Sunday, November 16, 2014

St. Augustine Half Marathon Race Report

Today was the day!!  I was going to run a half marathon that I didn't pay for, and didn't train for until the end of September!  That's right, it's time for the St Augustine Half Marathon!!!

We booked a room at Regency Inns and Suites for the night before - using, it cost about $65.  It was a nice hotel (for the price) and I would certainly stay again. The fact that it had queen beds was a HUGE plus!

We did packet pickup the night before, and as I walking back through the Expo (yeah, it's tiny and sad), I saw that they had pint glasses.  Something told me that I had to buy one. It was $5 plus tax. 

Our packet was in a reusable grocery bag
My first race pint glass!  I'm going to put it on my desk at work to hold mints
We headed out to dinner (Cracker Barrel again, like in 2012), then back to the hotel for the night. 

We got to the Visitor's Center parking garage around 5am and got a pretty good spot, then made our way over to the Castillo, where the race was to start.  The only problem? When we got there, I didn't see any sort of start or finish line!!  Oh, no, what if I was wrong?

Luckily, no hyperventilating was required - the starting line was just further down, towards the bridge. Whew!   

Halfway through the parking lot of the Castillo, well, my body said POTTY!!!! YOU MUST POTTY NOW!!! I looked around but didn't see any anywhere, so I told the family that I was going to trek back to the Visitor's Center to potty there.  After about 30 seconds, though, the Kiddo came running to me and told me that there were potties closer to the start line. Oh, thank goodness!  I wasn't even sure if the Visitor's Center would be open this early!

So, I headed over to the potties - there were only 4! - and waited.  Being the person I am, I took adavantage of the beautiful morning light to take photos.

Blurry, artsy photo of the Porta-Pottie line
Sunrise on the bay, with runners
I love this one - Lamppost with Moon during Sunrise
I'm probably 30th in line at the potties
Once the potty part was over, I could see that they were putting up the Finish Line, so I took a quick photo of that, then returned to the family.

We're so early the Start Line hasn't been assembled!
We took some pre-race photos and I tried to calm my nerves. This was only my 4th half-marathon, and only my second REAL one, if you don't count Disney races, so I still get nervous.

My head looks like a thumb
We made our way closer to the start line, and took another photo with the beautiful bay in the background. It was almost time!!!!

My head was cold, so I pulled my Bondi down.

Wow, I'm glad I pottied when I did!  At 15 minutes to race time, this line is insane!

Pee fast!
Finally, it was time to go!!!  I lined up near the back, but not the back-back, and after the National Anthem, we were off!

The family of course was there to see me go (the Kiddo wearing my jacket - it was chilly that morning!).

I'm ready for my close-up!
The sunrise was gorgeous as we made our way towards the Bridge of Lions.

Beautiful start to the race
The sunrise was even MORE beautiful ON the Bridge of Lions.

Can I just sit here and watch the sunrise?
Once over the bridge, there were a few encouraging signs:

You Are Beating All the People Behind You

Go fast! Your Legs Will Forgive You!
By Mile 1, as you can see, the crowds had thinned out considerably, and I was already lonely. I just settled in to my 2 minute/1 minute intervals, determined to not be last, and to enjoy the race along the way. If it's not FUN, why do it in the first place??

Yay! First mile down!
We passed the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, which had this super croc on the back of a truck.  I thought that was cool to see!

St. Augustine Alligator Farm Sign
With the sun fully up at this point, I made it to Mile 2.  It was kind of boring in this area. We were near the St. Augustine Amphitheater.

Mile 2!
By Mile 3, I'd lost all sense of directions and had no clue where I was.  I'm actually not all that familiar with the non-touristy parts of St. Augustine.

Mile 3!  Only 10 miles to go!
The route was well-marked, with big signs that tell you where to turn.  We were now turning on to State Road 312. There is a very big bridge on this road. And we get to cross it. Twice.

