Friday, January 19, 2018

OCALA HALF MARATHON - Junuary 14, 2018

Will somebody please turn up the heat!!!

I have run some pretty cold races before, but this South Florida boy was not expecting the frozen tundra that would be Ocala.  As Lindsey and I repeatedly checked the temperature up until the last minute, it was apparent that “Mr. Sun” was not going to throw us a bone.  I had plenty of cold weather stuff from previous races, but Lindsey had to make a last minute trip to the Under Armour outlet store before we hit the road.

We arrived at Jen’s house around 2pm on Saturday.  I had just purchased a new convertible, but the top was definitely not coming down on this trip.  The three of us made our way to the Paddock Mall to pick up our race packets (Jen was not running), and I’m sorry to say the race shirts were as unspectacular as ever.  They dropped the full marathon this year, and went with the 5K, 10K, and 15K instead.  With only around 40 runners doing the full last year, this seemed like a good strategic move.  We met Pam and Joe for an early supper, and made a pit stop at Kmart to pick up a throwaway sweatshirt.

As I woke up on Sunday morning, I was hoping for a last minute warm front to swoop into North Florida; as expected, the temperature was 32 degrees.  Lindsey and I were decked out in full cold weather regalia, including gloves.  Driving to the starting line, the heat and seat warmers were at full blast.  We sat in the car up until the very start of the race, and it didn’t see so frigid when we got out.  We saw Lisa and Chuck at the starting line, as well as some other familiar faces…unless they were covered up by scarves.

This race seems to get smaller and smaller every year, and 2018 would be no exception.  141 runners entered this event, which was around 40 runners less than last year.  With no wind at all, and bright blue skies, I wasn’t very cold.  In fact, I took my throwaway sweatshirt off after three miles.  The cold temperature did mean one thing though…you guessed it…way more trips to the bushes.  We did not do intervals, but we did walk up most of the hills.  My knee felt very good, and only started to bother me right at the end.  This race is very quiet, but very nice scenery through horse country.  There was a guy who thought it would be funny to say “we can’t let the guy with the brace get ahead of us” on two separate occasions.  I told him that it wasn’t funny the first time he said it, so he pretty much shut up after that.

Crossing the finish line, it was difficult to tell just how much it had warmed up.  Once I changed into a dry shirt, I was able to answer that question in two words…not much.  The medals were not bad, and there was plenty of food during the awards ceremony.  After a shower back at Jen’s house, the three of us spent the day in Dunnellen.  We ate at Swampy’s Bar & Grille, and Jen gave us a tour of Rainbow Springs Park.  It was very pretty, and I highly recommend a visit.  With no school or work on Monday, we made a very short drive to the Magic Kingdom.  We got there when the gates opened, and stayed until 2:30.  It was a little chilly, with the temperature around 56 degrees.


 Although the Ocala Half Marathon is pretty much a no-frills race, I suggest giving it a try.  This was my sixth time competing, and it doesn’t really conflict with any other big races.

Besides…how could you pass up running in arctic conditions?