Lake Minneola Half Marathon 2013

4:30 a.m. – It is dark.  Alarm goes off.  It has been raining all night. Awake for half an hour, I’ve been thinking of the day about to start.  Having picked up running five months ago hoping to improve my health, today was going to be different.

I had registered to run my first half marathon, Lake Minneola’s Half Marathon.

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Today was not going to be about following my first doctor’s advice to lose 30 pounds.  It wasn’t going to be about my second doctor’s advice to lose 30 pounds either. It was not going to be about recurring back pains. Today was only going to be about running. Five months of telling myself speed and distance are not the point be darned. People express feeling alive when they are having fun.  Often, fun comes when one is out of their comfort zone. Running does that.

My precious wife had agreed to drive the hour from Orlando to Minneola for the race.  I notice her get up groggily with an epic task: get 2 kids up and ready for upcoming morning. While she did all the hard work, I tied my shoelaces 3 times and reviewed my music playlist for the run. I just have to run.

Before long, there’s two kids wrapped in blankets and a cooler full of snacks in the minivan. Kids had breakfast bowls in hands as well.

5:40 a.m. – My wife had already won her first race.  Wondering what was I supposed to eat, we set off to Lake Minneola’s Annual Half Marathon.  Where is my granola?

6:30 a.m. – Leaving the rain behind, we arrive at the Lake Minneola. The morning glow reveals an otherwise serene lake disturbed only by the incoming breeze from the lake.  Small groups of people are making their way to pick up their race packets.  Wisdom of the crowds, we join them. 

6:40 a.m. – I am putting on my bib on.  Still wrapped in blankets, the kids are snacking.  My wife notices that there is not much to do before a race.  I agree with her and wonder…  I wonder if this the time to worry about the race?  Runners around me do not seem to be as pumped as I’ve seen in shorter races.  No one seems worried either.

I had run OUCs Corporate 5K this past Thursday.  This race was more than 4 times as long, this race was going to be different.  I do long runs on Sundays and only a few of these were more than 13 miles.  None were under two and a half hours long either.  Under the advisement from fellow runners, I had even taken energy gel packs (GU) to take every five miles or so on these runs.  The main goal being not to run better but to asses whether my body would agree with them.  They felt like taking mouthfuls of condensed milk in a hurry.  Race nutrition: total win.  More worrisome from long runs, I often run out of water.  For this race, I intend to stop at every water station, no exceptions.  My goal is to finish the race, maybe beat all my Sunday runs.  I had rehearsed in my mind what and when was I going to refuel, to drink water and to drink Gatorade.  I had even pre planned a silent celebration at mile seven to signify past midpoint of race gone.

By now, the kids are awake and helping themselves to the runner’s fruits and water.  They look right at home so my wife and I relax for a bit taking in the sights.  The sun is coming out by now.  Lake Minneola is very pretty and not overly crowded with buildings.  Seems like a nice place to run.  The race is going to be mainly around the lake; 13 miles sure looks big right now.  The weather seems perfect for running thou.  It’s a cool 64o and the wind is howling its way inland.  Nearby, small groups of people are training for triathlons.  They are keeping warm by pedaling in stationary bicycles wearing full body suits near the shore.  Brave souls indeed.

6:50 a.m. – I walk into pit of runners and try to place myself smack between front of line and middle of the pack.

7:00 a.m. – Race is on! Phone app is active and I am psyched.  Anytime now, the people in front are going to start walking away;  I am already planning which lines to take to clear them all.

7:05 a.m. – No one is moving.  This is not corporate 5k,  there’s not 16,500 runners here.  Why aren’t we moving?

7:15 a.m. – Seriously, we should be a few miles into race by now.  Why are there runners making small talk, some even made their way to lawn to get some space.

7:20 a.m. – Come on! We should be 1/4 of way into race by now.  I can sense the battery depleting on phone.  This is not cool guys.

7:25 a.m. – A guy walks down starting line blasting an air horn and screaming the race has started.  I wanted one of those starting line gun fire blast… This feels like the biggest casual run meet ever. 

7:30 a.m. – The walk begins.  I find out later there is less than 500 people running.  This would be considered a small race.  We do seem to be packed a bit tightly for the first mile or so.  For my next half marathon,  I am moving up closer to start-line.  Let them pass by me instead.  Its just that people looked so much more ‘racy’ up front. 

