Sunday, October 4, 2015

Hoo-Rah! Jacksonville Marine Corps Half Marathon 2015 Race Report

When my alarm went off at 2:45 this morning, I was not ready to get up!  I never sleep well before a race, so I think I was going to be doing this on about 4 hours of sleep.

I finally dragged my ass out of bed 20 minutes later.  Curled up in my robe, I debated scrambled eggs or cereal, but both options made me feel nauseated. I tried to eat string cheese, but after 10 minutes, had only eaten ½ the piece.  This nausea is a new wrinkle to my race mornings, and I don’t like it. Luckily, I was able to at least drink some OJ. 

After doing my hair (I think I did a braid in the back), I woke up the Hubby then went and got dressed.

Miraculously, we actually were ON TIME and got out the door by 4am.  It was chilly outside, but not chilly enough for me to think about going back inside for tights.

Our drive was pretty uneventful, except for a stupid stray dog outside of Waldo, who had a death wish. I think I missed hitting him by only a few inches. Certainly woke me up!

Due to construction (although, is there ever NOT construction in Jax?), we missed the exit we needed, so we came around via Alt-1. This turned out to be a GREAT shortcut (even though it was further away) and I’ll have to remember that for whenever we need to go to EverBank Field in the future.

We made good time and arrived around 5:30.  We parked and I went to packet pickup, then to the bathroom.  I love that there are REAL bathrooms, at Metropolitan Park, that we can use.  Since we got there so early, there was no line, and I could even get a pic! (Yeah, I’m weird, but I like to know details, so here’s some details).

Dirty Industrial Potty Pic, just for my readers!
6 or 7 stalls in this bathroom (Photo taken around 5:45am)

I came back to the car and attempted to eat some peanut butter.  My tummy was still unhappy, it was still hard to actually eat the food – it had no taste, it was literally hard to swallow. So weird.

Anyway, I eventually geared up and put on my bib. It was still chilly, with the stronger winds kicking up, so I grabbed my sweater from the backseat to put on.

I hit the bathroom again, then made my way to my ‘corral’ while Hubby made his way to the start line. 

This is the potty line at 6:45. A lot different an hour later!!!
I say ‘corral,’ but it was really just a flag; 14 Minute Mile was the slowest pace listed, then just “Walker.”  Sigh. 

Geez, it must suck to be SO SLOW! Assholes.
Hey, losers! You start back here!
If you squint, you may be able to see the Start Line
I look a lot more cheerful than I feel
At this point, I realized that I still had my sweater on!  I peeled it off and hoped that I would be able to toss it to Hubby when I passed him!

I lined up at the back of the 14 Minute Mile flag, but in front of the Walker flag.  There was some chatting by the Race Director guy, who mentioned that some dude had had a heart attack on the course a few years ago, but was running it again this year.  I guess it was supposed to inspire, but it really just rammed home my shortcomings of training.

Because of my new work schedule, my training plan died months ago.  My longest run was only 8 miles, back in September.  Yeah, I know I’ve run half-marathons before, and I can barrel through them, but I wasn’t feeling super-confident about this one.  So, what was my plan to finish upright?  I wanted to do 2/1 intervals, like I did in St. Augustine last year.  I planned to alternate fuel at every even-numbered mile marker:  GU at Miles 4, 8, 10 and 12; Chews at Miles 2 and 6.  Also, I gave myself permission to completely walk Miles 6 (or 7) through Mile 8, then walk the Riverwalk Spiral.  I had high hopes when signing up to PR this race (my St Augustine time was 3:36:55), or at least beat my 2014 Celebration time of 3:54:41.  

I got everything locked and loaded (Garmin, Nike, etc) and the singer began to perform the National Anthem. About ¼ of the way through, though, her mic cut out.  Little by little, over the course of a few lines of the song, the entire crowd began to sing, getting louder and louder. It was so awesome, I shed a tear or two. I love my anthem, and I love my country! It was truly moving to hear how many others did too.

The race started with a literal cannon boom (I wonder how Hubby handled that?!) and we were off!

Everyone had to go through the Start Arch, so there was a bottleneck, trying to get through it. I gave my hubby my sweater (which I’d long since taken off while chilling in my ‘corral’) and began running down the road. 

Weirdly, there was a water stop set up at only .5 Mile.  I didn’t see anyone taking water – but I sure hope it’s still there at mile 12.6!

Spoiler Alert - they were there 4 hours later; they didn't seem happy about it
As with pretty much every race I’ve ever run in Jax, we passed the Maxwell House factory. I don’t drink coffee (it’s bitter and nasty), but damn if I don’t love the SMELL! 

The best part of waking up... oh
For the first mile, these 4 bitches kept walking 4 across blocking people. They’d interval and get in front of someone (usually me), then slow to a walk with no warning. EXTREMELY unprofessional.

I was passed by a group of what may have been high school ROTC kids (they looked pretty young).  The caller was doing a comedic cadence, saying things like “Turn around and go right back,” or “I forgot to eat breakfast,” weirdly random stuff.  The kids were into it though!

