Everglades Half Marathon Recap

Run with the gators, they said.

It would be fun, they said.

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And what fun we had!


Race morning started a little rocky: Chris and I got caught in traffic and ended up at the parking lot around 5:45am. The race started at 6:30am, and we still needed to be shuttled over. I was in a bit of a panic (I HATE being late to anything), but soon calmed down upon the sight of Team Shenanigans hanging out in the parking lot at Shark Valley Visitor’s Center.

And coffee. Life is always better with coffee.img_2506-1

 

We took a pre-race group shot and set out to the starting area, which was about half a mile away from the visitor’s center. Upon walking there, we discovered that the start was going to be delayed due to medics having not arrived.

 

So we waited. And waited. Took some pictures. Saw a gator. Watched the sun rise. Got squished together with other runners on the paved walking route that would serve as the race course. (It was like Cone Alley width-wise, to be honest. However, with the Vacation Races series, the cap for runners is less than 2,000 on most courses. With Everglades being an inaugural, the cap was at 1,000. It made it REALLY nice to maneuver during the race.)

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Got to pace Chris for his first 13.1!

Finally, slightly after 7:00am, we started! Woohoo!

Vacation Races is walker-friendly, with an 18:00 mpm pace. We weren’t overly concerned about our time, and I just wanted to make sure Chris finished his first half marathon in one piece. Our team ran :30/:30 intervals the entire way, and just took in the scenery along this super duper flat course. One note about the course: there are no trees. No trees = no shade. After the morning clouds broke away, it got super sunny for a good stretch of the race, but the clouds eventually returned so it was nice balance.

Another great thing that Vacation Races does is that it ensures that the runners are well-taken care of on the course. For this race, there were six water/Gnarly stops, and each stop had Honey Stinger gels. I got to try a variety of flavors, and found that the Acai Pomegranate, Fruit Smoothie, and Mango Orange were very tasty. In the later miles, bananas and oranges were also offered.

Side note: Vacation Races are cup-free. Bring your own bottles or purchase a Hydrapouch (pictured upper right) prior to the race.

We took a pit stop at the Observation Tower for pictures just before mile seven.img_2457img_2458

I have to give the award for Best Water Stop ever to the team at Mile Seven. There was a gentleman using the water coolers as bongo drums and singing an improved tribal chant that revolved around the central theme of, “Welcome to Mile Seven!”

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As we turned the corner and started the second half of the course, we all realized that our watches were giving different readings with mileage. Sure, we added a tenth of a mile due to the Observation Tower stop, but even then, everyone was reading something different. Chris and I learned post-race that the race staff had very specific places where they could put the mile markers (due to terrain and wildlife and whatnot), and many were not precisely accurate. Our total mileage for the race hovered around 14 miles when all was said and done.

You really cannot beat this scenery, and the open space to run!

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We did see our fair share of gators! As a rule of thumb: respect them, and they will respect you. They don’t care about humans as much as the sunlight they’re absorbing through their scales. The gators we saw were snoozing along the race course. We also saw many birds, too. It’s awesome seeing nature up close!

Chris and I neared the end and we did an all-out sprint to the finish line, which was insanely fun as the announcers were cheering us on. He beat me by four footsteps. 😛

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Finishing his first half marathon! I’m so proud!!

We finished around 3:36, which is totally fine for a race that we weren’t concerned about being speed demons at. We walked around and cheered the rest of our teammates at the finish line.

 

It was fantastic day for running, and I’m so happy to have finally run a race with my team! (I only became a member of Team Shenanigans in January, and I tried to keep up with them at the WDW Marathon, but couldn’t. Now that I’ve got more training under my belt, I can’t wait ‘til Goofy Challenge!)


Christina’s Post-Race Thoughts:

  1. If you’re looking to PR, this is the course to do it at. It’s SUPER flat and fast.
  2. If you like races in nature, this is a race to do…or any of the Vacation Races, for that matter. They are all within the National Park System, and are designed to be an outdoorsy adventure so you can #FindYourPark. There are also additional challenges you can undertake, such as Club challenges and a Trifecta challenge. These are designed so that you can get the best experience possible within the park and its surrounding areas. They are also great incentive to earn a discount for the following year’s race!
  3. Bring a hat and extra sunscreen. Like I mentioned before, there’s no shade along the course.
  4. If you’re a running newbie, you’ll like these races. There’s no pressure or intimidation from other runners for being too fast or slow. Just run at what you’re comfortable at and you’ll be fine!
  5. Watch where you stand. We often don’t think about what’s lurking along the sides of the road if we stop to tie a shoe or something. Chris and I ended up standing near a bunch of ants that we had to shoo away from our shoes.
  6. Running with teammates is the best! It makes the experience more memorable. Also, don’t be afraid to make friends on the course, human and animal alike.

 

Coming soon: Everglades Club Challenges and the Trifecta Challenge! Along with many more pictures from this racecation! 🙂

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Hot Cider Hustle 10K Recap

Caramel apples. Hot apple cider. Who doesn’t like running for delicious treats?!

