9 minute PR! Beautiful beach breeze! A dog in a Jeannie costume! Photobombing road signs!
The morning started out quite early since we had an hour drive to Cocoa Beach. My best friend and her husband drove up from the other side of the state the night before, to wake up at 4:30 AM and come cheer me on (I can’t even talk about it. They are such good friends. It makes me emotional.)
We were out the door with coffee in hand, expecting no traffic at 5 AM on a Sunday morning…but alas. We came across a standstill on our way out of Orlando. Turns out there was some huge drag racing event at the racetrack, and all these tuner cars were VERY SERIOUS about getting there early! I did not know such a thing existed on such a large scale. But it only held us up for a few minutes, and thankfully we were on our way.
My mom stayed in Cocoa Beach the night before because she: 1) is contractually bound to cheering for me at every race, and 2) Cocoa is one of our usual family vacation spots so she jumped at the chance to have a little hotel stay. So when we arrived in Cocoa, we got to go straight to her hotel and use a real live bathroom before they dropped me off to get on the shuttle. I grabbed my bib and hopped on the last shuttle (oops), which took the runners 5 miles south to the starting line.
Cocoa Beach was the setting of the 60’s show I Dream of Jeannie, so the race was celebrating the show’s 50th anniversary by having runners dress up as Jeannie! There were over 100 runners in genie costumes. Not sure how comfortable that was, but it was cute to see!
I headed to stand in the porta potty line, which was moving at an acceptable pace (thumbs up to CBHM for having a massive amount of porta potties) when gradually my line started moving slower than all the other lines. Not just in my head, either. The runners in the front of the line kept opening the door to this one potty and acting weird and then pumping hand sanitizer on to their hands and getting back in line. Turns out there was a huge turd ON THE SEAT. HOW DOES THAT EVEN HAPPEN? It made for some huge laughs when I told my people on the ride home. *cries laughing forever* *we are so mature*
Around 7:45 the national anthem was sung and the race started! I placed myself way at the back of the pack because I didn’t want to be tempted to go out too fast! There were almost 5x more runners than my last race, so I crossed the start line 5 minutes after the gun. I planned to run Miles 1 and 2 as warm ups and keep a steady pace of 10:45 for the rest of the race, and pick it up as much as possible for the last mile. I definitely didn’t go out too fast! In fact, my first mile was about 30 seconds slower than planned, but I’d rather it be too slow than too fast. I tried not to weave in and out too much and instead just waited for openings when they came. The good thing about starting at the back is you get to pass people all race instead of being passed the whole time!
The map showed the course going straight up Highway A1A but it faked us out a few times by doubling back into parking lots. Kind of frustrating but the nice thing about it was seeing all the runners before and behind you! Sometimes on straightaways it’s hard to remember how many people are doing this with you.
There were musicians near every water stop and they were really entertaining! The first one we saw was a woman singing 80’s pop tunes, no big deal, but then the music changed to dubstep and she started playing the TRUMPET, to DUBSTEP. It was awesome. There were also Jeannie look-alikes holding the mile marker signs, and random facts about I Dream of Jeannie posted on signs every so often.
I thought I would see my people around Mile 3, but I must have read the map wrong because I didn’t see them until Mile 5! I was so happy to finally see my husband and my best friends that I teared up a bit. It is soooo encouraging to see people you love when you’re doing really hard stuff! I saw Matt with his first sign which said “You Are Legend….(wait for it!)”
Miles 3-8 had more of an 11:00 minute average than a 10:45. I tried to check my Garmin a lot and keep it around 10:45, but apparently I need more practice with that. Lol.
At Mile 8 there was a hill I felt I needed to walk up to conserve energy, but when we drove by it later I laughed out loud because it was literally nothing. My mental game is SO GREAT.
Saw a little family of three extremely old golden retrievers at this point, which made me smile like a loon, and then we passed a spectator family with two kids that were running around like little spazzes, which was simply a little insulting. Stop having energy when I have no energy, okay?
Then we crossed on to the beach! I was excited to run this whole course, because the whole area of Cocoa Beach is special to me, but we spend most of our time on the beach when we stay here so I was excited to finally get to run the beach. Of course, none of it looked familiar, because it all looks the same at 8 AM, but it was still nice! We trudged across the thick sand to get to the packed sand, which the race directors assumed would be very hard, but the tide wasn’t as far out as they thought and so the sand was still a little squishy!
Running on the beach sounds like a great idea, and it feels great on your face and it sounds great in your ears and it’s beautiful to your eyes, but it just hurts your legs SO MUCH. This stretch was from Mile 8.5 through Mile 11 but it felt like a lot longer than that. My pace was a full minute slower than usual. The first woman to cross the finish line at this race also said she slowed by a full minute on this section, so I don’t feel as bad. 🙂
I got to see my people again on the beach section! Matt was there with his second sign which read, “…DARY! LEGENDARY!” and Megan and Patrick were there screaming and taking a video, and they ran with me for a little bit before saying goodbye. Then a few minutes later I spotted my mom standing there with her doggy Pepper, so I stopped to give her a hug and get some encouragement, and a puppy kiss of course, and then I was off.
The beach section went on and onnnn and I kept having to remind myself to focus on the present mile because all I wanted was to see where people were turning off of the beach and back to the road. Finally I got to the turning point and all the women around me sighed with relief. That beach was brutal!
The last mile was a part of the course we’d already run. Ya’ll know I sort of hate repeating loops, and after running 11 miles, I hate it the same amount. It felt so much longer than the first time we ran it. I picked up the pace as much as I thought I could sustain (so like 10:30) and tried not to take any more walk breaks! I focused on reeling in the runner in front of me and that trick really works! I passed some women that I had been leap-frogging the last few miles. I held on, and then I saw my mom and Pepper again, so I walked to talk with her for one minute and she told me the finish line was just two stoplights away!
There was a wall of spectators down the finisher’s chute. It was really motivating, but embarrassing because I hate when a lot of people are suddenly staring at me, but also super fun to hear all the shouting. Though I was so focused that I hardly heard the shouting. At the last second I finally saw Matt and Megan and Patrick out of the corner of my eye, and then I was blinded by this pink shag carpet:
I gave it my best kick in the last 100 meters, which ended up being around an 8:30 pace, and then I was through the finish line!
I finished 8 minutes faster than my last half marathon time! Officially 2:29:35. Number 660 out of about 2800 runners. I liked this race because I was never running by myself. I also paced the early miles better and fueled really consistently which definitely helped avoid hitting the wall like last time. I’d like to be faster than 2:29, but today I realized that I’ve only been distance running for six months! I can’t be too hard on myself.
For their inaugural race, the Cocoa Beach Half Marathon was extremely well thought out and very organized. Lots of water and Gatorade at every stop, TONS of volunteers, and really fun entertainment along the course! I’m so thankful for a great race experience. It gave me the hope I needed to press on with my marathon training through the end of the year!