This was year 4 of the 5 year Big Bang Series of medals. Like last year, I put up a few Christmas decorations with my family the Friday after Thanksgiving. Then, I said goodbye about 11 am to make the long drive down to Cocoa Beach, FL. I stopped and picked Nicki up on the way. I am so thankful to have a friend to make the trip with. We talked so much that we hardly even noticed when we lost our radio station. The drive down was uneventful and we had almost no traffic on the way. I had filled up on gas before leaving so we only had to stop once for gas. We did go through a drive thru early on to grab some lunch. Since we only made a couple stops and had no traffic issues, we made great time. We got down to our hotel about 7:30 PM. We stay at the host hotel that houses the Expo, the Radisson at the Port. I will say, the beds are super comfy and it would be a great place for cruisers to stay the night before leaving since it’s so close to Port Canaveral. They do offer a shuttle to the port. We were able to get our room right away which was good since we still needed to eat dinner. Finding a parking space was not as big of an issue this year.
Once we dropped our things in the room, we decided to walk to the Italian place next door to grab a quick dinner.
We crossed the parking lot and stepped into Kelsey’s. It has a nautical theme and is attached to a bar. We say a waitress go through a door near our table to go to the bar. While we were dining, we saw 4 families also eating dinner. Both a Carnival and Disney cruise left the next day, so we assume they were on one of those. I splurged on a Mango Mojito and ordered the Spicy Shrimp pasta special of the day.
Both were good. They also brought out garlic bread which was welcomed. Oh, and the entrees came with a salad. Overall, it was a good value and a place I would go to again. We were both exhausted when we got back to the room. We fell asleep in sort order.
The next morning, we got ready. The Expo opened at 9. We left the room about 9:15 and headed over. It was not too crowded when we got there. Luckily, Nicki had looked up and written down our bib numbers. The people working the bib pick up were very friendly.
We got our packets with bib, pins, and check bag sticker. Then they sent us to another area to pick up our shirts.
Once again, we had no wait. We were handed our shirts which we both agreed were our favorites so far. We also grabbed a Moon Pie. Who can pass up one of those? We wandered the Expo since I realized I had left my handheld water bottle at home.
I didn’t find one I liked. We both spent time at Sparkle Skirts.
Although we were both tempted by skirts, we resisted. We took our things back to the room. I was driving in to visit my Granny on her 89th birthday. Nicki decided she wanted to spend the day at Disney Springs. I drove to my Granny’s house and then gave Nicki the keys to continue her trip. My Dad, Uncle, and Brother-in-Law drove up to the FSU vs UF game in Tallahassee. The ladies (myself, my 2 sisters, my mom, and Granny) and my nephew went to Olive Garden for a celebratory lunch. We all had a good time. Afterwards, my mom and baby sister went with me to look for a water bottle. We had no luck but I did get 2 bananas for the morning. We drove back to my Granny’s since Nicki was due to come in less than 30 minutes. I spend the time watching a Hallmark movie with Granny, mom, and my baby sister. Soon, Nicki arrived. I had looked online and found a water bottle at Dick’s so we stopped there on the way back to the hotel. I should add, I had made fruitcakes in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. I had packed 2 in a cooler to bring to my Granny since she loved fruitcakes. Well, I left them in the fridge in the room when I came to visit. I gave my baby sister gas money to drive over to our hotel that night and pick them up. She arrived shortly after we did.
After handing off the fruitcakes and thanking her, we decided to try a local place for an early dinner. We ended up at Crackers Island Grill. It has a very laid back feel but is clean and everyone was friendly.
They did have a college football game on the many TVs in the small place. They did have patio seating but Nicki was a little chilled in the wind so we chose to eat at the bar area.
After much debate over their good looking menu, I decided on a shrimp Po-Boy with their hand cut fries.
Nicki got a burger. We both agreed the food was good and we would definitely come back next year. We did get dessert.
I got the Mango Key Lime Pie and Nicki got the Buttermilk Pie.
I think the Buttermilk was the best. When we were done, we went back to the room in time to see the kickoff of the FSU game. I set out my running gear and even pinned my bib on my shirt and put the tag on my shoe. I didn’t want to take any chances. Then I got ready for bed. I thought I would watch the first half of the game sitting in bed. Honestly, I fell asleep pretty quickly. I did wake up in time to see a few plays before the TV turned off automatically at 11 PM. Then, my mind refused to shut down. So, I did my normal rest the body while I try to shutdown my mind for the rest of the night.
