Participating in the Space Coast Marathon was kind of a surreal experience for me. The event itself was top notch and excellent! The course was fine and the weather was great. Despite all of those things, it was one of those races that I just ended up getting through somehow.
I had wanted to complete either the half or full marathon of this race since I had learned about it nearly two years ago when I started my fitness and weight loss journey. My family had moved from North Carolina to Florida back in the mid 1980s when I was around 9 or 10 years old. We lived right next to the race start area of Cocoa in the nearby community of Rockledge. At that point in my life, I was obsessed with all things space and space exploration. I even wanted to be an astronaut when asked the “what do you want to be when you grow up?” questions. Our time in Florida was short lived though and my dad took another job after only a year and a half that moved us to Northeast Louisiana. So part of this race theme tapped into some old childhood memories.
Also, before heading to Florida for the race, we ended up making our way there by way of our old hometown of Winton, North Carolina to see my great aunt for the first time in a long time. My last two or three training runs were through my first memories of life in little rural Northeastern North Carolina. I ran by the first house I remember and the last house we occupied, and even my old home church of Holly Springs Baptist Church in nearby Cofield. Technologically, we were in a dead zone for our smartphones so I was at a disadvantage as far as my usual app on my dietary side of things and paid the price in terms of weight gain over the Thanksgiving holiday.
We left Thanksgiving day en route to Florida with a midway stop in Savannah, Georgia for the night. My family and I had two objectives for the weekend, Universal Studios for Harry Potter for my mom and the boys to enjoy and then my race on Sunday. Because of traffic and different issues, we were unable to make it to Universal for the day after Thanksgiving (which would have probably been more ideal).
So I ended up traipsing through a theme park the day before my marathon to the tune of 6.5 miles of walking. Traveling back from the theme park to our hotel meant my head didn’t hit the pillow until about 10 or 11 pm that night.
The race was providing two hotel shuttles for race day pickup (one around 4:15 am and the other at 5 am). After all of the prior day’s activity, I woke up to the clock reading 4:35 am so I had missed the first shuttle and only had one more opportunity before I would be figuring out the hassle of driving myself to the race site.
I rushed to throw on my attire and gear (ended up forgetting my ipod and headphones) and catch the 5 am shuttle bus. My rush also meant that I missed out on an actual breakfast that morning or the wonderful elixir of some hot coffee (you runners out there know why that is important).
I arrived at the race site and joined in the lines for morning prerace porta-potty visit. I was hoping I would avoid the situation of having to stop midrace like I did at 10 miles during Rock n’ Roll New Orleans (SPOILER: I didn’t and ended up having to make use of one of the aid station porta-potties about mile 8.5). After taking care of business, I proceeded to simplify down to what I was actually taking on course and leave my bag at the bag check. I noticed a couple of messages from my friend and until recently co-worker, Sheau Yun Choo. I messaged her back and tried to find her to say hi but in the large crowd of people I figured it wasn’t going to happen that we would meet up. I checked my phone with my bag and proceeded to the staging area for the full marathon.
I had figured I would try one of the Jeff Galloway (run/walk) method pace groups for this race to see if I could break the 5 hour mark for this marathon (my baseline and first marathon was a 5:34:47). However, I never did see a flag for a 4:30 pace group for Galloway method so I ended up starting with the straight up 4:30 pace group (steady rate running). I did find Sheau Yun just before settling in for the start of the race and the candids photographer got a shot of us.
The start was really awesome with the countdown of a shuttle launch video on a jumbotron. And we were off…
For the first 5K to 10K I stuck with my 4:30 pace group occasionally dropping back and moving forward. I had a few conversations and joked around with some of my fellow runners. There was the inevitable first “hill” and the associated comments of how this was supposed to be a flat course (I have come to learn that flat is a very relative term). I met these couple of guys that seemed to be local and this one young lady that was from the UK. Our conversation started with them saying how they weren’t really racing today, just getting it done unlike “that guy over there” as they motioned toward me. They said something about how I was trying to Boston qualify (shyeah, right!) and I responded that I was but for the 80 year old female division! That got a bit of a laugh and apparently other folks heard it because another runner made reference to it about mile 17 later on.
After the 10K mark, I began to have some gastro-intestinal distress that suggested I was going to need a porta-potty soon. I kept hoping that I was just misreading it but at mile 8.5 I finally relented and stopped for a quick 5 minute potty break. By the time I got out my pace group was nowhere in sight (not that I could have caught them if they had been). So I kept trying to keep my pace up in a range so that I might keep the sub-5 dream alive but that restroom break had eat up a lot of my banked time. As I approached the half marathon point, I could tell that sub-5 was not looking in the cards for today as I passed the half at a 2:27.
The mental game was slipping as a perfect storm of some outer right foot pain (along the pinky toe) began to hit and I was coming up on a first “wall” as far as energy around mile 15 or 16… Because of the toe, I had resorted to walking for a bit and not my racewalking runthruhistory 5K walking either but around a 14 or 15 minute mile walk. I knew at that point sub-5 was out of the question and if I didn’t get out of this funk soon, I wouldn’t even PR this race based on some quick mental math.
Around mile 17 the toe started cooperating and I decided to employ my own Galloway method to keep my pace up without dwelling on it. I resorted to three minutes of running give or take with one minute of rest/walking give or take and walking through the aid stations. By mile 20, I began to realize that a new PR was within my reach. When I was about a 1/2 mile out from the turnaround for the southern end of the course, I saw Sheau Yun. That was a mixed bag of encouraging and discouraging as I had started quite a few pace groups ahead of her and now she was ahead, but it was nice to see a familiar face on the course. I also had to take stock that she is a very experienced marathoner doing destination races all over the country and here I was not too far off from her towards the end of the race.
As I came into the last 5K’s worth of the race it was a constant mental fight to keep going after a new PR even though it would be within the
“who cares” finishing places on the day (who am I kidding, that’s where most of my races end up finishing anyway). I just wanted to get done and sooner rather than later so I kept pushing even though my Garmin had me done at about a 1/3 of a mile before the course markings. I was glad to be done but more glad that this race was a victory over the funk when conditions aren’t ideal going into the race itself but still salvaging a milestone for yourself in the midst of it.
Weight at time of race: 243 lbs.
Source: Garmin Connect