It’s not the most pleasant experience to go from balmy 70+ degrees in Florida to a snot-freezing 9 degrees in Chicago. Remind me next year if I do the Zooma Women’s half to try to squeeze in a couple more days of bliss.
The trip down was fine – easy flight, nice rental car (Infinity G-something), easy check-in to the condo where we were staying. We stopped at the Expo at the Ritz to pick up our bib #’s and packets – the expo didn’t have many vendors so almost no shopping for me – just two wide running headbands. Probably for the best since I don’t really need anything.
Post-expo the three of us headed to ‘downtown’ Fernandina Beach for dinner. We chose Ciao so we could have a traditional Italian carbo load and it was completely slammed. I would have made reservations but they don’t take them for parties smaller than 8. We wound up waiting about an hour and getting pretty cranky – luckily the food came out fast once we ordered. I had a salad and the spring veggie fusilli with a couple of meatballs and it was delicious. We headed right back to the condo to go to bed. By this time the temperature had dropped quite a bit – probably to the mid 40’s – and the wind was howling. I had trouble sleeping all night because I was in a corner room and I could hear the wind rattling the windows – plus there were the standard pre-race jitters.
Woke up at 5:35am and was lucky enough to ‘take care of business’ right away – if you know what I mean and if you’re a runner I think you do. I had half a wheat bagel with low-fat crunchy peanut butter, a small glass of orange juice and a cup of coffee for breakfast and then we hit the road. Since we weren’t staying at the Ritz we weren’t really supposed to park there – Zooma had a lot near downtown where we were supposed to park and walk to the start area. After the race a shuttle would bring up back to the lot. I didn’t much care for this plan so I just drove to the Ritz and tipped the valet heavily – greasing the wheels usually gets you what you want. We took the shuttle from the Ritz to the start where it was pretty chilly. I was wearing exactly what I detailed in my last post plus a purple headband from the expo and a long-sleeved throwaway shirt from some race. I decided at the last minute to gear check the long-sleeved shirt and tough it out in my tank top. It was 50 degrees but the wind made it feel much colder. I wasn’t too concerned because I know I warm up quickly but almost everyone else at the start was dressed like it was Alaska – I’d hate to see how southern runners would deal with Chicago winters. The race started on time at 8am and here’s how the course broke down:
Mile 1 took us east through the tiny downtown and turned north to head out on a residential street. I felt OK and started to warm up around .75
Mile 2 went on a bridge over (I think) the Intercoastal Watereway – pretty much the only hill on the course and the only segment where we had to run into the wind
Miles 3-7 were in Fort Clinch State Park which was absolutely beautiful. Lots of trees with Spanish moss, gentle curves, good wind and sun shielding. I think by this time I was sort of in the middle of the pack and there were a few runners around me – I was able to pass a few ladies and I also got passed a few times. I felt pretty good here and was making up a bit of time, running about 9:00 miles or under.
Miles 7-12seemed like the longest straightaway ever. Coming out of Fort Clinch we headed south on Fletcher Ave. which runs just west of the ocean. It was a nice view and there are some spectacular homes on the beach. The wind had died down a bit by this point and what was left was a little tailwind – always a good thing. I was glad to be wearing a tank at this point because there was no shade and I was getting hot and sweaty. I was doing great with my new iPod mix of crappy techno and remixed top 40 hits until about mile 11 when I started to feel a little blister on one of my left toes and the lack of double digit mile training started to catch up with me. I knew if I started walking it would be all over so I just kept plugging away.
Mile 12-12.5 turned us slightly off Fletcher and towards the Ritz. I had managed to shift my left sock in my shoe so the blister wasn’t bothering me anymore and I was starting to get a tiny second wind.
Mile 12.5-13.1 I understand that it probably sounds great in the promotional material to say that you’ve got a beach finish, but in reality having to slog through 50 yards of soft sand to get to the packed sand kind of sucked. I was really tired by this point and trying to pick up my feet and not get sand in my shoes was tough. The packed sand was fine, but then we had to get back onto the soft sand for the last 75 yards to the finish chute. Somewhere there’s a video of my finish but I’m never going to watch it – it’s got to be less than triumphant. However, I did manage to finish in 2:01+. This is both gratifying and irritating. Gratifying in that I really didn’t train for this and the time was several minutes better than I expected. Irritating in that if I had just picked it up a tiny bit – like seconds per mile – I could have finished under 2 hours. It bodes well for the other two destination halfs I have coming up: El Paso in February and Green Bay on May. It does not bode so well for the F^3 half next weekend where I will probably need to crawl across the finish.
The rest of the weekend was spent getting massaged, eating fantastic seafood, shopping, napping and hanging around by the pool and beach. I did go for a 6 mile recovery run on Monday morning and I was so slow I was practically walking.
So that’s the wrap up – if you’re looking for a girl’s getaway weekend any of the Zooma races are a good bet – the Florida one was particularly nice because I was able to escape from the cold weather and get some sun.
Weekly run total for last week was 27 miles - 6 miles on Monday, 4 each on Tuesday and Wednesday and the half on Saturday.