Date: February 15, 2015
Gun Time: 1:40:32
Chip Time: 1:40:21
Placing Overall: 43rd out of 427
Placing in Age Group: 9th out of 25 (M40-44)
Theme Song: The Cramps, “I Can’t Hardly Stand It”
A warning before we get started with this post – it gets a little, shall we say, scatological. And not in a cuss word sort of way. So you may want to bear that in mind before reading.
I wasn’t supposed to run this race. The plan had been to run a competitive half marathon to sort of gauge where I was at prior to enrolling in my first marathon in May, but I had decided on (and in fact had registered for) the Syracuse Half Marathon in March. It was just that… the training was going so damn well, and I felt so strong, that I made a snap decision to head to Naples for this one as well. We were vacationing about 40 minutes drive north in Cape Coral, it made sense from a scheduling perspective, and with a couple of 13 mile runs already under my belt I felt like doing it wouldn’t be a problem, and would give me an idea of what I could do early in training.
The drive from Ontario to the gulf coast of Florida is a long one, and when you have kids it’s not like you want to dawdle. This meant that my diet in the couple of days previous to the half marathon (I was running it at 6AM the day after a late evening arrival in Cape Coral) consisted of, well, Golden Corral buffets and McDonald’s fries. In other words, not exactly the stuff of which Hal Higdon would approve.
Now, some foreshadowing, courtesy of Runner’s World magazine:
Runners’ Colitis is a term used to describe an exercise-induced form of colitis that is usually a temporary condition, brought on by long mileage or the intensity of a run, in other words, physical stress… consider your diet [prior to racing].
In other words, said diet was about to make a rather unwelcome contribution to my day.
Lori and the kids showed no interest in accompanying me to Naples at 5:30 in the morning, and so I arrived at the Florida Sports Park (home of the “World Famous Swamp Buggy Races”, whatever they are) in the cool morning air to get ready for the race.
After grabbing a coffee (in retrospect, given subsequent events, probably another poor decision) I did my stretching and got to the starting corral as the sun was coming up. The temperature was about 50F at the start of the race and with the course being flat and no wind it looked like perfect conditions were to be the order of the day, especially in comparison with the ones I had been running in at home.
The race was a small one, with about 500 participants running the marathon and half combined, and about four-fifths of these doing the half. We were off into the cool Florida morning at 6:45AM and my first official half marathon was underway. Trying to keep my pace controlled, I breezed through the first mile in 7:30. My pace felt comfortable, conditions were perfect, and the miles started to roll by as I passed palm groves and gated communities. My goal going into the race was to run sub 1:45, and it certainly seemed to be playing out that way early on.
The first hint of a problem started to emerge around mile 6. The sport drink I had just taken at an aid station did not seem to be sitting right. The following is a quick synopsis of my thought process for the next few miles:
Mile 7: Shit, cramping. Ow, ow, ow. How is it possible to have a cold sweat on my forehead when it’s 70 degrees out and I’m running?
Mile 7.5: Running around a lake now. Feel like I’m gonna crap myself. OK. Don’t stop. Wow, that guy’s totally sprinting for the portajohns. Guess I’m not the only one. Godspeed, brother.
Mile 8.5: OK. OK. No big deal. Hold your pace. Just gotta get through a couple more miles and OH GOD DID SOME COME OUT? I THINK SOME CAME OUT. Wait, no. Maybe. Just keep running.
Mile 10: Jesus, 3 more miles to go? C’mon. Hold it in. Damn, my legs are sore now too.
At this point, I checked my split (1:14:30) and calculated that sub 1:40 was still possibly in play, despite struggling with my pace due to cramping. A long, brutal straightaway that seemed to go on forever dominated the end of the race and despite my troubles I (pardon the pun) gutted things out to the last stretch and the entry to the Sports Park. Being so close to the finish was energizing and I couldn’t help smiling as I came within sight of the finish, even if it was more of a grimace.
Then I saw the time on the finish line clock was 1:35:30. What the hell? The last 3 miles were a bit fuzzy due to my efforts to keep my insides in, but I didn’t think there was any way that I was that fast. After grabbing my medal and some water at the finish, it was off to the portajohns myself. Fortunately I finished fairly early compared to most of the runners and there were no lines.
I recovered sufficiently to grab a slab of post race pizza and it soon became evident that there was beer on offer. And it was free. At least, the Budweiser, and Bud Light were. The guy behind me asked for a Stella, and was told he would be charged for it.
“I’ll go get my wallet,” he sighed, stomping off.
A man of discerning taste, apparently. Me, I’m good with free.
Sitting in the Florida sunshine afterward, aforementioned cold beer in hand, I felt a lot better. It soon became clear that the organizational skills of Elite Events, who were coordinating the race for the first time this year, were, uh, a bit lacking. For example, it took them forever to announce the winners of the various age groups, or even figure out who they were. My posted time and placing changed several times after the race, and there were no monitors where times could be checked. And most egregious of all, how the hell can you allow the bloody finish line clock to be off by 5 whole minutes???
Nevertheless, gastro troubles aside, I was happy with my run and my time. I was guaranteed a PR anyway and the fact that I pretty much crushed my goal was gratifying. Plus, lessons were learned for future races, even if said lessons were learned the hard way…