Finally feel like I belong… Space Coast 2013

Posted on December 10, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |


After my great race went bad in July, I had decided that I was burned out on running.  I had already signed up for the Dumbo Double Dare (10K and Half) so I was committed to that – but no more!  I would drop running completely and focus on swimming.  Yes, I realize I was also saying goodbye to triathlons as well, and while that made me sad, I was ok with it.  That’s how done I was.  That race in July was my qualifier for Half Fanatics.  Once I was accepted to Half Fanatics, everything changed.  I quickly signed up for three more races and Space Coast was one of them.

I hee-hawed back and forth about doing the full or “just the half”.  I didn’t like the idea of traveling that far for 13.1 miles, but I needed to find the joy in running again.  Space Coast was going to by my “fun race”.  I had seven hours to complete a half and figured I could take my time, enjoy the scenery, and crawl if needed to the finish line.  As the race got closer, my excitement built.  I was so looking forward to this race.  I wasn’t sure what to expect this weekend.  My only other destination races were to Disney so at least there were the parks to go visit.  My thought was that I could crawl out of my comfort zone and maybe, just maybe, meet new people.

I landed in Florida the Friday before the race and got on the shuttle to my resort.  I chose to stay at the Radisson.  It appeared to be the main host hotel (it’s where the pre-race dinner would be).  When making the reservation, I thought this meant that I would be able to walk to the expo or at least have transportation there.  I would be wrong.  Thankfully a friend was driving over to the race and agreed to let me tag along with her family to the expo.

I didn’t do much on Friday, just tried to relax.  I did notice ants in my hotel room, but they were of the sugar variety so I wasn’t too concerned.  Because of the timing of the flight, I ate a late lunch (or early dinner) at the hotel restaurant.  With the exception of one other lady and her guide dog, I had the place to myself.  As I sat and enjoyed my meal, my ears picked up “Dumbo Double Dare”.  I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop on her phone conversation, but once your interest has been piqued, it’s hard to turn it off.  I finished my meal, paid my bill, and headed out of the restaurant.  On my way out, I stopped and talked to this complete stranger.  “Excuse me, I didn’t mean to overhear, but you should do Dumbo.”  Next thing I know I’m sitting down and we are chatting like old friends.  This was to be Candice’s first half marathon.  Her guide dog would be the first one to complete the Space Coast race.  She was nervous and excited and scared at the thought of doing it.  She admitted that she had started training, but once it got cold she stopped.  She was afraid her body wouldn’t be able to do it.  I told her that this would be a great first race – pretty much flat, and a 7-hour time limit.  While chatting, I admitted that I’ve not run at all since Dumbo.  Three months with no training…  I was confident that I would finish, but not sure of the shape my body would be in afterwards.  I spent the evening in my room relaxing and watching “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”.

Saturday I woke up and noticed the ants had made themselves more comfortable.  After I called the front desk and requested new bedding, I waited out front for my ride to the expo (aka Christine and family).  I was so glad I was able to see her again.  Come to think of it, I’ve seen her three times in one year.  That was more than I saw my mom when we were living in Calgary!  It thrilled me to see the little gators out and about on the way to the expo.  I can count on two fingers how many gators I saw in Canada.  We arrived at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex and made our way through the expo rather quickly even with the crowd.  There’s really not much to tell about the expo.  Packet pickup was a little chaotic.  The lines weren’t as long as they were in Disneyland, but it was such a small space that it seemed unorganized. The expo in general was smaller than I expected.  When we got our packets, it didn’t take long to look at the other vendors.  Once we got out of the expo we made our way to the Rocket Garden and enjoyed the other outdoor exhibits.

Back at the hotel, my bedding still hadn’t been changed so I went to the front desk.  Sandra was very nice and called to have someone spray my room and she gave me a $50 credit on my bill for the trouble.  The Three Little Pigs Bacon Challenge meet up was in the lobby and I was able to grab my swine swag.  Lequita was in the lobby as well.  It was so great to meet her in person after our chats on Facebook.  She was waiting around for the Run Space Coast meet up.  What is this?  How did I not know about this group?  I was quickly accepted into the group and purchased my official wristband from Jason and his daughter, Alexis.  After visiting with several people in the group, we snapped a picture.  Dinner was with Lequita, Edna, and Rob at Florida’s Fresh Grill.  All I can say is – Awesome!  I had a fantastic clam chowder and scallops with jalapeno-bacon cream sauce.  I was in heaven!