I made it to Mile 1 and soon the half-marathon folks (me) split from the 5k folks (annoying 4-way broads) at the entrance to the Main Street Bridge. Bye bye, 5k wussies!

Yay MIle 1! Boo, shitty pace time
See ya, losers!
Go block someone else's way!
I crossed the Main Street bridge, easy peasy – I’ve done this bridge a bunch of times now! After coming down the bridge, we pulled a hairpin turn headed towards Mile 2.

Mile 2 was the beginning of the Acosta Bridge. The most hellacious bridge I’ve ever been on (and I’ve been on the Hart Bridge…)

Mile 2 - Sucked up a Gu before the hell started
Up, up and away!

It seemed to go up forever. I was seriously having palpitations, couldn’t catch my breath, it was terrible! (I did some research after the race – while the Acosta and the Main Street bridges are the same distance {.31 and .32 miles, respectively}, the Main Street Bridge is only 35 feet above the water; Acosta is over twice that, at 81 feet above the water – no wonder it felt like one hell of a climb!)

It. Just. Keeps. GOING!
Finally, after what seemed like 20 minutes, DOWNhill!

Hello, Riverwalk Bridge thing. See you in a few hours.
Ah, the sweet sight of a decline
More, more! Go down!
Okay, what the hell? It’s going UP again?  Who’s disgusting joke is this?  It went up and down and banked and generally just made Mile 2 the worst mile ever.

Who in the hell planned this road?
Finally, the hell is over, and I’ve made it to Riverside.  Here’s a picture of a really ugly shopping center. Just thought you should know it was ugly. 

Who planned this?  Way too many colors!
Mile 3 was in front of Yates YMCA. I wondered if there were people inside on treadmills watching us and thinking we were stupid.  While on a treadmill. Inside. Going nowhere. 

It's fun to stay at the ....
Also, I love these vintage octagonal cement sidewalks. They remind me of my Aunt Ginger’s house here in Jax we visited when I was younger. I was too young to know WHERE in Jax she lived, but I remember it was a beautiful 3-story house with a tiny backyard, near a corner store that sold small boxes of Fererra Pan candies (Jawbusters, Boston Baked Peanuts, etc.) near her house. This was more than 3 decades ago.  But the sidewalks made me wistful.

Anyway, I reminisced my way to Mile 4.

Less than 10 miles to go!  (Ate some Honey Stinger chews, too)

And then Mile 5.  As you can see, I’m pretty alone back here by now. I don’t think I’ve been so alone so soon in a half-marathon before. 

What are you guys running from?
I was greeted by a bunch of Edible Arrangements employees dressed as fruit handing out water, and runners were coming back towards me.

No banana for scale
I passed Mile 6, which was where I had originally given myself permission to walk until Mile 7 or Mile 8.

Sucked on some Gu

I crossed over the 10k mat.  I wasn’t super happy with the time, but it’s not terrible for me.

I’m falling way behind now, since I’m only walking. 

Wait for me!
There was a cute “Go Mommy!” sign tacked up to a telephone pole.  Kind of bummed me out because my family, while supportive, isn’t hang-up-a-sign supportive, or hold-up-a-sign supportive.  They go, they cheer for me, but (mostly hubby) they aren’t all that into it. 

I passed an awesome group of older homeowners handing out frozen mandarin orange slices and ice pops. I bet you can guess which one I took!
Yum, purple flavored!
I sucked my way to Mile 7, and was finally on the back side of this race. We were headed back to the finish line.

I passed another great family spectating – they had 3 cutie kiddos (maybe 3 to 8 years old) giving high fives, fist bumps and Tootsie Rolls. I graciously accepted all three!

It's just me and Big Blue up there
I decided to stop running and walk to Mile 8.

The fruity folks were gone, but there was a random guy out playing the bongos.  Not really encouraging (he was playing bad reggae music – but then again, is there any other kind?).

At this point, there is no one except Big Blue as far as the eye can see.

You sir, suck.
Officially the furthest length I've gone in my training (Also, more HS Chews)
Hello?  Anybody there
I ran past some sort of Tri running group – they were packing up their stuff, but all of them stopped to cheer me on while I came through.  Very nice.

Thank you, running group whose name I can't remember!
Okay, folks, I’ve made it to Mile 9. What do we call this mile?  That’s right – the Motherfucker Mile. The mile you want to quit. The mile that takes forever. The mile that can make or break you. It will not break me. Ever.

The Motherfucker Mile™
I can see Big Blue Shirt way up ahead, past the trees… I’m really behind. 

All by myself... don't wanna be... all by myself
I passed a 7-Eleven, and I really just wanted to pull in for a Slurpee. I was ready to quit, but the Motherfucker Mile won’t beat me…

Someone go get me some NACHOS!
At this point, though, we were told to get up on the sidewalk (which is Race Code for, “Damn, slow ass, you’re holding up traffic with your fat ass trundling down the street in a stupid skirt.” Okay, maybe that’s not what it means, but it sure is what I hear.)  Screw you guys for only keeping the roads open until 9:30AM!  Seriously, in 10 minutes, all the runners would have been at the turn to the Riverwalk and off the roads.  It was a huge morale sucker.

