My Fiftieth Half: The Savannah Women’s Half Marathon – April 8, 2017 (Savannah, Georgia)

It was back to the historic town of Savannah for my first race in the 70 and up age group (itself a huge milestone for me) and my fiftieth half marathon. I can’t pretend I wasn’t excited, especially after my disappointment at last week’s cancelled race in San Antonio.

The logistics for this race couldn’t be easier. After driving to downtown Savannah and checking into the host hotel, the luxurious Hilton DeSoto, we picked up my race packet at the expo in one of the larger hotel ballrooms. The expo is mid-sized for a half marathon (most of the half marathons I’ve attended recently don’t even have an expo) with an emphasis on items of interest to women. There were booths selling jewelry, clothes, skincare and bath products, and food specialties like blended seasonings and flavored popcorn. Every year there is a gift item for participants and this year we were given a velour pouch with an adjustable bracelet and charm. Last year’s gift was a large zippered travel bag. The bag was certainly more useful, especially if, like me, you seldom wear jewelry, but the bracelet was better than another tee shirt, especially a polyester one.

After the expo, Darcy and I headed to the Moon River Brewhouse for a late lunch. We had tried earlier in the week to make reservations at the very popular brunch place, B. Matthew’s Eatery, but it was booked solid, so we decided to return to Moon River where we had enjoyed a very good meal last year. I had several lists of other purportedly excellent restaurants but we were on a tight budget this year so we opted for a known place that had reasonable prices. Economics was another reason why we decided to spend just one night in Savannah instead of our customary two nights.

For racers who miss the Friday afternoon packet pickup, there is an early morning opportunity from 6:15 to 7:15 am to get your bib. Both the half marathon and 5k begin at 7:30 sharp at Forsyth Park, a short walk from the Hilton and other downtown hotels. There are corrals with suggested pace times; these corrals are not monitored so the beginning of the races tend to be very congested, with many slower runners and walkers holding up faster paced participants, but by mile 2, everyone spreads out and shorter thereafter the 5k people head towards their finish line while those doing the half continue on the very flat but scenic course around the city and surrounding area.

The weather at the start was cool but not freezing. It soon warmed up to the mid-sixties with a cool breeze, perfect racing weather for me. The streets had occasional cracks in the pavement that might have easily become tripping hazards (for me) but I took care to walk carefully around them. There were several out-and-backs on the course, something I always like because it gives me a chance to high-five and cheer on some of the people behind me (and I am exceedingly grateful whenever there ARE people behind me).

For the most part, the course is very well-marked. It was only at the 12 mile mark that I began to wonder about the absence of some arrows pointing out some turns but was able to follow several runners in front of me to the finish line in Forsyth Park. I crossed the finish in 2:55 but couldn’t find the awards tent to see if I placed in my – NEW – age group. However, I did manage to find the beverage tent with mimosas and beer. The medal is attractive and sparkly; refreshments included a Publix shopping bag with bottled water, fruit, and muffins.

Darcy and I walked the short distance back to our hotel so we could pack and drive back home. For newcomers to Savannah, spending extra time exploring this attractive city is a good idea. In addition to the home of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts, there are many historic statues and places to visit and a plethora of breweries and restaurants (as long as you make a reservation beforehand). Savannah is definitely on my list of places to revisit.

The half marathon is highly recommended for walkers as well as runners.

 

The Race That Wasn’t: HEB Alamo Run Fest Half Marathon (San Antonio, TX) – April 2, 2017

This was supposed to be my birthday race. Not only did the half marathon fall on Sunday, my birthday, but it was also a landmark decade for me. I was proud to reach 70 years of age and to feel great enough to make this event my 50th half marathon. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans.

Because this would have been a very long drive, Darcy and I decided to use our frequent flyer miles to make the trip by air to San Antonio. The two flights to Texas were thankfully uneventful and we arrived in plenty of time to taxi to the Homewood Suites on the Riverwalk, check into our room, and walk to the expo at the Alamodome. Since I had preregistered, getting my bib with chip and tech tee shirt was simple. There were numerous booths offering samples of sports drinks and goodies as well as a few sports clothing and shoe displays. The size of the expo was small compared to many big city events but much bigger than most half marathon expos.

