy! It was pretty awkward after that, but I must admit he was very entertaining. We tried our best to lose him, but he wanted to stay with us and tell more creepy stories.
It was around the 19 mile mark that I finally felt comfortable taking off my sweatshirt. The temperature was still in the thirties, but the sun was out and we now had the wind at our backs. I felt great physically, but was very happy to finally cross the finish line and put this race behind me.
The final stop in the quartet takes me to Gainesville next week for the 5 Points of Life Marathon.
KEEP TRACK OF MY RUNNING ON