This would be a confusing intersection with no signs
But for now, there is about 2 more miles before we get there. At this point, we were also beginning to see runners returning from the other side of the bridge. I like when that happens, because I can watch their form, or see if they are struggling with something, or, (and this makes me happy) if they WALK!   

Still a fair amount of runners ahead of me
Also, I think it was at this point that I realized that I had been pacing this girl for a while.  She'd run, then I'd run; she'd walk, then I'd walk. I stayed very close behind her for a very long time.

Her name is Cheryl, and she finished about 5 minutes after I did

It's not the best photo, but I tried to get a shot of the thermometer - it was 56º at 9am.  I love Florida winters!

56º in Florida?  Yes, please!
We've made it to Mile 4!  More and more runners have finished the bridge and are coming back.

Hello, sweaty, half-naked men!
Alright, here we go guys - that's the bridge up there.  I gave myself permission to walk the bride, both ways, so even though there is a huge incline coming up, I can take a 'break,' so to speak.

Crap, there's a bridge on this route?!?
I made it to the top!!  Here's Mile 5! Now, to enjoy the downhill, part one.

What a nice, straight photo
Just a few feet from the end of the bridge is the turn-around spot. It's just cruel. That's all it is.

The other side of the road had a shopping center... Can I just go to the mall?
So, I turned around.  Besides the closeup of my cool nails, this photo shows that there are people behind me!! Yay, I'm not last!

Look! People!
Time for some fuel.  Honey Stingers are the best - they are pretty natural, have a great flavor, but most of all, have a great TEXTURE that doesn't make me want to vomit.

Honey Stingers - made with actual HONEY!
Hello, Mile 6.  Let's kick this bridge's ass!

Mile 6 - Almost halfway there!
Bridge, Part Two is done! I'm on my way back.

Officially more than halfway there....
I am over halfway done!!!  At this point, it's very quiet out here, and on the opposite side of the road, clean up crews have been picking up the cones.  Luckily, Pedro Menendez High School's water stop had just the thing to pick ME up - little notes that they handed out to runners. 

Keep Running
Sadly, most of these notes were thrown onto the ground, but I really needed them, so I tucked them safely into my Nathan water bottle's pocket and kept going.

Stay Strong
We turned right, back on to A1A and headed for the last 1/2 of the race.

Thanks for the sign!
We turned on to Pope Road, then a small road called Santandler Street.  We passed an Old Town Trolley and I waved at it - I don't know if anyone was on it, but if there was, HI!

Hey, take me to St. George Street!
Santandler led me into Anastasia State Park.  I ran first through the RV Park section, which was kind of weird and traffic wasn't paying much attention to us. This van almost ran me over at one point, near Mile 9 (I asked the same thing - hey, where'd Mile 8 go?? -- I guess I didn't take a photo of it... according to the map it was before turning on to A1A)

Mile 9 and Van of Oblivion
But these awesome Pirate wenches made up for the cooky traffic!  They were so loud and cheerful and encouraging, it really put a pep in my step.  Mile 9's are always hard for me. If you remember, I almost got pulled from the course on my first half-marathon at Mile 9.  I busted my ass to up my pace and keep going, but Mile 9 (in any race) has become what I call The Motherfucker Mile.  It's hard as hell, and I kick it's ass every single time.

Raise your hands if you're tired of handing out water!
I was looking forward to this part of the course the most - Anastasia Road is a small road that runs parallel to the ocean. There's no developments or houses or anything. 
That tiny sign said "Wildlife Crossing" and had a photo of a turtle - seemed fitting

It's beautiful.

While I could be running on the road, if I wanted to, the sidewalk was wide and fairly even (as even as asphalt was), so I stayed on the sidewalk. Still pacing my gal, too.

Go Cheryl Go!
There's the water! 

I wish there had been more of this view, instead of just scrubland
And there's Mile 10!! I did it again - Motherfucker Mile went DOWN!

Mile 10!!!  Only a 5k to go!
At some point, I passed my gal, so she was pacing me now.  I exited the park and took a hard right into some neighborhoods.