One of the big draws of doing this race was a chance to indulge in our love for Tex-Mex food so immediately after picking up my race packet, we walked to Mi Tierra, one of our favorite San Antonio restaurants to eat a late lunch. Then it was back to the hotel to watch the weather forecasts. There was a dangerous storm hovering over the western portion of the state and it was expected to reach Bexar county by late afternoon. We waited, checked the news and weather reports, and waited some more. As far as we could tell, the race would go on as planned.

I slept fitfully, expecting to hear thunder and see lightening through the curtains of our room, but all was silent. When I peeked out the window I could see no rain at all, though the streets looked damp. By 4 am on Sunday morning I was up and obsessively checking my email and Facebook for word about the race. Finally, there was a message that stated the RD was still discussing what to do with local officials and the SAT police department. The storm was extremely slow-moving but was expected to hit the downtown area (the race start and finish) by 8 am, half an hour after the race was to start. After that one communication, we heard nothing more. Darcy and I sat in the room wondering what to do. The Alamodome was a good 15 minute walk from our hotel and we were hesitant to walk over there if the storm was about to hit; we might have a hard time getting back to shelter. On the other hand, it looked decent outside, cloudy but with no rain, and there was still no word about the race being cancelled.

Finally, about 30 minutes before the race was to start, we headed out. I would rather be there waiting, ready to go, instead of missing out. As we reached the start line, I was encouraged. It seems that many people had the same idea as me and had made it to the Alamodome, the heck with weather predictions. I wore a sign on the back of my racing vest that proclaimed that ‘today is my 70th birthday’ and as a result I had many people wish me a happy birthday and ‘feliz complean˜os’ as we waited in our corrals. I even met two other women who also had the same birthday! Someone sang the National Anthem and gave the invocation. It looked like we were all set to go – that is, until the announcer said that there was one more meeting with city officials. When he returned, he said he had good news and bad news. The bad news? The half marathon was CANCELLED! The good news? Everyone could wait for an hour inside the Alamodome until the expected storm passed over and then we could all do either the 5k or 10,000 steps. Not a good option, really. I didn’t want to be squished inside a building with thousands of other people just waiting so we could do a much shorter race.

We decided to walk back to the hotel before the rain started. The skies had darkened considerably and we began to feel the first raindrops. Once we were safely back in our room getting ready for a leisurely hotel breakfast, we received word that ALL the races had been cancelled! I was glad we decided to return to the hotel.

As a result, this blog post really is not a report on the race. I was extremely disappointed. Now I will have to wait 6 six years until I can do another race on my birthday. Of course, by that time I will be in another new age group (that is, if I am still doing races when I am 76). The course was supposed to be excellent, passing by many historical landmarks and museums but it’s uncertain if I’ll have the chance to do the race in the future.

However, there are worse places to be spending the weekend, even without a race. Darcy and I ate our fill of fajitas, visited the Alamo, the Briscoe Western Art Museum, and the Institute of Texan Cultures, and in general made the best of our 3 day trip. I’ll just have to be patient until I can complete my 50th half marathon.

A Test of Endurance at Fort Benning, GA: Operation Endurance 24 Hour Race – March 25, 2017

Wow, this was quite a great weekend on so many levels. It was my first attempt to do 70 miles in an ultra for this year, the first step in my goal of completing 70 miles in 7 ultras in honor of reaching 70 years of age in 2017. I was quite nervous the evening before the race. Although I have done this race in previous years and knew what to expect, I wasn’t sure I could manage so many miles, especially since I had only finished one marathon early in January and then had become accustomed to doing 13.1 miles in my most recent races. Half marathons are not a good way to train for an ultra and I wondered if my endurance had suffered as a result.

As it turned out, I needn’t have worried, but as we left for Columbus, GA, on Friday morning I wasn’t so sure. Our first stop was the visitor center on the army base so we could have a background check (required of everyone entering the base) and get our temporary visitor pass. This makes it a lot easier on race morning when there might be a time crunch. We then drove several miles up the road to the Hilton Garden Inn, located in a bucolic setting around a lake filled with Canada geese. We’d stayed there several times before and it never fails to please. After checking in, we headed downtown to the Cannon Brew Pub, another favorite of ours, where we filled up on burgers and beer.

