I've never been one to get behind Valentine's Day. Yes, it's great to be romantic, but why do we need a highly commercialized holiday (keeping the florist in business?) for an excuse to be romantic? What's even worse is Valentine's Day probably causes more grief, arguments and downright depression (amongst the lonely) than what it's worth. With that being said...
I had the best Valentine's Day of my life last weekend. No pressure. No expectations. Just fun. In fact, Jenny and I have decided that from now on we will always run a race on the dreaded V-day.
This year was a last minute race. To help a marathon relay team Jenny and I decided to fill in for a couple of absentee members of a team in need; Team Lickety Splits.
Gainesville's Five Points of Life Marathon (a USATF Certified Boston Qualifier race) that consists of a half marathon, full marathon, marathon relay and a 5k. The health expo and packet pickup the day before was small and FUN. The race T-shirts are technical shirts (huge thumbs up there) and the overall coordination of the race including post race finisher area was excellent! It might go down as one of my favorite races to date.
Here's my recap!
Jenny and a bunch of her friends are running the Run with Donna Half Marathon in Jacksonville Beach next weekend and I'm still officially "taking a break" before beginning Seattle Marathon training so our goal for this race was simple: To Have FUN! No expectations of time or place. We meet up with our teammates at the expo and didn't even discuss strategy. It seems that everyone is just out to have fun, which equals perfect. The only drawback to this is being left wondering just how fast your teammates will be and when they will be showing up to hand off the microchip to you at the transition area. I've learned to never judge a runner based on appearance so we leave the expo not knowing what to expect. All Jenny and I know is I'm running miles 15-20 and I'll hand off to her to finish miles 20-26.2. She's the anchor and I'm the chain!
There are 19 relay teams with 5 members on each team. This is the first year for relay teams as part of the marathon. To prepare for this race Jenny and I did the following:
1.) prepare a light pasta dish with mushrooms and red sauce and eat a red bell pepper with humus all mixed down with a $3.99 bottle of pinot grigio labeled Promiscuous.
2.) Attend a private "martini party" at a country club with a "Prom" any decade dress code (yes, TallguySurfing wore his vintage 1996 Tuxedo) until the wee hours of the morning.
3.) Carb load with a mixture of Appletinis, Pomegranatinis and Cosmos until we felt and, unfortunately for viewers, acted like Rockstars!
4.) Made sure all of our muscles were in good racing order by dancing for extending periods of time.
5.) After approximately 3 or 4 hours of sleep (we can't actually remember) get up at 5:45 a.m. to head to the race starting area.
6.) and in retrospect I would not recommend this race preparation unless you plan to Chase Cows.
By the way, the temperature at this time of day is about 28 degrees. Seriously people? Have I mentioned that I live in Florida?!?!? As Jenny and I pull up to the parking area later than hell, we see the race start and hundreds of runners tear down 34th Street and Hull Road. Ironically, the race even started late at 7:10 a.m. instead of 7 a.m.
This is when I realized how glad I was NOT to be one of the first runners. At least it'll warm up just a bit before it's my turn. We find a race coordinator and make our way to the limo service that's busy transporting all the relay team members to their transition points. I load up with all the 4th leg runners. It's a full on party bus limo with two "stripper-like" poles in the aisle, flashing lights and dance music blaring. My head is pounding, my hands and feet are freezing numb and my body reminds me of the wonderful job I did preparing for this race last night. All 19 runners are sitting inside in silence. I think we're all thinking the same thing of not really knowing what to think.
Once we're dropped off at the transition point there is some confusion about "drop bags." The race volunteer on the limo does not know what will happen to our bags if we leave them at the transition point that is currently manned by nobody. The only concrete option she has for us is to leave our bags on the limo dropping us off so they can be transported back to the start/finish line. It's still below freezing and by my best estimate the elite runners leading the race probably won't be here for at least 30 minutes. Leaving my jacket right now sounds like suicide so a few fellow relay runners and I devise the brilliant plan of reminding our teammate's to bring our bags back for us as we're getting our chips handed off to us. Problem solved!
Now the waiting begins. On the limo nobody was talking. I try to be social and end up talking to a few runners. One girl ran the Disney Half Marathon last month so we compared notes on how we both froze our asses off in those races. Another runner is actually a physician at the hospital and knows Jenny. We have a friendly conversation as the lead runner approaches. He's moving at a strong clip and refuses water or Gatorade. He just blasts right through the aid station. What's even more amazing is he's got a minute and a half on the second and third position runners at mile 15. He would end up winning the race with a time of 2:25:34.3.