It was good this sign was here - I really thought we were going to finish the road
I passed these two ladies who were very uplifting as well. I don't know if they were waiting for someone behind me, or if they were just a little 2-person cheering squad for everyone, but they put a smile on my face, too.

You're right, Random Stranger! I CAN do it!
I walked past the Lighthouse Museum.

One day, I'll climb that lighthouse
Hey, this guy and his girlfriend were BEHIND me at the bridge! How did they catch up to me? And why is he walking backwards?

He was kind of creepy. If he was in front of me, he'd walk backwards and look at me.
Oh, dear God - I've made it to Mile 11. I have only 2 miles to go!!  That's only like 30 minutes!  I'm so done...

Turn around, weirdo! But thanks for wearing shorts over those tights...

Out of the neighborhoods, we are back on A1A, heading towards the Bridge of Lions.  I'm so done. And I know I said that already. I'm really just so done.

"Smile! Remember.... you PAID $$ to do this" - Um, actually?...
"You're Beating All the People Behind You" - What like all 5 of them?
Mile 12!!! Oh, elation... I'm so close I can feel it.  I'm so done I just want to drop.  Let's kick this bridge's butt and get to the finish line!!

Who puts a bridge at Mile 12 of a freakin' Half Marathon?
Hello, beautiful downhill part of the bridge! The sky is blue, the weather is great, I feel like ass - who could ask for a better finish to a race?

Downhill!! Downhill!!
There was a Start line here 3 hours ago.  Now there's just 4 extremely stinky Potties and a traffic jam on the other side honking at me, encouraging me to kick ass.

Hmm, is that the horses or the potties?

And because my camera is a joke, I got THIS close to the finish line before the battery died, so I didn't get to take a photo of my approach to the finish line.

I love the approach to the finish line, because you kind of sneak up on it, then there is a long straightaway before turning in to the chute. And the chute itself is awesome - it's long and lined with lots of flags with a fun "castle" type covering on the actual finish line.

I entered the chute and found my family on the side. But then I saw the clock.  I mouthed the words HOLY SHIT to them.  I couldn't believe what I saw.  I was totally crying - like fat-girl, ugly-crying - before I even crossed the finish line!

My official time was 3:36:55 - that is a PR of  almost EIGHTEEN MINUTES!!!! 

So much ass was kicked on this race, I can't even...

Anyway, once I stopped freaking out about my PR, I took my finish line photos and we headed out.  I stopped at the Columbia booth for some paella and soda, though. Yum.

Okay, so I changed into flops before my photo.
I changed clothes in the car and then we headed out for lunch. As you can imagine, I was pretty starving by then!

We went to Harry's Seafood Bar and Grill (I had a coupon, of course).  Our server was great, and when I told him that I'd just run the half-marathon, he made sure to keep me hydrated!

So wet and icy and quenching!
We had a booth in the side room, near a wall of windows that bordered a small garden on one side. Our view out the front window was pretty good! 

Beautiful Bridge of Lions
While we waited for our lunch, Hubby and the Kiddo told me about their morning, and what they did while I was gone. They walked around Cordova Street a bit, and found a bunch of cool places. A bagel shop, a popsicle store, and this place that sells milkshakes and waffles.  I perused the interesting menu.  This is what they wanted for dessert.

Milkshake Menu
Waffle Menu - I wish I got a waffle
Celebratory Meal with Medal photo. 

Harry's bread and butter is the stuff dreams are made of!
Hubby and The Kiddo both got cheeseburgers. 

I'm hungry right now and that burger looks awesome
I got fried shrimp and fries.  The shrimp were kind of overcooked, and they didn't have the same kind of fries that my local Harry's uses. Overall my meal was Meh, but that could also be due to the fact that my tummy is weird after races.

Oh NOES! I need more WATER!
After eating, it was time to walk the crap out my muscles.  We passed a place called "Fudge Buckets," which I thought was a disgustingly funny name for an ice cream shop. 