Our alarms went off in tandem at 3:30 am. We both got up and got ready. I grabbed a Luna bar I had packed and one of the bananas. I also grabbed a bottle of water I had from the drive. On the way to the lobby, I put some ice in the bottle and then filled it from the water bottle. I had just enough left to wash down my breakfast. We got to the lobby and Nicki realized she left her phone in the room. I waited while she went back. I saw several runners go through the lobby while I waited. When Nicki returned, she took my pre-race picture with the space suit in the lobby.
Then, we got in the line out front. One bus pulled away while we got in line. It was not yet 4:30 which was the official time for the first bus. Soon, another bus pulled in. We boarded and they filled the bus up. There was still a line of people. We pulled away right at 4:30. We had no problems getting to the drop off area this year. We did have to wait about 10 minutes until we were up to the drop off zone. We got off the bus and wandered to the main gathering area. We ran in to some people we knew so we stopped to chat. At about 5, we made our way over to the flag area for the meet ups. I also ate my pre-race food. I ran into several people I knew. It’s nice to catch up with people you only see once or twice a year in person. At some point, they finally organized the pictures. Then we wandered by the Port-o-potties. I had used them while waiting for the pictures. Nicki used them at this point. Then, we headed for the start area. We made our way in from the back side this year. Nicki wanted to position us between the 3:00 and 3:30 pace groups. I did notice the pace signs on the side this year. The one beside us said 15:00 mile.
The last one said healthy walkers. I think that is a bit of a misnomer since there could be run/walkers that are slower than 15:00 miles. This was our view of the start line.
Soon, they made announcements and the National Anthem was sung. Several men had flags they would carry for the whole race. They raised them during the anthem. After longer than was necessary, they finally did the countdown to blast off. Then, we were off. Well, the people up front were off. It took a little while until those of us in the back started. For once, I had no time in mind and was staying with Nicki. We really didn’t have many issues with the start this year. I guess it’s easier if you’re not trying to stay with a pace group at the start. I started my FitBit as we crossed the line. We weaved through town before being on the main road. Oh, I also turned my lights on just before the start. I will say they were useful once we were out of the main town area. It was still a little dark. Soon, we came to Mile 1.
The sun was just starting to rise. It wasn’t long before the first water stop and port-o-potties.
Mile 2 was on one of the slight uphills. Really, they aren’t bad at all.
We saw one of the flag bearers just before getting to the second water stop.
This water stop was Star Trek themed.
They do have voting at the end for the best water stop. So, the volunteers tend to go out of their way with costumes and cheering. It really is great.
It was much lighter when we got to Mile 3.
Then came the 5k timing mat.
We were still feeling pretty good.
One of the many great signs on the course.
Nicki forgot to take her Advil before the race. So, she stopped at the first medical tent. Unfortunately, they can not give out medication.
Then we hit the water stop.
Not sure of the theme, but it had a good sign after it, too.
Then we found the first unofficial stop. These people just set up and hand out provisions on their own. If I could partake and not get sick with the rest of the run, I would.
Then came Mile 4.
And another unofficial water stop
Followed soon after by another unofficial stop. This one had food.
Then came the official water stop. This one was I Dream of Genie themed (not to be confused with the one on the other side of the road).
You’ll notice the people on their way back already. I believe the lead runner passed us before we got to Mile 4.
Next was another unofficial stop. This one was grilling breakfast foods.
Soon came Mile 5.
I was starting to feel like I should have taken another potty break before starting.
The next water stop was manned by a Boy Scout Troop.
We got to Mile 6.
We knew we were close to the turnaround.
This was the decorations in someone’s yard.
Then came the 10k timing mat.
We were still making good time. Nicki knew she would slow down during the last half, though.
We passed the house with the creepy lady. I think she was wearing a santa hat this year. If you look in the top window you will see what I am talking about. It’s a mannequin.
Then came the Parrothead water stop. They have the water stop just before and after the turnaround every year.
We finally got to the turnaround. The two people to the right had sprayer packs on and would mist you if you asked.
The Parrotheads even had a singer which was a great distraction.
I decided at the turnaround that I needed a port-o-potty stop. So, I ran ahead of Nicki. I got some water from these Parrotheads.
Then I joined this line which wasn’t too long.
Nicki passed while I was waiting but kept going. She knew I would catch her soon enough. I’m pretty sure I got to Mile 7 before I caught her, though.
I loved this tree sign.
