Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Pensacola Half Marathon Race Recap

November 13, 2016

I planned to run the Pensacola Marathon for my third full. I registered as soon as registration opened in March. I started my training in July. Despite the heat, I was maintaining consistency with my training.

That was until our house went under contract at the end of August. Completing my long runs while packing and house hunting was difficult. We found a house that was in the final stages of construction. It wouldn't be ready until a month after we closed on our house. We had to put everything we owned in storage and spend a month with my grandfather. This also meant two moves, the first on the date of my 18 miler and the second on the date of my second 20 miler.

I didn't have the time to commit to that level of training, so I decided to drop to the half marathon in Pensacola. Sometimes life gets in the way of our best plans. The great thing about running is there is always another race. I decided to register for the First Light Marathon in Mobile after dropping to the half. I couldn't wait to run another full marathon and having one on the calendar gave me a goal to continue to work towards. I started back with week one of training at the end of September, which put my longer runs off until November and December. We would be settled in our new home by then.

We drove to Pensacola on Friday afternoon to pick up my packet. Packet pick up was well organized. There were a few booths from local vendors and discount merchandise from Running Wild. I didn't spend much time browsing the expo. We were staying at my mother in law's condo in Gulf Shores about 45 minutes away. I was ready to get settled.

We went to my sister in law's to watch the Bama game on Saturday. We ate at Wolf Bay Lodge later that evening. They have a decent menu with plenty of options. I like their Shrimp Alfredo and salad bar. After dinner we went back to the condo. I laid out my race day outfit and tried to get some rest.


We had to get up early on race morning to make the drive over to Pensacola. The race started at 6:30. I was worried about traffic and parking once we got downtown, so we left around 4:45. Traffic wasn't as bad as I anticipated and there was plenty of parking just a block from the start line.

Rick and Jodi arranged for several of us to meet before the start of the race. I met them at the Rock n' Fly Half earlier this year. It was great to see them again and meet new IG/Blogger friends: Alicia, Michelle, and Kari. It was also nice to see Valerie from back home. We took several pre-race selfies before lining up at the start line.

 IG/Blogger friends:Rick,  Jodi, Alicia, Michelle, Valerie, and Kari. 

If I wasn't going to run the full, I was going to push my hardest for a half marathon PR. I knew it wouldn't be easy, but I felt like I had a decent chance of making it. I ran my current half PR in the middle of my last marathon training cycle. They had pacers for the full marathon. My goal was to keep the 4:00 marathon pacer in sight until the split.

The first mile ran around Veteran's Memorial Park and parallel with Pensacola Bay. The water views were beautiful. I was settling into a comfortable sub 9:00 pace. The 4:00 marathon pacers were several strides ahead of me, but I tried to concentrate on keeping their sign in sight.

Mile 1- 8:53
Mile 2- 9:01

Just before reaching the Graffiti Bridge, a woman started running alongside me. She asked me if I was running the full and I replied, "No, I'm running the half." She explained that her running partner was injured recently and she was running this race without her. She wanted to run a sub 2:00. I told her that I've only run a sub 2:00 once before, but that I hoped to do the same. The woman's name was Jen. She was from the Mobile, AL area and she participated in First Light Marathon relay in year's past. She told me all about the race that I planned to run in January.

Graffiti Bridge
I enjoyed more stunning views of the bay during miles 3 through 5. Jen and I continued to pace well together. Conversation with her was a nice distraction as well.

Mile 3- 8:46
Mile 4- 9:01
Mile 5- 8:59

The photographer on course captured this picture of me and Jen.

The full marathoners split around 7.5 miles. As much as I can't wait for my next full marathon, I was so relieved to continue going straight. I was over halfway to the finish!

The split where the full marathoners turned right. Not today!

That excitement was short lived when we reached a decent sized hill just around mile 8. Jen said we couldn't afford to slow down on the hills. She took the hill in stride and I tried my best to stick with her. Once we reached the top, I had to take a walk break to catch my breath. I noticed we reached the point on the course where the streets were canopied with trees. I had to get a picture.  Jen kept going. I told her I would catch up.

Mile 6- 8:58
Mile 7- 8:56
Mile 8- 8:48
The street canopied with trees
I never caught up with Jen. She checked back on me a few times and encouraged me to catch up. I told her to go on without me. I didn't want to slow her down. I reached an overpass around mile 10. There was an awesome drum line to motivate runners on the climb. I was so worn down from the hill at mile 8. I didn't attempt to run this one. I figured I could probably walk it up as fast as I could run it. Jen was widening the gap ahead of me. By the time I reached the top of the hill she was out of sight.

Mile 9- 9:22
Mile 10- 9:12

This picture doesn't do this hill justice. It was much more intense in person.

My overall pace was slowing on my Garmin. If I was going to PR, I couldn't afford any more walk breaks. The hills were behind me. It was time to push. The final 5K ran back towards and through downtown Pensacola. I turned down several photo opportunities, including the Pensacola pelicans, to reach my goal. I noticed some more race photographers on course. I tried to look strong and smile for the cameras even though deep down I couldn't wait to be finished.

Mile 11- 8:59
Mile 12- 9:12
Mile 13- 8:49
Mile 0.25- 8:14
The clock read 1:59:19 when I crossed the finish line, which was a PR. I knew my chip time would be faster, but I didn't know by how much. My Garmin read 1:58:56 and I hoped my chip time would be 1:58 as well.
Jen waited for me at the finish line. I thanked her keeping me company and for pushing me. I was disappointed that I couldn't stick with her until the end, but I was still proud that I reached my goal of a PR. I don't know if it would have been possible without her motivating me most of the way.
Post race selfie with Jen
They had plenty of post race food, entertainment, and massages at the finish. I grabbed a banana and a chocolate milk. I couldn't wait to get the print out with my official result. It read 1:58:56, same as my Garmin time. I was so excited! I PR'd by 1 minute and 1 second!

I met up with Valerie at the finish for a post race photo. I wish I could have stuck around to visit with the rest of my IG/blogger friends, but I wanted to go back to the condo to shower before heading home.

Post race pic with Valerie
I loved this race! The entire race weekend was well organized. I liked the race shirt, bag, and poster. I looked forward to the Blue Angels on the race shirt and medal and I was disappointed that they weren't part of this year's design. I wish the shirt and medal encompassed more of Pensacola's background and sights. The free photos are great quality and they captured some decent ones of me on the course. The course was pretty scenic and mostly flat, but the few hills were a real challenge. I would definitely run this race again!


  1. Yay! Congrats on a great race and shiny new PR! I love that you and Jen pushed each other. See/ Having that marathon endurance paid off. Love that beautiful canopied street!

    1. Thank you, Marcia! I truly believe if it wasn't for Jen I wouldn't have pushed for another sub 2:00. It seems the only time I'm able to break that 2 hour barrier is when I'm training for a marathon. The longer runs definitely help.

  2. This was such an awesome race for you Debra! I know you are glad even with having to drop down from the full to PR in the half! Sub 2 is a dream for me! I'm so glad you were able to achieve this!
    I need to get some Pensacola bling to add to my collection!

    1. Thank you, Tricia! The PR definitely made up for not running the full. You will get that sub 2:00. I've only broken that 2 hour barrier twice and both times were in the middle of marathon training. The longer runs definitely help. I love Pensacola! You should look into this one this fall.