Back at the hotel, I laid out my clothes and packed two large drop bags with six pairs of shoes and socks in one and rain gear, extra shirts, Vaseline, Band-Aids, jackets, and other paraphernalia in the other. Then I filled my ice chest, not with ice, but with snacks and seltzer. That was about all I could do to get ready. I tried to relax by watching television and knitting. It was about 11 pm by the time I finally fell asleep.

Morning came quickly. I rose about 4 am to drink my coffee and eat my bread. I dressed, read a little, and then woke Darcy at 6:30 so we could head out to the base. We arrived around 7 and began to unload our vehicle. We set up two chairs near the start and right under the tent with tables and chairs available for runners to use. I checked in, got my bib (chip on the reverse) and short-sleeve cotton/poly shirt, and chatted with Race Director Vikena (Kena) and Timekeeper Perry and several of the volunteers.

I decided to be very upfront with my goal, something I am usually hesitant to do in case I fail. But I knew I would need every bit of help I could get, especially if the predicted rainstorms came and I got wet or cold (or worse, both wet AND cold). I told Kena and Perry that I wanted to get at least 70 miles and if I started complaining and wanted to stop, to please tell me to stop being such a baby and to suck it up buttercup, etc. etc. They told everyone else about my upcoming birthday and how I wanted to get to 70 miles and before I knew it I had an entire cheering section of volunteers and racers who would encourage me throughout the race.

My friend Judy soon arrived and set up her chair next to mine. At a few minutes before 8, we took our place behind the runners and got ready to go. Kena gave some last-minute instructions and we were off. The weather was cool, in the low 60’s, and pleasant. I soon removed my jacket and tied it around my waist. As the sun rose, I donned my sunglasses. The course is fine-grained dirt, sand, and gravel on a flat oval loop track. Gaiters, for me at least, are a necessity and help keep out the debris. The distance is just under one mile, so to achieve 70 miles, I had to do 71 miles. The course is well-lit at night and there is some shade during the day, a good thing since it was fairly hot in the afternoon.

There are so many good things about this race and I have written about them extensively in my previous race reports. During the day (from 9 to 5 on Saturday) the gym is open and racers can use real bathrooms in air-conditioned comfort. For those who do not want to leave the course and for those times when the gym is closed, there are six portapotties close by the start/finish line. The one aid station has a wide variety of salty and sweet snacks as well as sandwiches throughout the day and pizza at night. Concentrating so hard on reaching my mileage goal, I neglected my rule about eating properly and as a result experienced some digestive issues. The always helpful volunteers kept me supplied with broth and Ramen noodles; the salty soups seemed to help a great deal.

Around and around and around I went, calculating the laps as the hours ticked by. I realized by 8 pm, 12 hours into the race, that I had completed almost exactly the same number of miles, 41, as I had reached last year in the 12 hour race. That made me hopeful. I was a year older and had experienced two foot surgeries since that prior race but it seems I hadn’t slowed down all that much.

By 9:30, the first raindrops fell, just a light sporadic drizzle that soon ended. The breeze picked up a little but once the rain ceased it was pleasant. I felt like I could go on like this forever. Sure, my legs were tired, my feet sore, and I had dirt inside my gaiters, but nothing so painful that I wanted the race to end. Then at midnight the rains began again, this time in earnest. My shorts got soaked and the rain pricked my skin. Bug bites on my legs started to itch. I changed my shoes once because the instep on one foot was starting to hurt. My Hokas are loose and comfortable so they were my go-to alternative. And if they didn’t help, I had four more pairs to choose from.

One high point occurred during the early evening: Kena had left the course and returned with a beautiful birthday cake for me. It was a charming and thoughtful gesture and a tasty one as well. Although I’ve baked and purchased lots of cakes for my boys and husband, I myself hadn’t had a birthday cake just for me since I was a little girl. Thank you, Kena! I shared the cake with whomever wanted a sweet treat.

Another memorable experience was meeting and racing with Goose, a young boy, perhaps 8 or 9 years old, who did an amazing job, completing 40 miles in 12 hours. He never seemed to stop moving, at all, and I had the privilege of walking with him when he occasionally took a walk break around the course. The two of us portrayed the young and ‘seasoned’ ends of the racing spectrum.