They serve their fudge in small plastic cups, like buckets
I saw this sign on the wall of a shop and had to take a photo -- seems legit, right?  Is it extra for happy endings?

Who goes in for a minute? 
We found Cousteau's Waffle & Milkshake Bar and headed in. 

Fun signage
I got a vanilla milkshake, with about five pounds of whipped cream on top. Hubby and the Kiddo immediately made fun of me for getting a 'boring' flavor.

Screw you - vanilla comes from orchids, which are anything BUT boring!
Hubby and the Kiddo each got a chocolate shake, sans whipped cream. 

All that empty space, that could be filled with fluffy whipped cream.... sigh.
Now so full I can hardly waddle, we continued to walk around.  

I have no idea where we are at this point, but we could buy swords and cigars, apparently
Finally, we made it to our destination - Savannah Sweets. I love this place - we found the original store a long time ago, on our first trip to Savannah, and then when the Kiddo was in 4th grade, we saw that there was one on St. George Street, so now, whenever we go to either place, we get sweets!

Brace yourself - lots of photos of lots of sweets!

Chocolate Covered Marshmallows ($3.50) or Specialty Marshmallows ($4.50)
Jumbo Marshmallow Pops ($1.95)

Chocolate Covered Oreos, Chocolate Covered Ritz, Chocolate Covered Cherries, Chocolate Candy Cups
Chocolate Covered Pretzel Rods ($3.25) or Specialty Covered Pretzel Rods ($3.95)
Chocolate Lollipops or Chocolate Gator Lollipops
Fudge as far as the eye can see!
Chocolate Covered Pretzels or Specialty Covered Pretzels; Chocolate squares
Truffles (75¢ each)
Nut Clusters
Chocolate Nut Caramel Clusters
Wow! They still sell candy cigarettes... I thought those were basically illegal
But THIS is why I come here.  Maple fudge with NO NUTS!!  I don't like nuts in the majority of my foods (I think Snickers and Baby Ruth are the only candy I like nuts in), and it is extremely hard to find no-nut maple anything!  Although, for fudge this good, I'd suck off the nuts (yeah, you have a dirty mind...)

Are you guys hearing angels sing too? Or is that just me? Just me? Okay.
We ended up with a full pound of maple fudge and an M&M-covered Oreo for the Kiddo.  Sadly, we left the tasty-smelling shop to continue walking. 

Butter knife for scale - this is 1/2 pound.
Mini M&M Chocolate-Covered Oreo
Okay - so I'm kind of ashamed to admit this, what with being a Disney Psycho and all, but....

I've never had a Dole Whip.


I want to. But I don't want to wait in those atrocious lines at Aloha Isle at the Magic Kingdom.

But, just my luck, there was a small stand on St. George Street giving out samples!!  I finally got to try a Dole Whip!

It was pretty good, I'll admit.  If lines are short next time I go to Disney, I'd get one.

I'm no longer a Dole Whip virgin!
Reaching the end of St. George Street, I had to get one more photo of me and my awesome medal!

Don't lean on this thing - it'll tip over.
We made our way through the old gates and headed towards the car. 

Get out of my shot, random tourists
 It had been a very long day - it was past 5 when we got back to the car - and we had a two-hour drive home.

Thank you so much to Miami Tri Events for putting on a GREAT race, and for picking me as your Slowest Runner Winner!!! 

I would love to do this race again, but only if I can register early - they have pretty hefty (to me) race fees, but it's only around $60 if you get in early (or $40 if you are lucky enough to register at another race's expo!)

Location: St. Augustine, FL
Host: Miami Tri Event
Race Fee: FREE (Regularly costs up to $100)
Packet Pickup: Easy. Expo leaves a LOT to be desired.
Parking: Easy. Free if you arrive before a certain time at the Visitor's Center
Support:Wonderful. They have a contest every year for the best water stop.
After Party: If there was one, it was mostly gone by the time I got in.  Columbia Restaurant was there with paella and canned sodas. There were some Expo folks still selling things. But not an actual "party"

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