Later in my room, I was on Cloud 9.  I couldn’t believe it; I was actually meeting people.  Runners are generally nice people and regardless how fast your pace is or how serious you train, there is always some common ground.  How amazing is it that they included me in their ranks!  As usual, I didn’t sleep much that night – only got about two hours.  But I was pumped and ready to go.  To be honest there was an internal struggle going on. On one hand, I wanted to push it and go for a PR.  It would be a perfect course for it!  On the other hand…  I had to keep reminding myself that I’ve not done a lick of running in three months.  This is my “Running is fun!” race and I need to focus on just enjoying it.  This battle continued until I stepped outside.  It wasn’t so hot – but it was more humid than I would have liked.  I guess Calgary spoiled me in the humidity (or lack there of) department.  I met Lequita in the lobby and we loaded up on the 4:15am shuttle.

The humidity had me nervous about how warm it was going to be.  Fortunately, it stayed overcast so while the air was thick and muggy it wasn’t hot and the sun didn’t beat down on me.  Given my track record with destination races this year (WDW in January and DL in August), this weather was glorious!  Upon arrival at the Riverfront Park, the festive atmosphere kicked in.  I met up with other half fanatics and there was a huge group picture that represented a few associations.

As I wondered around the pre race area, I felt like I belonged.  There were actually people there that I knew.  People I called friends.  Have I mentioned how cool this is?  I tried to find Candice so I could tell her good luck, but had to settle for calling her instead.  Christine spotted me and I was able to wish her and her friends a speedy marathon.  Joe is another person that I met online.  I had missed him at Dumbo and wanted to at least be able to say “Hi!”  He told me that I wouldn’t be able to miss him in his lime green shirt.  Well… it was quite dark and there were a lot of lime green shirts.  We played a combination of hide and seek and a scavenger hunt by sending clues for our ever-changing locations over Facebook.  Soon it was time to head to the corrals, which were extremely crowded.  There weren’t any set corrals, it was basically one huge mass start and people were to seed themselves.  Lequita and I didn’t even bother trying to get in line.  We just waited on one of the side streets with about 1000 other people and then jumped in.

Having a shuttle launch as our go signal was amazing!  At the start line was a large screen that showed a launch.  As we listened to the countdown, the excitement in the air increased – partly due to the race starting and in part to the feeling of seeing the rockets flash and hearing the thunder of the launch.  I can’t imagine seeing one in real life.

Lequita and I had our plan – we were going to walk for a warm up and then go with a 20:40 ratio.  It was darker than I expected on the course the first couple of miles, so I didn’t realize where we were running.  Once it started to get light, I could see that we had gorgeous houses on one side and the water on the other.  It was perfect!  There was one house that stayed in my mind for a while.  It was the spooky house.  We couldn’t figure out what exactly it was that was staring down at us from the attic.  One theory was that it was a creepy Halloween decoration that they kept up to play the role of Jesus at Christmas time.  The humidity did get to me a couple of times (or maybe it was the heebie jeebies from the spooky house) and I got a little light headed, so I slowed down a bit and kept moving.

The aid stations were themed – one was Star Wars, one was Star Trek, etc.  I was as giddy as a schoolgirl to have C3PO give me water!  Along with the race aid stations, several of the locals had aid stations out front.  One group had Blue Moon shots and cups with pretzels/goldfish.  Another yard reminded me of a Stampede breakfast back in Calgary.  Choices included pancakes, sausage… and vodka?  They were mixing up Bloody Mary’s for people.  There was one lady cheering us on with blue/white pompoms.  My first thought when I saw her was “Man, are her arms going to be sore!”  You can imagine my surprise when I saw her again.  I knew the humidity was messing with me, but I didn’t think it was that bad.  This must be what a time loop feels like.  When I saw her for the third time, I figured out that she must be magic and teleporting to various parts of the course.  I think I saw her six times throughout the race cheering us on.

My newfound running partner and I were taking things nice and slow.  I had to slow down even more because of my ankle.  The tendon that runs along the top of the ankle had slipped over the metal I have in my leg and was rubbing against it with every step.  The pain was pretty bad, but I had to keep going.  We ran with Mel for a little while.  I didn’t realize how much of a HF celebrity he is.  Runners on their way back to the finish line were constantly calling out his name as they passed.  When we spied the Galloway 3:30 pace group, we jumped in.  I’ve always enjoyed running with a pace group so even though my pain escalated, so did my mood.

