Sunday, August 17, 2014

50th Annual Tijuana Flats Beach Run Race Report


Yesterday was my first ever beach run, in Jacksonville, on Jacksonville Beach.  It was also an evening run, so I had time to do my typical Saturday stuff beforehand. 

I was up and out of bed around 8am and was doing my grocery shopping by 10.  I had lunch by 1 (eggs with ham and cheese; toast) and then I tried to chill out a while.  It didn’t last long, as I could tell I was starting to freak out around 2pm.

I wanted to leave at 3, but that never happens (family is never ready to go until the last minute), so we were on the road by 3:20. 

Google said to go via Orange Park, but Garmin said to travel via I-10.  It didn’t seem to make any sense to travel NORTH to go South, so we went via Orange Park. Turned out this was a huge mistake – there was so much TRAFFIC!

We got to Jax Beach around 5:15 and I was surpirised how busy it was. I kept saying so, aloud, and Hubby asked me why I kept saying that. I told him that I’m used to smaller races (this WAS only a  5-mile race, after all) only having a few hundred runners. This race (including the Fun Run) had more than two THOUSAND runners.

As you can imagine, parking was scarce, but we got lucky about 6 blocks away next to a 7-Eleven.  We hauled ass to packet pickup and I was blindsided by the massive amounts of people that were there!  There was a HUGE line, practically all the way down to the beach. 

The line goes ALL the way back to the right!
They were in line for their timing chips. The slightly shorter line was for packet pickup.  We got in this line, and luckily, the volunteer gave me my shirt, my bib and my chip without having to get in the second line. 

The "shorter" line I'm in for packet pickup (pre-registration)

This is the race shirt - a neon yellow cottony dri-fit deal
However, there were no safety pins!  And, ironically, though I usually have some pinned to my skirt, I took them off the last time I washed the skirt.  So, I have no pins?

I immediately thought of this when I only had two pins!
I found one pin, buried in my water bottle pocket, and hubby stole a safety pin off a nearby tent, so I had only two pins to hold my bib. Gonna have to make it work!  I pinned on my bib while Hubby put the chip on my shoe and then we were off to the beach. 

This kid gives no f*cks. Just dug himself a hole and plopped in!
Hubby and the Kiddo stayed near the start line, while I headed to the back, closer to the water line (where the sand was packed, rather than loose). I kind of started moving closer to the Start Line – in self-corralling races, I’ve decided to NOT start in the back, to hedge my bets against being last.

Hard packed sand - much better than that loose stuff!
I’m still so far back, though, that I can’t hear what they are saying about the start. They said something about the chute, but I can’t tell what.

After the National Anthem was sung, the gun went off and it was time to go!  I had to shove into the starting chute – the mat didn’t go all the way across the beach (I guess that’s what they were saying about the start).  So, to the lady I cut in front of, I apologize profusely for saying “get out of my way”!  Hubby and the Kiddo were on the inland side of the start line, so they didn’t see me cross. 

The view from the Back of the Pack - it spread out very nicely!
My original plan (being all badass from Couch to 5k), was to run 1 mile, then walk 1 mile but the wind had a different idea for me!

After running only a quarter mile, I was exhausted!  I was on hard-packed sand, so that was different for my legs, but I didn’t think that was it.  I slowed to a walk and stayed that way until Mile 1. 

A large military group, running in cadence. I tried to keep up, but couldn't do so for long...
At Mile 1, I grabbed some water, then started running again.

Mile 1! 
OMG, why is it so HARD to run this mile?  I’ve run 2 miles during my training runs for the past few weeks now! I just don’t understand!

All along the beach, there are these small rivulets of water running from the shore to the water.  I tried really hard to avoid them, but within a mile or so, my feet were soaked. I gave up worrying about it. Life's too short not to splash in puddles, I guess.

I grabbed water at Mile 2 and rejoiced in the fact that I could walk now! But seriously, what the hell is up with this wind?  It’s crazy! Hubby told me later that the wind was blowing18 knots (or about 21mph)! No wonder it was so damn hard!

Mile 2! You can see lots of runners already coming back!
The turnaround was at mile 2.5 and finally – the hellacious wind was at my back, and it felt like an elephant had gotten OFF of my chest!

Turn Around! 
I ran again until Mile 3, then grabbed water and began walking again. I took a Gu Chomp, but I don’t think it did much for me at that point. 

Mile 3, and lots of pretty houses on the beach
At this point, the sun was beginning to set. I’d been hoping for some pretty sunset photos, but then I realzed (duh) that the sun doesn’t set on the Atlantic. However, there was this one guy who caught a shark while out fishing! (There were a lot of fishermen out, as well as kite-surfers).

Kite-surfers coming in for a landing
The guy in the water was releasing the small shark that he caught
Mile 4 now, I was thinking “I’m so close!” If I can do a 15mm, I will be able to finish at 1:25!  But I’m so out of energy, I don’t think it’s gonna happen. 

Mile 4 - Can I finish and beat my goal?
I banged out another ½ mile of running and finally I can see the finish line. I felt like I was so behind - I hadn't looked at my Garmin since like Mile 3. Hubby and the Kiddo are there. Hubby is trying to hold up fingers to show me what my time is and I give him the throat-slash sign of NO – I really thought I was over my 90 minutes, and I didn’t want to know what my time was.

I ran it in to the finish line and crossed, pausing my Garmin, letting the volunteer take the chip off my shoe.

Finally, I look at my Garmin and see such pretty numbers – 1:29:53!  I did it!  Under 90 minutes!! Goal!

This is why 4 pins are so important
Oh, but hold on to your hats, folks! My official time was 1:29:13!  According to the official results, I came in 728 out of 795, even though there were more than 1500 runners (some didn’t cross the start mat). 

Ah, that's better.
Unfortunately, by the time I came in, they had run out of medals (I knew about this possibility beforehand). 

Everyone was given this at the finish. I still didn't get a medal...
Eventually, I'll get a medal (this photo is from a guy named Earl on Facebook)
I got hugs from the family, as well as my finish line photo, and went over to grab some water. The guy there must have given me half a dozen – he must have wanted them gone.

We made our way back up to the pavilion where it was very busy. The line for free Tijuana Flats food was crazy-long, so I didn’t stick around for that.  I grabbed another water (I’m a fish!), but this was COLD water!  I double-checked to see if there were any medals, and was told that they would be in next week. 

We headed back to the car and I changed out of my sweaty, nasty clothes (yes, all modesty goes out the window after a run).  Then we had to figure out what to do for dinner.  I honestly wasn’t hungry at all; I just felt wiped out. We turned on the Garmin and checked to see what was nearby. I debated between Chik-fil-A, Wendy’s and McDonald’s. Wendy’s won, but I only got a 4pc nugget and a Coke Zero. Well, and some stolen fries from the Kiddo. Maybe I should’ve gotten a Frosty (for the sugar).

The drive home was eventful – what the hell, Jacksonville?! What is up with your crazy Saturday night traffic and all the Exit/Exit/Exit bullshit of your roads?!  It felt like we were on a racetrack!

We got home safe by 10:30, but was so hard for me to unwind – I was still so tensed up from the race and the driving, I was almost thrumming. I think I finally fell asleep around 11:30.

So, I thought this race was pretty good. They’ve been doing it for 50 years, so they have a lot of experience. Many of the issues they faced today (parking, crowds, medals) were due to the fact that they had never given out medals before, and their registration went up exponentially, and they weren’t prepared for that. All in all, I want to do this race again, especially if there’s medals again!  The kiddo said she wants to do the 1 mile Fun Run next year, too. So I guess I kind of HAVE to do this race again…