If you are thinking of running the Space Coast Marathon, DO IT! You will not be disappointed. Small marathon with almost all the perks of a big marathon.
- Local (for me) race, the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Nice to be able to relax around the house for several days leading up, sleep in my own bed, and run terrain and weather I’ve prepared for specifically.
- Beautiful course. I can’t believe this race isn’t bigger just because the course is so pretty and flat.
- No crowds. There aren’t any issues of needing to zigzag around people or getting stuck behind people running a slower pace.
- SWAG. Long sleeve technical t-shirts, beach towels instead of solar blankets, and heavy-duty finisher’s medals.
- Road camber. Make sure you are aware of this and always look for the flat part of the road during the race.
- Not a huge amount of crowd support. If you depend on energy from the crowd to keep you going for hours, try a mega-race. Not a real factor for me, but I completely understand the appeal of bigger events.
Could not have been more convenient. For locals, it’s like packet pickup for a 5k. Just walk into the Running Zone and grab your stuff. It’s only 3 miles from my house, so I was able to ride the MTB down during lunch the Monday before the race and grab it. No lines, no mess, and the race bags contained only what was necessary: T-shirt, race number, drop bag, safety pins, participant guide, and a Moon Pie.
I really liked the “virtual race bag” we received in the email that contained all the usual flyers and coupons. You can just claim them online if you want. Otherwise, you don’t have to deal with them.
I didn’t go to the expo. It’s all the way up at Kennedy Space Center, which is a 45 minute drive from my place. I can see the appeal of having it there for those coming from out of town–it’s a really cool place! That’s where the pre-race meal is as well, which I also didn’t attend. Not going to an expo is actually a bonus for me. I tend to spend too much time at those things, get too hyped up, and generally just waste energy. I enjoyed being able to just relax instead.
My friend Jenny was racing as well, so I stopped by and picket her up in Viera at about 5:00 for the 6:15 start. Parking wasn’t really an issue. There are only ~3,500 participants in both the half and the full, so it’s easy to get a spot pretty close to the start in Cocoa Village. The weather was perfect! Nice and chilly at the start with temps in the low 50s.
This is the first race I’ve done that has both a half and a full. I really like that the two races are immediately separated from one another in the first quarter mile. Those running the half head south for an out-and-back, while those running the full go north out-and-back, then do the same course the half marathoners run. I can see a big advantage for those running the full in that the crowds are immediately thinned out, you aren’t tempted to run the pace of halfers around you, and you don’t get any sort of finish envy at the halfway point.
I’ve biked the half section of the course countless times. It’s my favorite bike route in these parts…absolutely beautiful! I ran all the south section and most of the north section during my final long run. The north section has a few
hills inclines, but nothing worth getting worked up over. Being a transplant to FL, I still chuckle inside whenever people talk about hills and causeways, the Haines City 70.3 run course being an exception I’ve experienced myself. If you’ve run any hills at all, you’ll hardly notice these little bumps.
Aid stations are well supplied and manned. There aren’t any Gus available until Mile 8, so come armed.
My goal was 3:49:59. I was pretty sure I had 3:44:59 in me, but I was coming in a little injured, and I also decided trying for the sub 3:45:00 was a risk that could cost me the sub 3:50:00 if things went wrong. I’ve realized that it’s damn near impossible run a marathon to your full ability. So much can happen in that distance/time that it’s really tough to find that sweet spot between being conservative and being reckless with your pace. Conservative is more my nature after learning my lesson with the reckless pace method in the past, so I decided for that route.
My plan was to start with the 3:55:00 pace group for the first ten miles, speed up to an 8:42 pace for the next 10, 5k at 8:35, and empty the tank for the last 5k. That pretty much took 3:45:00 off the table, which was actually a relief. I thought I had it in me, but also knew the stars would have to line up perfectly for that to happen. Had I been starting 100% healthy on an overcast day with temperatures 10-15 degrees cooler I may have gone for it.
All in all, I’m happy with execution. That’s a rarity for me–race management is a real problem usually. I was 45 seconds ahead of schedule at the ten mile mark. Running with the 3:55 group really helped me control pace at the beginning of the race. I was feeling great and ready to run the next 10 miles at 8:42 pace. Here’s what the splits actually looked like:
8:36, 8:52, 8:49, 8:47, 8:59, 8:55, 9:10, 9:16, 9:36, 11:28
Maybe you can guess what happened. The ankle started paining at mile 12, but I tried to hang close to the pace. I saw my fan club in the 15th mile and gave me a big boost! But around mile 15-16 blistering started on both feet, which I’m pretty sure was a result of trying to compensate for the ankle. At that point, I realized 3:49 wasn’t happening, but I didn’t give up yet. I tried shouting encouragement to the half marathon groups I was passing coming the other way to keep the positive self talk going.
The 3:55 group caught back up with me during the 20th mile, and I pushed really hard to keep up with them. Then I tried hard to keep them in striking distance. Then, I’m not going lie, I got a little mentally defeated. The mile 20 split shows it.
I did get to see a bunch of dolphins during that mile though. What other race gives you that opportunity?
The last 10k was a mess. I’m not even posting the splits because they are irrelevant. Needless to say, there was some walking involved, but that made my muscles cold quickly and was no fun. I spent a ton of time trying to find the pace I could run with minimal ankle and foot pain and still stay warm enough to keep everything else from clinching up. I finished up the race thinking, “just an easy cool-down” and “don’t make this injury any worse.” I’m not very good at dealing with injuries–lucky enough to not have much experience with them.
This race ends in a great park beside the river. It’s great for families with small kids. There’s a cool playground and relaxing atmosphere. They even have a bounce house.
I crossed the finish line at 4:21:03. More importantly, I got to cross the finish line with the two oldest kids. Again, a benefit of a small race is that you get to do stuff like that. They were super excited!
No “all-food-is-inside-the-finisher-chute-and-once-you-leave-you-can’t-come-back” at this race. There was plenty of pizza, bananas, water, beer, etc. for runners. It’s really not hard to figure out who ran and who didn’t. Big races should take note of this and drop the finishing cages.
It’s frustrating knowing that I ran 23 at sub-9 pace three weeks ago and could have PR’d that day if we’d been racing. Taking three weeks off definitely let the ankle heal as best it could, but it wasn’t very good for the rest of my body and my mind for race day. Still, probably a net positive. I don’t have any regrets about going out for the goal time either. I think I was going to end up in pain no matter how fast I went, so I’m glad I got as far as I did before it started.
I know I didn’t get the race I trained for, which sucks, but I’m staying positive about it. I did all I could and ran according to the plan. I’m a little disappointed knowing that some of the extra time can be attributed to mental weakness, but I’m also giving myself some credit for sticking to it mentally for 8 miles on a bad wheel. In most races that will get you there, but marathons are really long. Either way, a PR wasn’t going to happen.
I have another post boiling in my head that addresses the big picture, but this post is about this race. 🙂
I want to also congratulate Jenny on finishing strong in 4:15 for her first marathon, and my training buddy Mitch who PR’d with a 3:28!!!