Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Gulf Coast Half Marathon Gulf Shores, AL Race Recap

March 1, 2015

There were several runners wearing Half Fanatic singlets at my last half marathon almost a year ago. As soon as I got home from that race, I started looking into the group. I wanted to be a half fanatic, too.  Unfortunately, there are very few 5K's let alone half marathons in our area during the months of May to August because it is so hot and humid. Most of the half marathons would require me to travel, so I put the idea out of my mind for a while. I would begin training for my first marathon that August and I needed to focus on getting through it first.

After running my first full in December of 2014, I started looking into upcoming half marathons. To become a Half Fanatic, one must run two half marathons in a 16 day timeframe or 3 half marathons in a 90 day timeframe. I chose the Gulf Coast Half Marathon in Gulf Shores, AL to be my first of two in a 16 day timeframe. There was a half marathon back home in two weeks, which meant that Mom and I could qualify and potentially get our singlets in time to wear at the Gulf Coast Half Marathon in Pensacola in April. This was also the first run of the Gulf Coast Half Marathon series. Since I had a great experience in Pensacola last year, I wanted to run all three in the series this year.

I hadn't felt well all week. I did one run on Tuesday and by Wednesday morning I struggled to get myself out of bed. My head was stuffy, my nose was runny, and my body was aching all over. I went to school that day, but I came straight home afterwards and slept most of that afternoon and evening. I didn't feel much better on Thursday, so I decided that afternoon that it was time to go to Primed. All I could think about was the race on Sunday. Maybe if I could get some antibiotics I would feel better by then. Luckily, my strep and flu tests came back negative. As I suspected I had a sinus infection. They gave me a steroid shot and some antibiotics. I hoped I would feel well enough in two days to run the race.

We headed down to the beach on Friday afternoon after Michael got off work. It's about a three and a half hour drive from here. I slept most of the way down. Normally, I feel almost 100% better after a steroid shot, but I still felt terrible. We got a quick bite to eat before settling in for the night. I went straight to bed. I hoped I would feel better in the morning.

On Saturday, we ate lunch with my brother and sister-in-law. "Are you sick?" "You sound horrible?" they asked. "Don't tell me you're still thinking about running tomorrow." "I'm going to play it by ear, see how I feel in the morning," I replied. Mom and Dad gave me the look. That look that says, "You know they're right, but you're too stubborn to admit it."

After we ate lunch, we walked around the Seafood Festival and car show at the Wharf. They had craft booths set up like at the Shrimp Festival, but on a much smaller scale. I started to feel worse walking around out there, but I tried to hide it. I began sneezing uncontrollably, which sent a sharp pain through my chest. "You're crazy if you're still thinking about running tomorrow," Michael said.

We went to Lulu's later that afternoon to pick up our packets. The race would start and finish at Lulu's. They didn't have an expo at this race like with the other two Gulf Coast races. Packet pick-up was quick and organized. It only took a few minutes. Mom and I purchased two extra wrist bands, so Dad and Michael could enjoy the free beer and food after the race.

We went back and took a late afternoon nap. Then, we had Papa Rocco's Pizza for supper. Michael got the chicken alfredo while I split a supreme pizza with Mom and Dad. The only other time I ate at Papa Rocco's I had a burger, which was delicious. I could barely taste the pizza because my head was so stuffy.

I laid out my stuff for race morning before going to bed that night. I'm sure Mom knew it wasn't a good idea for me to run, but she was the only one who didn't make me feel completely crazy for wanting to do the race in the morning. She knew how much it meant to me to do this race and be one step closer to qualifying for half fanatics. We agreed that night that I would take it easy and just focus on finishing.

I got up around 5:00 on Sunday morning to get dressed and give my breakfast plenty of time to digest. The race started at 7:00, and we left a few minutes after 6:00. We were only a five minute drive to Lulu's and we knew there would be plenty of parking. Mom and I talked about sticking together for this race. I told her I would see how I felt once we started. My main focus was on finishing, but I wanted to feel like I did my best for that day when I was finished.

The temperature was in the mid 60's and it was drizzly. It wasn't supposed to rain during the race, but the drizzle was in the air the whole time. They went over the course information and played the National Anthem. Then, we were off. I started out pacing with Mom. When we got to the Intracoastal bridge, Mom started walking. I felt better than I thought I would, and I wanted to keep going. After some debate, Mom told me she was fine and insisted that I go ahead.

We ran down Gulf Shores Pkwy before turning into a residential area. This race offered a 10K division this year, and at Mile 3 the 10K runners turned around to head back. Around Mile 5 we entered the Gulf State Park for the loop around Lake Shelby. It was mostly tree lined, but every now and then I caught a glimpse of the water.

Surprisingly, I was maintaining a consistent pace, clocking each mile just under 10 minutes. I only stopped to walk briefly at the water stations. I walked while I ate a Honey Stinger waffle around 6.5 miles.

We ran onto Perdido Beach Blvd for a small stretch around Mile 8 before re-entering the state park to finish the loop around the lake. The best views of the lake were on the back route. We ran back into the residential areas around Mile 11. Then, we ran back onto Gulf Shores Pkwy. The traffic was out by this time of the morning and I had to be careful running through the intersections. There were police directing traffic at the larger intersections, but not at the smaller ones.

We ran back over the Intracoastal bridge on the last mile. On my last two half marathons, I figured my finish time in my head the entire race. I only checked my Garmin when it went off at each mile during this race. On the bridge, I looked at my Garmin and I was shocked at the time I was making. If I didn't stop to walk I could finish in 2:10, a sub 10:00 pace. I felt decent the entire race. I had to blow my nose a few times, but other than that I felt fine. I decided to kick it in on the last half mile to get a sub 10:00 pace.

Mile 1- 11:23
Mile 2- 9:42
Mile 3- 9:55
Mile 4- 9:52
Mile 5- 9:49
Mile 6- 9:55
Mile 7- 10:07
Mile 8- 9:48
Mile 9- 9:50
Mile 10- 9:49
Mile 11- 9:47
Mile 12- 9:34
Mile 13- 9:14
My official time was 2:10:27. It was not a PR, but a time that I was proud of with all things considered. I couldn't catch my breath after crossing the finish. I started coughing uncontrollably and the pain in my chest was almost unbearable. I don't know how I made it through the race without feeling any pain.
I met my dad and Michael at the finish and we waited to cheer for my mom. She crossed the finish around 2:35, which was her second best time. I was proud of her!

The post race party was great! They had live music, free beer, fruit, cookies, and red beans and rice. The food line was a little crowded, but there was plenty of seating once we got our plates. We didn't stick around long because we needed to get back and shower before hitting the road. The only thing I hate about Sunday races is rushing home to go back to work on Monday.

Have you ever ran a race when you didn't feel well? 

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