Oh, I forgot to mention, since I didn’t use my intervals I really had to pay attention for my GUs. I did take one at about 45 minutes. The second one was closer to 2 hours than 1:45, though. I think that sign reminded me.
I had caught Nicki before the next water stop. This one was another Boy Scout Troop.
During this stretch, the lead marathon runner passed us on the other side. We knew he would pass us completely before we finished.
We eventaully got to Mile 8.
I think Nicki was starting to wear down at this point. The next water stop was Green Lantern themed. This is the one that was across from the I Dream of Genie from earlier.
At Mile 9, we were still doing intervals.
Then, we were passed by the lead marathon runner.
Next came the 15k speed bump.
I enjoyed reading some of the road signs made along the route. This one was right before the next water stop.
The first person at this water stop was hanging out GU.
There was another good sign after the water stop.
We made it to Mile 10.
I think it was at this point that Nicki was done running. Her back was not happy and even more so since she didn’t take any medicine before the race.
We saw speedo marathon guy on the other side at this point.
Another water stop was soon to follow.
We finally got to Mile 11.
I know we had to stop a few times before the end for Nicki to stretch out her back. We were just walking and focused on finishing to keep the streak alive.
We knew the last water stop (across the street from the first one) was at a church. We were happy when we finally saw it.
At the Mile 12 marker, we could see the landmark bridge. The finish line is pretty close to this bridge.
We were both happy when we saw this sign.
I was even more happy to see the sign that said we’d made it to the town.
For those not familiar, Cocoa and Cocoa Beach are 2 different things. Cocoa is actually inland on the river. Cocoa Beach is across 2 bridges by the ocean.
Then we got to another sign. The guys watching were very encouraging.
There was a line of signs leading to the circular sidewalk to the finish.
We turned right onto the sidewalk.
I was still walking because I knew I couldn’t make it all the way yet.
Some people were running passed at this point.
We reached Mile 13.
I started running at the flags and kicked it to the finish.
Nicki was originally hoping to beat 3:30, but I came in at 3:43. She finished shortly after me. We were happy to have that medal around our necks.
My friend, Joe, was running his first marathon. I had been tracking him and was hoping to see him on course on the opposite side of the road. Somehow I missed him. After talking to Lisa, his wife and my friend from high school, we grabbed some pizza and Coke and made our way to the finish to wait for him. After a little while, Nicki offered to grab a chocolate milk for me. I have to admit, that was probably the best chocolate milk ever. Funny how finishing a race can change your perceptions.
While waiting, I noticed this cow and had to get my picture. It’s an inside joke with my family.
Lisa had joined us to capture Joe’s finish. Apparently, he had an issue crop up and had to drop back in pace a little towards the end. He did finish and didn’t look too bad. I can’t remember his final time, but know it’s way faster than I could ever run. We got this group picture after he got his medal.
Then, Nicki and I caught the bus back to the hotel. We knew we needed to hit the road as soon as possible to avoid any traffic. Back in the lobby, I got another picture with the spacesuit.
That’s the first photo that you can see my lights in. After this, I turned them off. We got back to the room and both showered and changed. We didn’t rush, but we didn’t dawdle, either. Soon, we were loading up the car and driving to the lobby to check out. It was rather painless. Since we’d eaten pizza, neither of us were ready to grab lunch. We got on the road. We only needed one stop for gas and food. Then we made it all the way to Rock Hill before needing gas again. I dropped Nicki off and made it home about 10 hours after leaving the hotel. Overall, not bad timing. We were even in SC before the Panthers game started. So, we got to listen to most of it on the radio on a couple different stations during the drive.
This is a really well run race and has a very generous time limit. It is also very flat and has great course support. I would recommend this race to beginners. Nicki and I plan to go out with a bang next year and run the full. According to the official guide, the time limit on the full is 7 hours since the course officially re-opens at 1:30 pm. Incidentally, 1:30 pm is also the cutoff for the half which gives you 7 1/2 hours for that. The pacing requirements are 18 min per mile for the full and 30 min per mile for the half. A 7 hour marathon is actually a 16 min per mile pace so I’m not sure how that works. The only drawback for me on this race is the weekend. It’s hard to give up my Thanksgiving weekend (post-Thanksgiving itself) for this long. One or two years is easy, four has been difficult. To be honest, if next year wasn’t the final year of the series, I would be rethinking this one. I hear rumors that another multi-year series is in the works for this race. Good luck to those embarking on that one in 2018! The Big Bang series has been fun for me.