In my quest to get into faster-seeded corral for Glass Slipper Challenge weekend and to continue with my Goofy Challenge training, I signed up for this here Hot Cider Hustle 10K a few weeks ago in October. I mentally had a goal of going sub-1:00, or as close to it as possible without destroying my body, as the Everglades Half is my next big race in two weeks.

The night before the race I had a minor body-image freak out as I tried on several different versions of outfits. I felt like everything I was wearing was squishing me in places that weren’t supposed to be squished, and I felt disgusting. To top it off, I was starting my period. #FemaleRunnerproblems  -__________-

I finally settled on my donut Sparkle Skirt, running tights, lots of pink accessories!, Athleti-tec hoodie and VSX sports bra. The hoodie was thin enough so I could just wear that and the bra and be fine. I’m not an advocate of wearing the race clothing ON race day (especially finisher/”I did it!” shirts)…but at this point, I wanted to be comfortable and not die. (Spoiler alert: it was a perfect combination.)

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My stomach was a wreck, as was my mental state. I was frustrated and upset, and the slow Metro on Saturday morning didn’t help, either. I did arrive with plenty of time to spare, which was great since it was at least a half-mile trek to the starting area. The weather was all blue skies and sunshine with a slight chill in the air.

The pre-race area was out in the middle of a huge parking lot adjacent to RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. I could clearly see that this race course was not going to be the most exciting: a loop-to-loop course, all in the parking lot area. Woot.

At least there were puppies near the gear check area, and all over the place 🙂 :

Around 8:50, we started lining up. This race is similar to the Rock ‘n’ Roll series, where it’s an honor system: faster runners are in the front and slower runners/walkers are near the back. I lined up somewheres in the middle (always a safe bet).

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The gun fired at 9:00 and the race began. the weather was chilly but the sun began to peak and it warmed up a bit. I held a steady, even pace for the first little bit, relying on my Hamilton music to keep me in tempo. My first mile was 10:01 (which, I do believe, is the fastest mile I’ve ever had in a race. Woohoo!)

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Up ahead of this was the loop into mile two, and straight into a ton of sunshine with no shade relief. This was a pain as I didn’t have sunglasses and wasn’t expecting to be blinded by the light, literally.

Another huge pain of this race? Runners randomly stopping to walk in the middle of the course without signaling. That’s a surefire way to get hurt, or to hurt someone else. I spent a lot of time dodging people in the first couple of miles and knew I was wasting energy by doing so.

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Around mile 2-ish.
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Here we go loop-de-loop.

This loop course was a first for me. By the above pictures, you can see it’s not the most fun course in the world. BUT…it was flat, with little to no elevation change. There was one water stop (slightly out of view on the above picture to the right), with Gatorade on the first lap and water on the second lap. I had to pee desperately on my second loop around, and saw three portapotties off in the distance around this area. SO grateful!

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Speaking of second loops around, it got really quiet really fast. 1500 runners had signed up for the 5K, 700 for the 10K, and 300 for the 15K. My first 5K split hovered around 34:00 (which is a split PR for me!).  It was nice to take my time on the second loop, to slow down when needed, and to experiment with pacing. I had several Hamilton songs ready to go, such as “Washington on Your Side” and “The Election of 1800“…all Nightcore versions. (Nightcore music is sped up and sounds like chipmunks singing.) Running in tempo with these really set me up for an even pace. (For example, I found that in WOYS, which is 2:12, I could cover a quarter of a mile and not feel winded.)

Despite a boring course and fighting cramps and peeing, I still wound up with an official 1:16:58 PR,  which is a seven-minute improvement from February’s Enchanted 10K! Woohoo!

No medals for this race (boooo), but a brand new mug for my collection! (Yaaaay!)

I submitted the POT update for GSC weekend. Here’s to hoping for a higher-seeded corral!


This race was full of firsts for me, including this…

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This caused so many headaches…

Since this course operated on a loop, the finisher’s chute offered instructions on how to navigate. If one was running the 5K, great! Go straight. Those on longer distances, step on the first timing mat for your split, and follow the cones on the left to get back on the course. For some reason,  many runners didn’t adhere to these instructions and found themselves either shortening their distances or lengthening them, intentionally or unintentionally. This caused such a snafu at the end, that the awards ceremony didn’t happen for those in the 10K and 15K distances. The results had to be tabulated by hand (since some 10K/15Kers would have had blazing fast splits), and other than the overall and 5K winners, awards weren’t handed out right then. I also didn’t get my results until later on in the evening when they were posted online (hence the one-second change between -my Garmin and the official time.)

If you’re going to run a looped course, know what distance you’re going to run and stick with it. It’ll cause a lot less stress with the timing and scoring department later on, and be honest if you want to go up or down with distances! It’s almost like banditing a race if you’re intentionally racing a shorter or longer distance than what you’re registered for.


Next up: Everglades Half Marathon racecation!