I woke up at 5:40 am as usual on race day. I had all my things together so I got ready quickly. I had a new SparkleTech skirt that had flames on it. I was amazed with how light the skirt fabric was. I filled my water bottle with ice and then put in as much water as I could. I had 4 GUs in my front pocket. After making chocolate milk for the kids, I headed out just after 6. I made my now usual stop at Starbucks for a tall Pumpkin Spice Latte. I ate my banana on the way to Memorial Stadium. There was a short line of cars in the parking deck. Apparently they had roped off all but the first level. It was about full. After trying to pull into one spot that was too narrow, I turned around and found another, slightly less narrow spot on the ground floor. Shortly after I parked, they pulled down the rope. I guess they blocked it off so there would be enough parking for the race. I got out of my car and went to get my number. There was one person in front of me. I had no issues getting my number, pins, or shirt. It was a really soft, grey shirt with the awesome logo. The guys at the chips were funny, but no issues there. I did get a zip tie. Since we were in the same spot as the poorly run July 4th race, I was very happy I had no issues. I went back to my car to drop off the shirt and get everything ready. I pinned my number onto my shirt hoping I wouldn’t end up with holes. I finished up my coffee, put on sunscreen, put my sunglasses around my neck, and grabbed my water, phone, and headband. I threw the cup away as I walked back to the port-o-potties. There was no line for the POPs.
After I was finished, I saw Nicki heading towards me. She ran the Tower of Terror 10 miler the weekend before. She was telling me all about it and the new, smaller Disney corrals. The line for the POPs was growing while we chatted. Pizah found us, too. We chatted for a couple more minutes and then Nicki got in line while Pizah and I headed back towards the start area. I found out Pizah missed the Lung Strong due to a family emergency. I put on my sweatband and had Pizah take my before picture. Nicki found us again. We had someone take a before picture of the 3 of us. Then we decided it was time to find the start area. Everyone was lining up on the wrong side. We hung out until they told all the half marathoners to walk around the start gate to the other side. We only had about 5 minutes to the start at that point. We tried to get towards the back of the pack. They did announce the 5 miler would start 20 minutes later.
Soon the race started and we walked to the start line before running. I started my phone app and intervals on my watch right away. Nicki stayed with me a little over a mile this time. We started out down 7th street and then tuned left on Hawthorne. During this stretch was the first DJ on course. We hit Mile 1 just before the DJ. At that point, I was just under a 12 min mile. We made a couple turns through a neighborhood before getting on The Plaza. We hit Mile 2 in the neighborhood. The first part of the Plaza stretch is also used for Mile 9. Luckily, I did not see any of the speedy people heading back. The next water stop was right at the next DJ. I made the decision to walk through the water stops and after the first, poured a little on my head and back each time I got water. I did get Gatorade at many of the stops, though. We ran quite a ways on The Plaza hitting Mile 3 before turning on Shamrock. I started eating my salted caramel GU in this stretch. It took a few walk breaks to finish it. On Shamrock we hit Mile 4 and the next DJ. Then we turned back through some neighborhoods. There was another water stop between Mile 4 and 5. I think this is the point where I started thinking how hilly the course was. We were hoping it wouldn’t be as bad as the Hit the Brixx, but it was worse. We came to the next DJ at Mile 6. There was a timing mat at the 10k mark. I was just slightly behind my Hit the Brixx 10k time here. I believe I was at 1:16 and some seconds.
There was another water stop between 6 and 7. I think this stop was the one manned by a single lady. She did an awesome job and I do really appreciate her. At Mile 7, we briefly got on Central Ave before turning back into neighborhoods at the next DJ. In this stretch I had my next GU, cherry lime one with caffeine. Mile 8 was in the neighborhoods. I remember seeing my time and thinking I only had 5 miles to go and I could do this. I could beat 3 hours. We turned back on The Plaza and got water. This is the repeated stretch. We continued further down The Plaza this time and turned off at the next DJ. At this point my legs were hurting. The hills were getting to me. I decided to start walking the uphills and let my legs go as fast as they wanted on the downhills. I tried to do my intervals on anything that was relatively flat. We hit Mile 10 in sight on Independence Blvd on Commonwealth. There was another water stop and DJ here. We continued on and turned onto Briar Creek. We ran on this bridge over Independence Blvd. Apparently there was some event going on at Bojangle’s Coliseum. The police there were doing a great job of directing traffic for the event and to keep us safe. Shortly after that we turned Monroe. We were going downhill to go under a train track bridge. That’s where I really knew where I was.
