Originally I was supposed to do a 24-hour race in Pensacola after Christmas but that race was unexpectedly canceled. That left a big hole in my schedule: an entire 2 weeks without a race. Of course, I could have taken that time to relax and recuperate but after the calorie overload I experienced during the holidays, I really wanted to find at least one race to justify such indulgence.
That’s when my husband reminded me of the Savage Seven (S7) down in Ocala. As I wrote about last month in my essay on marathon challenges, the S7 consists of seven marathons beginning on the day after Christmas and ending on New Year’s Day. The races are held in a lovely park along the Marjorie Harris Carr Greenway in Ocala, a town midway between Tampa and Gainesville and famous for its horse ranches. I have done several of these races in previous years and written about them in past postings on this blog. Last year I volunteered on the first day and then flew to Arizona for the 72-hour Across the Years race. Usually I just drive down from Gainesville, returning the same day. If I were to do a race or two this year, I would have to stay in Ocala, since the drive from our new hometown would add at least two additional hours of travel time.
That turned out to be a non-issue. I signed up for 3 races, beginning on December 27, and made a reservation at Homewood Suites for 3 nights. We left home after breakfast on the 26th and drove to the hotel first where we checked in. Then we timed how long it took to drive from the hotel to the race site, about 20 minutes. The first day of marathons was finishing up so we chatted with Chuck Savage, the RD, and several of the volunteers. Only a few people were still out on the course, my friend Deb among them, but most people had finished and were resting up for the next day. Florida was experiencing extremely warm and humid temperatures for December and, because of the heat, Chuck agreed to let runners begin an hour earlier than the usual 7 am for the second day of racing. I was glad that we stopped by because otherwise I would not have known about the early start. In fact, the heat was such that on the following two days we started at 5 am, two hours earlier. This was fine with me, because my favorite time for walking is very early in the morning and it was great to have warm weather.
While I am not a fan of multiple loop marathons, I do them anyway, and this 5+ mile course (we do 5 loops) is a pleasant venue, shaded in parts, completely paved, and, though popular with locals, never very crowded. There is a playground nearby and real restrooms. I enjoyed seeing many of my friends, including Mike, Cheryl, Liz, Bettie, Jim, Frank, and Chuck, and because of the nature of the course there were a number of times to talk or wave at each other as we passed. Volunteers were wonderful, especially the young man who made sure everyone’s lap was counted as we made our way around the loop over and over again. My finishing times were not spectacular but they were better than in previous years, probably due to the steady temperatures and lack of rain.
Our meals on this trip were not especially notable; we ate at McDonald’s, Dunkin Donuts, and Crackerbarrel. However, on the way home we drove up highway 441 so we could stop at Blue Highway, an iconic pizza place in Micanopy, where we shared a wonderful antipasto plate and I had a delectable pizza and Darcy enjoyed a huge sausage calzone.
Official times are not posted yet but should be in the following range for me: day 1, 6:23; day 2, 6:40; day 3, 6:52. That brings my total count for 2015 to 17 marathons, 7 ultramarathons, and 4 half marathons, with a lifetime total of marathons/ultras of 216 and 31 half marathons. I hope to add to those totals in 2016. Maybe by the time I am 75, I will be able to brag about reaching 300 marathons/ultras and 100 half marathons. That gives me 7 years to work on these goals!