At 6 am on Sunday morning I had finished 72 laps – 71.71 miles – and decided that would be sufficient. Although I had 2 hours to go before the race officially ended, I was cold, wet, and very tired. I texted Darcy and he responded that he was on his way to get me. Hurray, I am one race closer to my goal, only six more to go.

Once back at the hotel, I showered and we had breakfast and then headed home. Of course, afterwards I had second thoughts about quitting so early. Maybe if I had stayed those last two hours I might have achieved 75 miles or more. I guess that will have to wait until next year!

This race is highly recommended for walkers as well as runners. One of my favorites!

Blue Angels Rock N Fly Half Marathon (March 18, 2017) – Pensacola, Florida

This was another enjoyable weekend, although the logistics were somewhat convoluted. The theme for this year’s races (a half marathon plus a 5k) was ‘Soul Train’ with music and video on two jumbotrons at the start and recorded soul music along the course. It all sounded like fun and indeed it was once the race began.

Packet pickup was Friday afternoon at a restaurant in the Seville Quarter downtown. We could have waited until Saturday morning at 6 am to get my race packet on the Naval Air Station but I always prefer to get my bib and chip the day before whenever possible. It makes race morning preparations so much easier and less stressful if that is all taken care of before the race starts. Finding our way around downtown Pensacola, however, was not that much fun; the streets were confusing and even my husband, a geographic whiz with maps and directions, was getting frustrated. We finally found a metered parking space and walked to the location of packet pickup. Because we were too early (the hours were 3-7 pm) I managed to find a great knitting store a few blocks away. My patient husband followed me into Dixie Knits where I spent some productive time selecting yarn and needles while conversing with the owner of the shop and the several women who had gathered for a Friday afternoon knit-along.

At 3 o’clock we followed the signs to packet pickup to get my bib, chip (the kind attached to one’s shoe), and a dark purple poly/cotton short-sleeved tee shirt. Then we drove to the naval air base to make sure we found the easiest route for race morning. Our hotel, Homewood Suites, was near the airport since there were few of our favorite chains located close to the base or in the downtown area. There was a Miller’s Ale House a short distance away and that was our go-to place for dinner Friday evening.

It took about 20 minutes on Saturday morning to arrive at the base. The weather was near-perfect on race day, in the upper 50’s to start and mid-70’s at the finish, with some sun and occasional clouds. The gym was opened for same day packet pickup so bathrooms were also available within the building. Closer to the starting line, there were about a dozen portapotties as well. As Darcy and I waited in the start area, I met up with friends Mellody and Vicki. There was complete silence at 8 o’clock as we watched the color guard, listened to the national anthem and invocation, and then watched as 3 jets did a flyover.

Half marathoners and 5k runners all began together to make their way along a completely paved and mostly flat course. The only uphills were gentle slopes, hardly noticeable to those accustomed to the hills of other Florida races (like Tallahassee, for instance). The course followed along a cemetery with headstones in precision-like arrangement and then wends along a 6 mile out-and-back stretch that brought us back by the start line at mile 9 and then through a back-lot area. This section is not very attractive but by that time, who cares? My thoughts were only to follow the loop around and head to the finish line.

The medal is heavy and colorful. Food at the finish line includes pizza, bananas, water, and beer (although I never did find the beer tent). I’m sure there was an awards ceremony but we were eager to return home so we did not stay to find out. Maybe that was a bad idea since my 2:52 finish qualified me for third place in my age group, but I didn’t realize that until later that evening. No worries, just finishing in under the 4-hour time limit was satisfying enough.

This race is recommended for walkers. The course is easy-to-follow with good signage and volunteers, plenty of vocal and supportive people at the 10 aid stations (water, Gatorade, and gels), and enough racers to never feel alone yet not so crowded to feel claustrophobic.

Orange Blossom Half Marathon (March 11, 2017) – Haines City, Florida

This race is the second in the Triple Half Marathon Challenge from Sommer Sports. The first was the inaugural Lakeridge Winery Half back in January, a race I enjoyed tremendously though it did experience a few first-year difficulties like not enough parking spaces. It was the second year for the Orange Blossom Half (along with its 5k and 10k races) but my first attempt at it.