We had gotten to the turn around and the top of my foot was beginning to hurt.  It was the same foot as the ankle issue so I wasn’t sure if I was compensating or not.  Lequita and I had to stop at the ESC tent for the bacon challenge.  We quickly got a picture snapped with the pig, grabbed our bacon, and hurried on our way.  The farther we traveled, the more pain I was in.  I started scanning the yards of the houses looking for something that would help me.  Then I found it.  I gave Lequita my camera and told her to grab a picture.  I ran up to the Stampede breakfast table and people jumped up and asked me if I wanted a sausage or pancake.  I shook my head no and reached for the very large vodka bottle.  Surely this would numb the pain!  I tilted the bottle back and chugged…  Just kidding!  The cap stayed on, but it made such a great picture that everyone whipped out his or her phone to snap one.

My pain was temporarily forgotten when I saw Candice coming up the course.  I hollered at the top of my lungs for her.  She was looking good and in the zone.  The pup was doing amazing as well.  I couldn’t wait to see them at the finish line.  Because her guide dog was the first to do this race, the race directors ordered her a medal, too.  I was so excited for both of them!

It was around mile 12 when Lequita took off.  I told her that I’d see her at the finish.  As my pace group made it’s way back to the park for the finish, I was focusing on putting one foot in front of the other.  I will never understand why races have long chutes to the finish.  It was almost like the finish line kept backing away from me just like my dad used to do when he taught me to swim.  I finally crossed the line and that familiar feeling came over me.  That excitement of crossing a finish line.  The pride that comes in realizing what I just achieved.  I was given my medal and an awesome beach towel.  I was almost more excited about the beach towel than anything else!  Generally being at the back of the pack means missing out on a lot – food at aid stations, cold sponges, space blankets at finish, and even water.  Thankfully I’ve always received a medal.  I know some people that have crossed the line after a long hard race and there were no medals and no one there to cheer them across the finish.

I found Lequita and we grabbed some pizza and lemonade and then enjoyed the after party atmosphere.  I got a message from Joe asking if I had finished yet.  Let the games begin again!  I managed to find him close to the finish line.  He was waiting on a friend to come in.  It was so great finally catching up with him and being able to chat for a little bit.  While talking to Joe, I saw R2D2.  I said my goodbyes and made my way to R2.  I bent down next to him for a picture and realized getting up was going to be harder than I anticipated.  It was ok, though…  R2 whistled Christmas tunes for me.  Even the storm trooper was in the Christmas spirit with his black Santa hat.

I really wanted to wait around for Candice, but my ankle had other plans.  I decided I really needed to get back to the hotel and get my foot up.  I knew that shuttle service could possibly be suspended while the big motorcycle ride, “Toys for Tots”, was going on.  Lequita and I made our way to the shuttles.  When we got back to the hotel, I said my goodbyes to my new running buddy.  We will definitely have to plan to meet up at another race sometime soon.

I headed to my room wanting to take an ice bath – but my room only had a shower.  A cold shower just isn’t the same.  I didn’t want to lie around and stiffen up so I took a walk down to the Manatee Sanctuary Park.  It was a nice area with some pretty views, but no manatees to be seen.  I went back to my room with the hopes of crashing early.  To my dismay, the ants that occupied my room invited their friends.  I called back down to the front desk and they upgraded me to a suite.  The guy came with my new key and helped me take my luggage to the the new room.  We walked in and someone’s luggage was in there.  Oops!  We went up to the front desk to clear up the situation and Sandra was there.  She gave me another $50 credit for my trouble.  I finally got settled in my new room.  Had a whole suite to myself – no ant roommates.  The suite was nice, but not necessary.  It was just me, and I can only be in one room at a time.  The upside was that the new room came with a Jacuzzi tub next to the bed so I got my ice bath (it was a little late, but my legs still appreciated it).  I went to the bar for a celebratory drink and visited with other runners.  We discussed the highs and lows of the race.  I learned that I was not the only one suffering.  A lot of people had issues with cramps (thankfully I wasn’t in that group).

I flew out the next morning.  Often times I spend the time traveling thinking about the weekend and what I enjoyed, what I could have done different, etc.  I definitely wished I had been more consistent with training.  Issues in the ankle/foot were problematic, but I survived.  The humidity was a little rough, but not too bad.  Other than that, I was really happy with how things went.  The course was gorgeous!  I need to start saving my pennies for all the houses I fell in love with.  I met with friends I had made online and made brand new ones.  Regardless of how the race went, I was super proud of my accomplishment.  Yes, I was proud of crossing the finish line – I always am, but that’s not the achievement that pleased me the most.  I crawled out of my shell and not only visited with other people, but also felt like I deserved to be there – that I belonged there.  And that is why I want to run.

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