All in all I estimate waiting for about 45 minutes at the transition area. During this time I lose feeling in my toes, but manage to keep the rest of my body warm. The physician, who gets his hand off about 10 minutes before me, removed his long pants before leaving and said while he feels cold he believes he'll warm up at his 7-minute intended pace. This sparks an idea in my head... a leap of faith or an experience gaining event in my growing running education. It hasn't occurred to me to take off my Nike DryFit long pants and run the race in the shorts I'm wearing underneath. My personal time goal is anything under 43-minutes and as long as I run at that pace I think I'll warm up quickly. A few runners and I guess that it's warmed up to mid-30s and I nervously remove my pants and reveal my chicken legs. Yes, it's cold, very COLD, but almost catching me off guard I notice my teammate approaching mile 15. She's looking strong and this energy charges me even more as I'm stoked there are still at least half the relay people still waiting. She arrives and I quickly ask her to bring my bag back, grab the microchip and I'm off!
The volunteers are clapping and yelling as I blow through the aid station and head east toward downtown. There are no other runners around me, but I'm energized! I have to tell myself to slow it down a bit after a half mile or so. The course map shows some hills in the first two miles or so of my leg and then a lot of downhill action the last half. The air is really cold and actually hurting my lungs. I look at my watch and it reads 9-minutes. I'm somewhere in downtown Gainesville, but I haven't been paying attention. I never saw a mile-16 sign, but I know I've gone at least a mile. Finally I spot the mile 17 sign and check my watch - 14-minutes. Kickass! I'm feeling great. And bonus... I can feel my toes again!
I start to pass a few runners. I actually slow down behind the first one because I feel bad about passing him and decide to think about whether I should say anything to him as I pass. He is running the full marathon and I don't want him to feel bad when I blow past him near the infamous 18-mile mark. What should I say? "Excuse me, don't mind me, I'm just a lowly marathon relay runner," or "It's OK I'm a relay runner, but I ran the full Disney last month and I feel your pain dude... you're doing great by the way... tallyho?"
I decide not to say anything, not to make eye-contact or anything. I just pretend they aren't there and run on by minding my own business. Thinking back I probably should have said some kind of words of encouragement. Oh well, I've got a relay to run!
Right around mile 18 when I'm expecting a lot of downhill running I run around a slow curve only to see a giant hill in front of me. "What the eff?" This is not a big deal, but when you are expecting to go downhill and you see a giant uphill half mile in front of you it kind of blows your mind. I had to laugh about how angry I'd be if I was running the full marathon. "Congratulations! You've made it to mile 18! Here's a wonderful hill for you!"
The last two miles are up and down with several large hills. I feel them slowing me down and I try and make up time as I run down each hill, but going down just sucks for me. It actually hurts my legs more than going up. I need to run more bridges! What's worse is last night's martini-drinking carb loading debauchery seems to be catching up with me. For some strange reason my body has decided it will be useful to burp... A LOT. At one point it seems like I'm burping every other step. I'm sure things could be way worse in the world of runners and embarrassing body "functions" but this is very odd and amusing to me.
Burp burp burp....
It's a good thing that nobody is within 100-yards of me. If it were Disney I'd surely be getting a few stares by other runners hearing my burping. Stupid martinis!
Soon I see the mile-20 marker. Then I see Jenny waiting for me. Then I dramatically drop the microchip as I try and undo the strap a few hundred feet before the transition area, which I'm sure was some cheap entertainment for all the relay runners freezing their butts off to watch while waiting. As I make it to Jenny I stop my watch, hand her the chip and manage to tell her good luck, remember not to over do it, fun run is the goal and give her a kiss! She tears off down Williston Road to finish out the remaining 6.2 miles.
After at least a 30 minute wait the limo service picks up about 10 of us relay runners and takes us to the finish line where we arrive just as Jenny is crossing the finish line.
Team Lickety Splits official time: 3:39:34.1
Not to shabby!
My 5-mile leg time (according to my watch as there were no split timers): 40:15
I was so stoked to have beat my goal. I think without the hills and burping I probably could have sustained that early 7-minute pace, but that's for a different race. I'm glad I ran it in short pants as opposed to the long pants and I felt strong the entire time. I also absolutely LOVE my Brooks Adrenaline shoes!
This was a great race for a great cause. Everything was run smoothly and the only minor confusion in the relay portion was the deal with the drop bags and having to wait an extending amount of time in the cold after running for a shuttle back to the finish/start line. I'm sure they'll get the kinks worked out of the relay next year. Now if only Mother Nature would warm up Florida a bit, provide a good swell and longer days. I am way over due for a surfing post!