Although I tend to do this race every year because it gives me an opportunity to visit with my son David (who – without any training at all – just comes out and does it with me), this year I had an ulterior motive. This half and the Ocala half marathon that I completed 2 weeks ago would enable me to join the Half Fanatics, the sister club to Marathon Maniacs. While I enjoy the challenges of longer races, I believe the 13.1 mile distance is ideal and it seems that the older I get, the more half marathons appeal to me.
On Saturday morning my husband and I loaded up our car for the 2 hour drive to Tallahassee. When we arrived, my daughter-in-law made us a hearty lunch and we talked and relaxed until it was time to go to packet pickup at the host hotel, the DoubleTree downtown. The Gulf Winds Track Club had scheduled a program that sounded terrific to me – Chuck “marathon junkie” Engle was to talk about his race experiences at 3 pm and a local coach was on the schedule a bit later to discuss how to prepare onself mentally for the marathon. I would have enjoyed listening to both speakers but my family had other ideas, so we just picked up our bibs (with chip attached to the back), tee shirts, and a few advertisements and coupons and headed home. After a light dinner and some very active playtime with my 3 year old granddaughter, I was exhausted and ready for bed around 8 pm.
I slept soundly, possibly too soundly. I awoke with a start and checked my watch. It was 4:30 am and I had planned to wake up at 4. Already a bit behind, I quickly rose and turned on the lightswitch. Nothing. Hmmm, I must have done something wrong. The room I was sleeping in has a control for the fan, television, and light; I must have turned on or off the wrong switch before going to sleep. I felt my way to the bathroom and turned on the light there. Oh, oh! – still nothing. At that moment my son appeared and confirmed that the electricity was out in the house. We went outside to see if any neighbors also had a problem. Sure enough, our entire block was in darkness, although the streets farther away had lights. My son called the local power company to report the outage and then we proceeded to get dressed – me by flashlight and my son by the light from his cell phone.
Not an auspicious way to begin race day! Somehow we managed to throw our clothes on, wash up, and brush our teeth. Hoping I didn’t overlook anything (energy bar, tissues, wallet, what else??), we piled into David’s car and drove to his office. There we made coffee (thank goodness – by this time I was REALLY needing some caffeine), ate our impromptu breakfast (bread and granola bars), and talked. Funny, this turned out to be a neat way to spend some one-on-one time with my son. I had his undivided attention and we could hold a conversation without interruptions from my granddaughter. While I like to think that we can talk during the race, he is usually much faster than me and tends to run instead of walk. Our conversation, as a result, is in bits and pieces and sometimes there is none at all. Unexpectedly, this particular pre-race morning was the highlight of the day for me.
At 6:45 am we left to make our way to the Mike Long Track on the campus of Florida State University. We parked (there is plenty of parking available in the campus lots and garage), stood in line for the indoor bathrooms (although there are about a dozen porta potties outside), and walked around the starting line area. I saw a number of Darksiders there, including Scott Ludwig, Al Barker, Phil Min, Deb Ingram, and Mellody Hughes) as well as some other friends and we chatted and joked until the 7:30 am start. This is my 5th Tallahassee race but the only time that the weather was warmer than 50 degrees. It is usually so cold at the start that I wear gloves and a hat and a scarf. This year, however, the temperature hovered around 57 degrees and seemed almost balmy. I was glad I had worn just a short sleeved shirt under my mesh vest; I had a light jacket on over everything but I was pretty sure I would take it off and tie it around my waist after a few miles.
The race began right on time and we took off. I think Tallahassee is an attractive city but the race course does not go anywhere close to the city itself. Much of the time we are on a bike path that travels through some commercial areas with not much to see. The Gulf Winds Track Club states many people qualify for Boston on this course; it may be exceedingly boring but it is also definitely very flat. The city of Tallahassee has many hills and would be a challenge to runners; it would also tie up traffic on narrow streets.
Since time was not an issue – we had 6 hours – I decided to walk the majority of the race, running only when I felt like it (which was not much). I occasionally tried to run to keep up with the flow of other participants so I could cross the several major intersections without having to stop for cars. Police were pretty good this year at holding traffic so runners could cross, but in previous years I have been stopped and told to wait while cars were allowed to pass. I wasn’t taking any chances this year.
Around mile 4, my son said he was going to run a bit faster because he was feeling good. I told him to take off and he did – and I didn’t see him again until the end of the race. Turns out he finished only 3 minutes ahead of me but he must have been just out of my line of sight. As usual, during the final 5 miles of the race, I got a resurgence of energy and finished strong, with my best half marathon time yet,2:38. Rather than stay for the bagels and water and such (where was all the pizza this year?), we headed home so we could shower and change and go out to eat. One of our traditions after this race is to go to an all-you-can-eat buffet, usually Andrew’s downtown, but this year we tried Azu, one of LucyHo’s restaurants, where we had a wonderful Sunday brunch buffet, with every kind of Asian delicacy you could imagine.
My husband and I had made plans to stop on our way back at the new home of some friends of ours, so we said our good-byes to David and his family and spent several enjoyable hours with Lew and Elona before we had to hurry home to pick up our dog at the vet’s kennel.
The next day I signed up for Half Fanatics at http://www.halffanatics.com/ . Now I am officially a member at the Neptune level!