Thursday, July 30, 2015

Gulf Coast Half Marathon Pensacola, FL Race Recap

April 12, 2015
I had four weeks to prepare for this race after the Montgomery Half. I lost a lot of valuable training time while I was sick for three weeks in March. I hoped to get back on schedule and regain some fitness and speed. I did three long runs of 8, 10, and 11 miles on the three weekends before this race.
This is the second half marathon in the Gulf Coast Half Marathon series. The race is capped at 2,500 participants. It is a flat, fast course which runs along the beach. My current PR is from the Gulf Coast Half in Pensacola. I was really hoping for a new PR this year. Deep down I really wanted a sub 2:00, but I knew that probably wouldn't happen with so much training lost.
This race was on a Sunday, so we got up Saturday morning to make the drive down to Pensacola Beach. It took about four hours to get there from here. Our first stop was in downtown Pensacola at Running Wild to pick up our packets. Packet pick-up was quick and easy. They had a small expo at the store with sales on clothing, shoes, and running accessories. They had some great deals on shorts, but there weren't many left in my size. My mom got a few new running tops.
After getting our packets, we made the short drive to Pensacola Beach. It's a small peninsula outside of downtown Pensacola. We stayed at the Hampton Inn located right next to the Casino Beach public parking lot, where the race would start. It was so convenient being right next to the start at last year's race. We got a room with a balcony overlooking the water at a better rate this year since we booked early.
We ate lunch at Crabs, We Got Em located right next to the hotel. After lunch our room was ready for check in. We got unloaded, and Dad wanted to rest a while. Mom and I didn't want to nap and not sleep well later that night, so we walked around the boardwalk shops across the street. When we got back we sat on the balcony overlooking the water. People were setting up chairs for a wedding. I love beach weddings. We watched the whole thing from our balcony.
Later that evening, we went back to the boardwalk to find something to eat for supper. We settled on a pizza place. I don't remember the name, but it was delicious. Then, we played putt putt at the small course by the hotel. We went back to the hotel afterwards to get settled in for the night.
Mom and I applied for Half Fanatics the afternoon after the Montgomery Half. We were accepted that same day. We ordered our race singlets and even had time to get our numbers monogrammed on them before this race. I was so excited for my first race as a half fanatic!
I wore the singlet on a shorter run and it felt fine for the race. I ordered the skirt from Running Skirts and it didn't arrive until Thursday afternoon. I debated whether to break the rule of nothing new on race day. It matched my singlet perfectly! I ran in the same brand Running Skirt before, but not for anything longer than a 5K. It was fine for the 5K, maybe it would be fine for this half.
Saturday was beautiful, but Sunday's forecast showed rain. I checked the forecast 100 times, hoping it would move quickly and be gone for the race or that it would come later than expected. When I got up that morning I could hear the rain beating down on the roof top. It was going to be a wet race!
Mom and I made our way to the start line around 6:30. The race started at 7:00. My dad snapped a few pictures of us at the start. The Half Fanatic gear was a great conversation starter, and we met some other half fanatics while we were waiting for the start. We didn't get a group photo, which was a little disappointing. I got a lot of attention on the course, people cheered "Go Half Fanatic!" This is the main reason why I wanted to be a part of this group for instant camaraderie and support of fellow runners.

The start line, all the other runners were taking cover under the pavilion
We caught a break in the rain for this picture, but it didn't last long.
There are no official corrals at this race, but the paces are marked at the start line. Runners position themselves in the most appropriate pace group. I lined up in the 9:00 min mile group. The race director went over the course information. They played the National Anthem and then we were off.

Me at the start of the race

Mom at the start of the race

I went out too fast at last year's race and my pace slowed during the second half. My plan for this race was to try to clock each mile at a 9:00 min mile pace and speed up in the final miles if I felt good.

The first four miles were through residential and vacation homes. The rain was steadily coming down and I kept wringing the water out of my skirt. I started to think the skirt wasn't the best choice for the conditions. It was holding the water, clinging to me, and feeling heavier by the minute. I was keeping a steady pace like I planned, clocking each mile under 9:30.

Mile 1- 9:15
Mile 2- 9:13
Mile 3- 9:25
Mile 4- 9:11

Just before Mile 5 we ran back onto the main road Via De Luna Drive. The next three miles ran alongside the beach, but there wasn't much of a view of the water. There was a strong headwind, which made it difficult to maintain my pace. I walked some at Mile 6 to eat my Honey Stinger waffle. That was the first mile I clocked at a 10:00 min pace. I knew I couldn't afford too many miles at that pace if I wanted to PR. I tried to push through the headwind and pick up my pace on the next two miles.

Mile 5- 9:40
  Mile 6- 10:06
Mile 7- 9:44
Mile 8- 9:48
We tuned around at Mile 8 and my overall pace was around 9:25. I thought if I can only maintain this pace I can PR by a few minutes. I was out of the headwind which should have made it much easier to pick up speed. The rain had slowed to a light drizzle by this point and the air was thick and muggy, which made it hard to breathe. I would have rather dealt with the rain.
My feet were moving, but not very fast as I watched seconds add to the overall pace on my Garmin. I clocked Mile 9 in 11:13. Why when I hadn't stopped to walk? I don't know what it is about this race, but just like the year before I started to fall apart mentally on this back route. I walked a lot in the next few miles. 
Mile 9- 11:13
Mile 10- 11:16
Mile 11-11:09
We ran through another residential area the final miles of the race. Just past Mile 12, we were back out on the main road. I ran the final stretch to the finish.
Mile 12- 10:56
Mile 13- 10:42 

I love the way they announce your name over the PA system as you cross the finish line. I was so relieved to be finished. My finish time was 2:12:55, exactly six minutes slower than last year's time. I had been looking forward to this race for so long thinking it would be a new PR for me. I was disappointed in the outcome of the race, but I still had a great time. What's better than running at the beach?
I couldn't wait to take my shoes off. My feet felt mushy and I was starting to get blisters again. The inside of my thighs were burning. The built in shorts on my skirt rubbed me the entire time and I had some major chaffing despite rubbing Vaseline on my legs prior to the race. I've learned my lesson: I will never wear anything new on race day. From now on when running longer distances, I will choose comfort over style.
Mom had a good run. She'd been really consistent with her times finishing around 2:35 again. I was really proud of her. She's shaved 15-20 minutes off of her first half marathon time.


The finish line was in front of Flounder's where the post race party was held. They had fruit, cookies, red beans and rice, and free beer. The food line was really crowded and cramped inside the restaurant. Mom and I took turns going in to get our food, so we could secure our spot outside. We stuck around the post race for almost an hour before going back to the hotel to get showered and head home. I couldn't wait to get in dry clothes.


Besides the beautiful locations of the runs in the Gulf Coast Series, I also love this series for the awesome medals which double as a bottle opener and the cute, super soft, and comfy t-shirts. I cannot wait to run the third race in this series this October in Mandeville, LA.

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