Monday, April 8, 2013

Gulf Coast Half Marathon Series - Pensacola Beach Race Recap April 7, 2013

I can't tell you what a perfect morning for running it turned out to be yesterday in sunny Pensacola Beach, FL!

Despite some issues with being able to sleep, no thanks to a loud bar located approximately 150 feet away from my hotel room, I had a wonderfully energetic run.

The sun was shining, the light breeze coming out of the east was refreshing and the view while running could not be beat. While I have completed one half marathon before, the Disney Princess event about 6 weeks ago, I considered this race to be my first real half marathon running experience. Before anyone gets their panties in a wad, let me elaborate. I'm not trying to diminish the experience of the 20,000 ladies and 2,000 men who completed the Disney Princess, but let's face it, it's a different experience with the many picture stops and course crowding. I went into the Princess knowing it was for fun and not to set a PR or anything.

Not that I could set a PR in this race with the atrocious case of runner's knee I've been battling since the Princess. Believe it or not, the Princess didn't give me the pesky injury, but rather I developed it on the first run I attempted after the Princess. Go figure - 5 months of perfectly fine training with no issues, then I run the race where I didn't push it at all, went 5 days without running and then BAM! Injured. Still, I am one stubborn, determined woman and it didn't stop me from signing up for the half in Pensacola Beach.

The gun sounded at 7am sharp and I, along with 1400 of my new running BFF's, set off for the duration. It took me 5, yes F-I-V-E, miles to find my pace with the runner's knee, but I found it. It turns out that interval running isn't the worst thing that could happen to me as a runner. In fact - it helped me to run better during my run intervals. HUH! Who knew?! I found my sweet spot at walking the first .1 mile beginning at mile 5 and then running the remaining .9 miles.  Between miles 2 and 5, I played around with the ratio...started with .25/.75, then .20/.80, then .15/.85 before settling in at .10/.90.  Once I got into this groove, I really started picking up some speed after mile 7.

I loved this course! A flat out-and-back with a bit of weaving through some side streets with beautiful beach homes. It was just so easy. No hills, just 2 areas where the street banked around a curve and we ran unevenly for less than 1/20th of a mile. It was a beautiful day with a light wind, upper 50s at the gun time, though once we made the turn back after the split and the wind was at our backs, I started to sweat some.

I did have to stop and take some photos of the beautiful views while running. It could not be beat! I took this photo near the 7.2 time split.

Entertainment along the course was pretty good for a locally produced race. Each water station was run by some sort of organization - looked like military, neighborhood groups, charity groups, etc. - and many of them dressed up/decorated their booths as a theme, provided speakers with music blasting and some even offered up food. I had brought my own fuel, 3 GU gels and 2 sport beans. I ended up using my peanut butter GU at mile 4. Didn't feel like I needed it and I usually take my energy around mile 6 only, but I felt better taking it early on. I took my chocolate GU just before mile 9 and then after the finish took 1 pack of sport beans. 

It was around mile 9 that we returned to civilization as from mile 5 on, we'd pretty well been out on the beach road with no one else around except fellow runners, but somewhere around mile 10 or 11, we took a turn toward the bay and had more gorgeous scenery to run against.

I only started getting fatigued around mile 12, but with just 1.1 to go, I talked myself into pushing it to the end in hopes that I'd get there by 2:30 (I didn't). Pretty soon, my middle toe on my right foot was screaming at me and I had to pull off the course to adjust my shoe for the degree of swelling my foot was doing. Thankfully this quickly alleviated the problem or I'd have been walking the last 1.1 miles.

Overall, I finished around the 2:32 mark. My PB is 2:24 and that was in a practice run. I can't complain about my time at all given that I had to do some amount of walking in order to preserve my knee strength given the degree of runner's knee I've been experiencing lately. I am very, very pleased with my time. My GPS time was 2:28 and I hit 13.1 by GPS way before I even hit the 13 mile marker on the race course. This is supposed to be a certified course, so I am guessing my GPS was off, though strangely it had been exactly right until mile 8.

Once I crossed the finish line, I got my medal and downed a bottle of water. The medal is great! It's a bottle opener.

Unfortunately, we missed the after party at Flounders because my husband was very sick from a fish sandwich he'd eaten at Sidelines the night before. I headed back to the hotel to take a shower and we hit the long road home so he could go rest and be comfortable.

Overall, I can't say enough good things about this race! I had a blast running this route, enjoying the beautiful scenery, running through the hoses and sprinklers the residents of Pensacola Beach had set up between miles 10 and 12. I wouldn't hesitate to run this race again next year, except my experience with the spring breakers will probably keep me away. Miraculously, I'd run this race on 3 hours of broken sleep between the loud bar and the crazy drunk, obnoxious spring breakers. If it were earlier or later in the year, I would be back in a heartbeat. I only wish I'd discovered this race series back in January as I'd have loved to have ran the Gulf Shores race and the Mandeville race later in the year to go for the trifecta with a special race medal.

Split times:
1m: 10:38
2m: 11:54
3m: 11:59
4m 11:30
5m: 12:00
6m: 11:23
7m: 11:39
8m: 11:23
9m: 10:42
10m: 10:56
11m: 10:49
12m: 10:54
13m: 11:06

I ran this race in loving memory of my grandmother, who was taken from us 2 years ago on the date of this race, 4/7/11.