Sunday morning brought another early wake-up call- 3:45 am! Matthew, Kelly (former roomie and all around best friend!), and I got ready and made our way down to the hotel lobby for breakfast. Our hotel shuttle was leaving at 5:00 am for the beachfront and we wanted to grab some food before we went downtown.
|View of the lobby from the second floor.|
They had a great spread- bagels, danish, bananas and coffee! I can't tell you how awesome it was to be able to enjoy a nice, hot cup of coffee with real cream! It helps get me moving on race day.
We ate and then got onto our coach bus- we were expecting a van, but there turned out to be a lot of people running the race staying at our hotel. The fact that it was a coach bus will come in handy later :-)
After just a 20 minute ride, we were dropped off about 15 blocks from the start- we were also only about 4 blocks from the finish. The driver said he'd be picking up from that same spot after the races and until 1 pm.
It was colder than we thought it was going to be- just around 40 degrees at 6 am. However, the wind was KILLER! Matthew and I wore shorts, t-shirts, and arm sleeves so we were pretty chilly. I had brought some garbage bags so we put them on and started making our way to the start line.
Really, it was super cold! I suggested we take refuge in a hotel lobby because we had almost an hour to wait before the start. We found a Holiday Inn about four blocks from the start and found a couch to relax on before the race. We also were able to meet up with Christine again from We Run Disney. It really was awesome being able to see her as often as we were this weekend.
|Kelly, me, and Christine trying to stay warm!|
Around 6:40 we decided to head out to the start line. On the way, I got to see another good friend from graduate school and fellow runner- David. We didn't get any pictures together though I think because we were all frozen! Uncharacteristic for me, I barely took any pictures before or during the race. Partly because I was trying to PR and partly because it was just too damn cold to try and mess with my camera!
We hit up the port-a-potties and then headed near our corrals. Christine was in two, Matthew in five, Kelly in six and I was in eight. After standing for a few minutes, I had to go to the bathroom again. That coffee was running right through me! And of course, the lines were super long- so I ran behind a bush that was in between the rows of potties and a building. It was the perfect spot! No one saw me- this is how I know I'm a real runner. I can pee anywhere :-)
|Matthew and I pre-race.|
Right at 7:00 am, the national anthem was sung and the first corral was off! There seemed to be a little bit more spacing between corrals for this race than there was for the 8k. As my corral moved toward the starting line, I started to feel like I had to go to the bathroom yet again! As we were all moving forward, we passed the port-a-potties and there were no lines. I jumped in one more time and was so glad I did. Now I could focus on the race.
Soon enough, it was our turn to run. We started the first part of the course running north on residential streets. Not even two miles into the race, there were unofficial "Beer Stops" with people pouring runners beer from a keg. It was insane! I think I counted at least 10 different groups handing out beer. It was the day before St. Patrick's Day after all :-)
|First few miles of the course in residential neighborhoods.|
|Beer station right around mile four.|
Miles four through six were on a country road surrounded by trees/forest. This was probably my most favorite part of the course. It was quiet and flat and I was able to just focus on running the race. There were water/Gatorade stations about every mile and a half. Live bands and radio DJ's were also on the course and provided a welcome distraction.
Just after mile six, we turned into a military base. I knew from Christine's tips that it would be super windy through here. And boy was she right! Miles seven and eight were spent with me trying to find someone taller than me to try and stay behind so they could cut down on some of the wind. However there were some absolutely breathtaking views of the ocean and the sunrise in this section. I managed to snag one picture of the lighthouses because I just couldn't pass up this beautiful shot.
|One of the very few pictures I took on course.|
Once we were leaving the base, around mile nine, I took my arm sleeves off. I knew that the windiest part of the course was over- thanks again, Christine! We started to head back towards the beach and boardwalk. Along these last few miles, the spectators and volunteers really turned it up a notch. There were people handing out green cupcakes, starburst candies, full cans of beer, twizzlers, candy bars, etc. There was also a guy with a box of Kleenex which was actually very helpful! At the last water stop, the volunteers were actually handing out Oreo cookies! It really was a cool thing to see :-)
At last, we were turning onto the boardwalk for the last half mile. I have to say, running along the boardwalk with the ocean roaring on my left and hundreds of people cheering on my right was definitely one of the coolest moments I've had racing.
|Map of the course with my splits, courtesy of Map My Run.|
I made it to the finish, got my HUGE medal, a finisher's hat, and a finisher's beach towel! They really treat you well at J & A races! As many of you know, I had a huge PR at this race. I was so excited I walked right past the Dolphin Challenge medals and onto the beach to meet up with Kelly and Matthew. I realized it soon after and had to walk back up to the finisher chute to get my extra medal.
We headed to the giant sand sculpture to grab some pictures and then into the tent to get some beer and warm up. Though it was close to 50 degrees, that wind was just brutal and cut right through you. We ate some cookies, drank some beer, saw Christine again, and then decided to head back to our bus.
|Matthew, me, and Kelly- cold but happy!|
We walked the few blocks to the finish with our beach towels wrapped around us to try and stay warm. As we were huddled together on the street corner, we saw our bus driver across the street waving to us- he had parked the bus around the corner. We ran towards the heated bus, and finally got out of the awful wind. The best part about the coach bus- our own bathroom to use after the race! I mean, this was almost like a Disney race with the awesome transportation we were able to utilize.
If I could give this race more than an A++, I would. Flat course, really loud and awesome spectators, amazing race swag, and phenomenal after-party. J & A races will absolutely be part of our future racing schedule. This race was organized from the minute we registered- we had no major issues like we usually do with races of this size. Overall, great race- can't wait for next year!
|Love the bling from this race!|
What makes a race great for you? Is it your performance, the location, the medal? I'd love to hear about your favorite races- please share in the comments :-)
Happy running, friends!