Fuck you, sidewalk
I caught up to Big Blue Shirt on the sidewalk after the water stop and we ended up walking together for a few miles (I remember thinking that I would come to regret the decision to slow down, and I was right). She was worried about getting lost.  We chatted about random bullshit and I completely missed snapping a pic of Mile 10.

Caught ya!  I should've kept going
Mile 11 was at the beginning of the Riverwalk ramp, so we powered up, then walked down.

It's deceptively painful
We passed this gorgeous yacht, docked near Jacksonville Landing. I found out later that it was owned by Shahid Kahn, owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars.  He’s a Pakistani who moved to the US in 1967 to go to school and became a US citizen in 1991.  He’s worth $5.6 billion, and the 360th wealthiest person in the world (the richest Pakistani, by net worth!)  I’d say he’s a pretty good definition of “The American Dream.”

Pictures do NOT do it justice - it was gorgeous!
Big Blue's friend, who had already finished, came back to find her. She suggested we do 30/30 intervals, saying “you can do anything for 30 seconds!” I kept up for a few, then waved them on (I don’t think the friend was sad to see me do that).

Bitch, I can beat your ass for 30 seconds.
After they disappeared into the horizon, I put my ear bud back in (I’d taken it out while we were chatting) and recommenced my 2/1 intervals – I can do this!!

I made it to Mile 12 and realized that I would not beat my St Augustine time.  OH, who’m I kidding?  I knew this race was shit from the top of that Acosta Bridge. I just want to finish at this point.  

Wait... if I run 1.1 miles in FOUR MINUTES I can totally PR this race!
A cop pulled me over – so to speak – to tell me that after the A. Phillip Randolph road, I would have to walk in the grass so I wasn’t in the way of traffic. Geeee, such a walker-friendly course ya got here.

Nothing says run like walking in soft grass
I made it to Mile 13, and I might just beat my Celeb time!  I quickened my pace as much as I could.

FOUR MINUTES - I can do this! The turn is right up there!!!
I came in to Metro Park when that herd of high school ROTC kids were carrying out cases of bananas and water (did you leave me any?).  They didn’t get out of the way, either! Seriously, I had to go around them. I also didn’t see a sign of which way to go until I was right near the back of a tank (no, seriously, a fucking TANK).  I turned right and saw the finish line.

Wow, so crowds. Much support.

Feels crowded
I crossed the finish line with hardly any cheering – there were about 10 people there, including hubby, but I got my medal and my cool pint glass. I didn’t see anyone handing out water. 

Ooh-Rah, I finished!
Mani shot!
Great pint glass
I got my hug from hubby, and since it certainly wasn’t busy, hung around the finish line to change my shoes and take my finish line photo. 

Lady on the left (I'm thinking) - "See that girl, she's a badass. AND she did it in a skirt!"
I told him about the race. I found Big Blue and congratulated her.  We walked around the sad-ass after party (though, as you can see from the Drone Video, it was a lot busier earlier) and I headed to the ladies’ room (again, every stall empty) to change clothes. 

My official time was 3:49:59, so I did beat my Celebration 2014 time.  My 10k split time was 1:46:45.  I beat a whopping THREE people and came in 139th out of 140 in my age group. 

(When I got home, I photo-stalked Big Blue and found out her name was Claire Willis, and she came in a few minutes before me at 3:45:29)

Speed Banana did photos, but for me at the back, they were NOWHERE to be found on the course. I got a big whopping FOUR photos at the finish line and they all look exactly the same.  

After changing, we grabbed some lunch and just headed home. I was tired and in a grumpy mood.  I did take a few pics of the swag I got in my packet.
Hand lanyard with keychain and carabiner -I use this for my work keys
Whistle with strobe light on a lanyard (I attached to my backpack for work safety)
Collapsible water bottle
So, what did I think of this race?  Would I do it again?  Nope.  This race was not fun.  I didn’t feel like I was part of a running community, coming together to have a fun time.  1st Place Sports puts on some great races, but this wasn’t one of them for me. Much of it is because I am slow – no spectators, no photographers, no after-party; all these things were gone by the time I got to where they had been. Who wants to sit at a finish line for 4 hours to cheer on some fat chick in a skirt?  All the real runners had already finished. I was pissed that I’d been shoved to sidewalks and grass. I was mad that no one at the finish line congratulated me (besides my hubby) and there wasn’t even any water.  I was just over it. I was extra-pissed because I was so looking forward to an awesome race that benefited military causes, and the race wasn’t awesome. It was hard, and the payoff wasn’t worth it. I’ll find something different next year.

Location: Jacksonville FL
Host: 1st Place Sports
Race Fee: $40
Packet Pickup: Available at 5 locations in Jax or P/U on Race Day
Parking: Ample, in lots J and D, across the street from Metro Park (at Stadium)
Support: (on-course) Water stations, I don’t remember any sports drink or fuel
After Party: WHAT after party?  90% of the tents AND people were gone when I got there