Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Gulf Coast Half Marathon on Pensacola Beach

So here's the short version...

The start line was a mere 200-300 yards away from the entrance to the Hampton Inn and getting there was ridiculously easy.  This is a small race, with a cap of 1800 runners, so the start line experience was extremely laid back.   It started in the massive parking lot at the beach and folks were rolling in, creeping their cars past the porta-potty lines, just minutes before the start of the race.  It had the feel of a running club Sunday morning training run. 

Looking around, it was easy to pick out the military personnel - the area teems with military bases - participating in this race.  Overall, it was a younger crowd...but then, that's been the case more and more.  Or maybe it's just that I'm getting older.
Photo courtesy of Ray King
The national anthem was played, a cannon was fired, and off we went, heading out of the parking lot to Via de Luna going east into the sun.  It was already warm, in the high 70's at the start. 

Friend Ray routed himself to Pensacola from a lunch ride he attended in GA the day before and we chose a couple of places along the race route where he could watch for me to run by.  The first was near mile 2, and there he was.  I spotted him easily in his hi-vis shirt.  He snapped a picture and off I went, into the sand and sun and heat!

The first 4 or 5 miles wound us back and forth through some residential side streets before the route popped us out onto Via de Luna again.  Miles 5-10.5 were along a straight, shadeless stretch running alongside the beach, but dunes blocked our view and blocked the off-shore breeze for much of the way.  It most definitely had an ever-so-slight uphill grade to it, not much, but enough to be noticeable.
Mile 6

The turnaround was at approximately 7.5 miles.  Running along, we could see the head of the pack coming back our way.  The ultimate winner ran by and then, quite a long time later, the second place male passed by.  The winner had a huge lead!  Then I could see the "middle of the packers" as they passed me and, more discouragingly, I began to see back-of-the-packers go by, identifiable by the fact that many of them were walking at that point.  Yet here I was, still further back in the pack. 

Mile 7
I kept slogging along but when I got to the turnaround point, I began to lose steam.  Fortunately it was an ever-so-slight downhill all the way back to the turnoff at mile 10.5, so I tried to make the most of it.   The sun was relentless as it scorched my back and shoulders and when I reached the water station at mile 10 I began walking so that I could consume a Power Gel and drink some water-Gatorade mix.  Here the route wound us through another residential area on the north side of Via de Luna.  Ray found a nice shady spot at about mile 11, where he could see me twice as our route took us around a block and then back to that intersection before continuing west toward Via de Luna.

Once I took that walk break at the 10 mile water station, it was nearly impossible for me to break into a run again.  I had definitely run out of gas.  The best I could do at this point was walk at a fast pace, although when I spotted the official race photographer at the corner where we turned back onto Via de Luna I groaned to myself, as I didn't want him to catch an image of me walking.  I'd already waved off a photographer just past the mile 10 turn for that reason.  So I forced myself to start running again for his benefit and for the benefit of my pride.

Last mile!  It was a killer!  It was very warm at this point.  There had been absolutely no shade along this course.  Add to this the heat radiating off of the bumper-to-bumper traffic running right alongside us just on the other side of the traffic cones.  At this point I knew that I was not going to come in under 3 hours, so I stopped forcing myself to break into a run and just stuck with the fast walk pace.  Three hours has become my personal achievement barrier.  If I finish in less than 3 hours, I'm happy with my results.  When my pace gets consistently slower than a 3 hour completion time, then it's time to worry.

The finisher's medal is beyond cool!  The race organizers bill it as being "the most useful medal in America."  Probably so.

The Completion Map - April 2012

1 comment:

  1. The picture of Mile 6 looks like US 50 across Neveda. I get a kick out of your running posts.