It may not have been to-the-letter perfect but it was a great marathon weekend with Suzie and Dana.
Thursday: Suzie’s Spirit plane arrived 20 minutes early on Thanksgiving evening but her reaching the curb coincided exactly with my reaching the same curb to pick her up. Once home, Dana served a delicious holiday turkey dinner for the three of us and we retired for a good night’s sleep after some chocolate pecan pie. We didn’t have ice cream but we had some the next three times we dug in.
Friday: A sunny day top-down drive to Track Shack for race supplies was followed by a meandering tour of Winter Park and Orlando neighborhoods where we stopped to snap pics of nine peacocks over by Seth’s house. That led into lunch time so we picked up Dana and secured a sidewalk table at Prato on Park Avenue. More high-quality fueling for the race ensued. We skipped a scheduled 20 minute jog that day and opted for a three-hour shopping tour on Park Avenue. Dana and Suzie made out well. And I assure you we did not miss a shop.
As our day wound down we returned to my car to go home and the radiator sprung a leak. A failed attempt to find my repair shop open on Thanksgiving Friday led to a Transportation Plan B for the rest of the weekend. We pondered the options into dinner time which were mulled over a home-cooked beef dinner again by Dana. More pie was consumed with ice cream this time. After deliberation I decided we didn’t need any more stress before the run so planned to rent a car to go over to the coast.
Saturday: We had 9:00 and 10:15 massages scheduled with Amy. It was a new plan of mine to get a massage the day before a race. We think it was worthwhile. And while Suzie found how much she really hurt, I called to reserve a car to pick up by noon. When we were both done and pummeled, we went to pick up a Chrysler 200 (with a very wet passenger seat, Suzie found out) and then home for turkey sandwiches. We packed and took off for Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex to pick up our race packets. The drive was fine. The line was long to get in. Record sold out races will do that to a race expo. Having done this three times prior, I knew where the stops were we needed to make. We found our bib numbers, collected them and our souvenir shirt then toured the exhibit of U.S. space exploration. Numerous photos of same were posted to Facebook.
I then took Suzie to see the last 13 miles of the course, since I knew it looked better when driving it than running it from miles 14-26. The Rockledge end of the course has lovely homes, winding roads and a great view of the Indian River. The course tour substituted for an hour on the beach. It was cloudy and breezy with temps in the high 60s. No sunbathing was going to happen Saturday. We thought it might on Sunday.
We headed over to the hotel on Cocoa Beach and checked into our rooms without any problems. The International Palms Resort is nothing special but it was clean and the beds comfortable. We set up our rooms then went to dinner at the Bonefish Grill in Merritt Island. Shrimp fettucini was the closest we could find on the menu to carbo load on but there were tons of shrimp and it was yummy. By 8:30 we were back to the hotel, in our rooms, laying out our running gear and settling down for the night.
Sunday: We forgot spoons but each managed to consume microwavable oatmeal after waking at 4 a.m. Bananas added potassium. By 4:45 we were on our way to catch the shuttle bus from the hotel straight to the race site, back in Cocoa. Temps in the low 60s with a breeze were tolerable. We huddled on the finish line park stage, taking funny photos with NASA space suits set up for the awards ceremony later that morning. During this time I ran into a few pals: Seth, Simone, Wayne, and Atif. Before and after I saw Dan Hardaway, Joan Carroll, Arnett and Jamie. At 6:30 a.m. we watched a shuttle launch countdown on a huge video screen and the race began.
The Race: We had a plan for the run and scrapped it five minutes before we started. Instead of slow and steady at whatever pace we wanted, running 9:30 and walking 1:00, we opted to go all in with a Galloway pace group aiming for a 5:00 finish. That called for a 11:27 mile pace average, with two minute runs and one minute walks the whole way. There were a lot of people in the group. The pacer was very good and funny. His only drawback was he was a little faster going out that he needed to be. We kept pace without any trouble and found it best to run ahead of the pack bouncing between our group and the 5-hour straight run group just ahead of us. The north end of the course is much like the Rockledge end but not as totally scenic. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the first 13 mile of running and felt great coming into Cocoa Village again.
Then Suzie said she needed to use the facilities. I knew a permanent bathroom right off the course in downtown, and it was empty. We were in and out quickly and only about 50 yards behind our group. We resolved to keep a normal pace but not stop to walk until we caught them. We never quite did. We caught the tail of the group in about a mile but then our effort started taxing us. By Mile 16 our pace fell off the sub-12-minute table and we started struggling, left unattended, and had ten more miles to endure.
Weather was perfect. Temps stayed in the 60s with a brisk breeze off the river under cloudy skies. We couldn’t blame the weather.We cut back to 3-minute runs and 90-second walks. Then we mixed in a few 90/90s. Then we stopped for more potty breaks and walks. A shot of beer around Mile 19 was welcome by me. Suzie was fighting ill feelings and abstained. We trudged on looking to see if the 520 bridge was getting any closer. Obnoxious staff support on bicycles kept telling us how great we were when we knew we weren’t. We resolved that her running her 10th marathon was a fitting number to end a marathon career. I said as much about my 15th, and our fourth together. At the sight of course photographers, we picked up our legs enough to look capable and smiled. The photos told more lies that way. The last five miles was a battle of leap frog “racing” with our fellow sufferers. Dan Hardaway must have passed us five times, but we eventually “buried” him behind us somehow.
At the Riverview Park finish area there was still a crowd five hours and 38 minutes after the start so we had to run it in to the cheers and encouragement from many. Once across the line, together, Suzie and I leaned over to receive our big-honking race medals of the Space Shuttle Columbia. Standing up straight after that was difficult. We found diet Cokes, fresh griddle pancakes and scrambled eggs to bring us back from oblivion. It helped. With a looming hotel checkout time we headed for the shuttle queue. It was long.
A Harley motorcycle parade held the same day, at noon, had closed one lane of the bridge and the buses could not shuttle back to pick us up. We sat in the cloudy cool breeze, stretching some, covering ourselves from a misty drizzle and waited. The concerned race director came over and told us the story of the motorcycle parade and apologized. She told us the buses were almost there. After 45 minutes of waiting we were heading east to the beach hotels … except one of our passengers was dehydrated to the point he needed medical attention. Along the route was a hospital and so a bus full of stinky marathoners drove up to the emergency room doors and helped the guy off the bus for more care and attention. That’s never happened before.
We got to the hotel – the blessed first stop, no less – got new keys to our rooms (originals expired at checkout time) and headed for the showers. We freshened up, checked out and hit the beach bar for burgers, beer and old time rock ‘n roll entertainment by two older guys who could play acoustic guitars really well. We finished up, strolled the beach to keep the sludge from settling inside our limbs, then headed home. Dana and Cole were there to hear our tales of fun and misery and we had another huge meal to give us strength. I am sure we were asleep by 8:30.
Monday: We took it easy all day Monday except for taking my car into the shop. We went out for lunch then sat around the house reading and chatting. When Dana came home from work we had a few beverages before heading tot he airport. Suzie was off and the weekend was over. It was definitely memorable and worth the 18 weeks of training and reunion with my Running Blog Family buddy “Runner Susan.” She and beau Matt may have to come back next year for the half-marathon so we can work our way up to the Milky Way three-time race medal at the Space Coast Marathon. Something to ponder.
It may have been an overall bad race, yeah, but we did it. It’s over and we are moving on.
In fact I ran three miles hard this morning.