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The running app on my  phone is telling me I am keeping a 9’30” pace.  I had planned to run a steady but slower pace than this.  I am positive this pace is too fast to keep for the duration of the race.  Spur of the moment, I reason I can keep this pace for first half of the race and enjoy this feeling a little bit longer.  I am certain that, by mile six or seven, the crowd would’ve thinned out by then.  Then it would be the proper time to revise my pace.  With my mind convinced, logic was out of my head and I was just enjoying my morning run.

The first third of the race was not around the big lake.  We are running around the adjacent neighborhood instead.  I guess all that fine scenery will have to wait.  The houses around are pretty enough and the sights were all new anyways.

Oh my, we are running on the road WITH cars!  It was the usual slow moving neighborhood traffic but this was unexpected for my first half… to be sharing the road with cars.  In all the (few) races I’ve participated in, the streets have always been closed to cars.  I can run with cars a lot closer to home for free.  Oh well, closer to home we have no hills like on this ‘fast and flat’ race.  We get back to lake soon enough only to detour again.  This time, we take on a small trail that is very nice and has no cars. We are sharing this part of the path with road bicycles instead.  Compared to running alongside cars, riders seem pretty tame and friendly. 

About 4 miles into half (no mile markers, running app will do), I am still keeping my bit-too-fast pace.  I feel fresh as ever but I am wondering not if but at which mile will I feel the burn set in.  Hopefully, I will make another mile or two before I take my gel pack.  I am reminding myself I am going to stop at every water station, alternating between Gatorade and water.  Mile five goes by and I drink my energy pack, still feeling fresh and keeping awesome pace!

8:30 a.m. – Having set running app to announce distance at every quarter mile, I was eager to listen to mile seven come up anytime now.  Suddenly, music fades out as it always does before mile announcement.  ‘6.96 miles, average pace: 9’35” per mile’  I unconsciously raise my hands in triumph; its all downhill from here. 

Announcer:

9’35” per mile’, ‘6.96 mile, average pace, 9’35” per mile’

9’35” per mile’, ‘6.96 mile, average pace, 9’35” per mile’

9’35” per mile’, ‘6.96 mile, average pace, 9’35” per mile’

I frantically, repeatedly, whack the phone while trying not to slow my pace down.  Coincidentally, I also hear two music tracks playing at the same time. I suspect this is the result of another music app turning on with all the bouncing in my fanny pack.  I can only assume this led to Nike App crapping out.  In what seems like minutes, I somehow manage to stop one music track while my mind rejoins the rest of my body in the race.

I keep running at my current pace (I think) and enjoy the views.  The lake is very picturesque and that gel packet must be heavenly because I feel as fresh as can be.  I suspect both the cool weather and the time of day have plenty to do with this feeling.  Maybe I should do Sunday runs this early.  I notice, however, that my announcer never comes back.  Plan B – I try to note the people around me hoping to keep up with fellow runners.  This feels even better than listening to app.  I’ve  even been steadily passing people for a while now.

Sticking to my hydration plan, I spot the next water station ahead.  Odd.  There are so many runners standing around.  Why would that be?  Celebratory punch?  Nope.  This is a self-service water station and I need to take a sip!  Reminding myself its all about feeling alive and finishing the race, I line up and wait my turn.  Peeved, I take two cups of water.  With no mile markers in sight and my announcer M.I.A., I estimate when to take second energy packet and the pace to keep for the remainder of the race.  Aside from crossing a little bridge alongside oncoming traffic, the rest of the run proves to be as fun as can be. I only wished there were mile markers closer to the finish line to know when to pick up pace. 

9:30 a.m. – In the end, I kept my pace for duration of the race.  I had just finished my first half marathon in 2:05:49 at an average 9:37 pace!

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First medal in hand.  I am definitely doing this again.

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I learned a few things from this race as well.  I learned not to focus so much on silly running app but to focus more on running instead.  Maybe I get a watch in the future ;)  I found out as well that nutrition and hydration during a race make a significant difference in running fun.  Weather plays a part as well.  I had never set out to run at 7:00 a.m. before and I had never ran this distance this fast either.  I learned cotton shirts are not a runner’s friend, that blue and red make green and I learned that you get a new set after about four days anyways.  Maybe I’ll try to take pictures during race as well.

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I am already wondering what race to join next!

FYI – Music playlist with order of play plan:

  1. Electro Dance 2 – complete disk is perfect for keeping decent tempo up
  2. Neil Young, Harvest Moon – because the middle of the run was going to be a time to conserve energy so have enough for last third of race
  3. Sonique, Hear My Cry w/out slow songs – so that I could pick up pace considerable faster than middle but slower than first half

Due to phone issues described above and the fact that phone shuffled my songs, this listening plan fell flat.

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