I saw Lupie’s Café in the distance. It’s one of the first hole in the wall places my husband took me when we were dating. They have an amazing Peach Kuchen dessert. If you don’t mind wait staff with lots of tattoos and piercings, it is a great little place to eat. I got my phone out and took a picture of the café and posted it with 1.5 miles to go. There was a DJ where we turned onto 7th street. There was also a water stop right at Mile 12. I joked with the guys there that is was cruel that the water stop was in the middle of a downhill section. Somehow, I forgot to take the GU I should have had at just before Mile 12. The next 1.1 miles is on 7th street. I kept up my intervals as much as I could since I knew I was close to the end. There was one intersection where 3 cops were working. It was during a walk break and they were giving me a hard time (jokingly). I told them I was doing intervals and they said it wasn’t an interval race. About the time they said that, my watch beeped and I started running again. Once I saw the finish line, I took an extra long walk break so I could run across the finish mat. I started running again at the intersection at Charlottetowne Ave and ran all the way to the end.
Since there were good gaps between runners at this point, they announced my name as I ran across the mat. I did really appreciate that and it did push me just a bit more. I saw the clock at 2:50 and some seconds as I ran under it. I was greeted by volunteers with medals and one took the chip off my shoe. I walked around a minute and then decided to go get a Gatorade, banana, and granola bar. It looked like everyone was already starting to leave at that point. I knew I was going to be in the last group of finisher, but I was still surprised. I walked back to the finished line and meet Nicki finishing about 5 minutes after me. We waited a few minutes and then I got someone to take our after picture. At the 3 hour mark, we waited to see if Pizah would cross. Several people did, but she was not one of them. They started opening up roads at this point. Being runDisney veterans, we thought maybe they had some sweeper vehicle that picked up the stragglers. Turns out, they let them continue they just have to stay on the sidewalks. There were 3 people still on coarse when they started breaking down. They left the clock, but took up the mats. Nicki and I sat at the finish to wait. They asked Nicki to get Gatorade for those left so they didn’t have to walk that way. At about the 3:14 mark, we could see 3 people coming on the sidewalk. I asked about medals and one of the guys packing up went and got 3 to have ready. Pizah and the other 2 girls crossed the finish together holding up their hands.
After talking to her, we learned the other 2 were about ready to give up with the hills and everything and she convinced them to all walk together to finish the race. This might sound sappy, but I was so proud of her for getting them back. The photographer had put up his camera, but wanted to get a picture of the last 3. So we walked down to the party area and he took several shots including a few of Nicki, Pizah, and myself. We finally all exchanged numbers and look forward to seeing each other at Thunder Road; the last race in the series. We are also all running Space Coast in December. Nicki and I will also be running Tinkerbell in January and the Glass Slipper Challenge in February. I’m glad I met these 2 amazing women.
Speaking of amazing women, there was one lady on coarse that was leapfrogging with me until the end. She was very encouraging and helped me to push up the hills. I never got her name, but I hope to see her again in the future. She passed me for good in the last mile.
Overall, this was a good but very hilly course. The area was not the best in places so I’m glad there were cops at all the intersections. There were lots of water and Gatorade stops on course and the multitude of DJs did keep me going. By the end, one of my ankles was sore and my hamstrings were not at all happy with me. After checking the official results, I did get an amazing new PR of 2:49:45. My previous best was 3:30 and some seconds at Princess. I am amazed at my time with all the hills and look forward to what I can do on the flat Space Coast course in December. I hear Thunder Road will be quite hilly, too.