We drove down to Lake Eva Park on Friday to pick up my bib and shirt. The timing chips are the old-fashioned kind that tie on a shoe and must be returned after the race, but that’s not really a problem as long as I remember to get a volunteer to clip the ties. The shirt is a gray cotton-poly blend with a big orange blossom on the front. So far, this race series gets an A from me for the quality of its shirts. They do tend to run small so next time I would probably request a larger size.

After getting my race packet, Darcy and I drove to Winter Haven to check into our hotel, a Hampton Inn. Because Haines City is so small, there are no well-known hotel brands within the city limits. Winter Haven is a 25-minute drive farther south so we had to plan our trips judiciously to save time. We decided it was wiser to check out early Saturday morning so Darcy would only have to make one trip to Haines City. After dropping me off at Lake Eva Park for the start of the race, he then spent the morning eating breakfast and reading the paper at a nearby McDonalds.

It was chillier than I expected, about 59 degrees at the 7 am start but it quickly warmed up to the low 80’s. The humidity rose as well so I was glad I wore shorts and a short-sleeved top. There were 4 portapotties (not enough) but the restrooms in the Aquatic Center were open for us to use. The start was delayed about 10 minutes to allow for latecomers to park. After the singing of the National Anthem, we were off with a horn blast.

Overall this was a very pleasant experience. The course meanders through the rural roads of Haines City, with orange groves on one side and waste treatment systems (‘sludge lagoons,’ per my industrial hygienist husband) on the other. The air was permeated with the aroma of sweet orange blossoms and I was tempted to stop and pick one but I restrained myself. Aid stations were about 2 miles apart and offered Gatorade, water, and enthusiastic volunteers. It was hilly (for Florida) but nothing like the steep hills in Tallahassee. The terrain was mostly paved, although there were several miles of clay, sand, and dirt. I was glad I wore gaiters. The miles were marked with signs and red arrows and course marshals were present at every turn; that is always a relief to me, since getting lost is always a possibility.

I finished the race in 2:55, under my 3-hour goal. I didn’t think I would place in my age group because I saw a lot of women about my age, but surprisingly I came in second (which illustrates how very bad I am at guessing people’s ages). The medal is an attractive heavy wreath of oranges and orange blossoms on a creamy orange and white lanyard, and my age group award mirrors the same design. At the finish line, we were given bottles of water, chili, chips, cookies, bananas, and beer from Orange Blossom Brewery.

There were 290 finishers in the half; I came in at number 244, so there were almost 50 people behind me. There is a 4-hour time limit but I believe the finish line stays open longer. Although I was concerned about getting lost on the course, the race has excellent line-of-sight with lots of straight roads and helpful markings, so I needn’t have worried.

The only negative is the lack of shade on the course, a potential problem in the heat; otherwise, this is a pleasant choice for walkers.

Two Halfs and a 5K: Tallahassee, Gainesville, and the Bahamas (February 2017)

February might be a short month but it was a busy one for me. I completed two half marathons that I have done many times before, the Tallahassee half on February 5 and the Five Points of Life half in Gainesville on February 26. In addition, my family and I took a relaxing Disney cruise. We are dedicated Disney cruisers and enjoy the casual atmosphere, especially after I’ve finished a race or two. One of my favorite memories is jumping on the Disney Wonder after finishing Goofy back in 2009. I felt I really deserved that vacation!

The Tallahassee half marathon followed the new course that was introduced last year, only this year half marathoners finished on the colorful ‘official’ finish line downtown. The race is extremely hilly and those hills seemed even steeper than last year. That may have been due to my slowing down as I get older; in any case, they presented a definite challenge. Even so, I much prefer the new course and apparently so do many others. Over 941 people joined me in running and walking the half and enough people were around my pace to keep me confident in finding my way around. I finished in 2:53:46. My legs were sore for several days post-race but that soreness eased rapidly and I enjoyed this race immensely, my 11th Tallahassee half in as many years.

I’ve completed the Five Points of Life races, both the full and the half, numerous times. Occasionally the date conflicts with another favorite race of mine, the Austin Marathon, but if I am in the area I usually sign up to do the Gainesville race. Since the full has a 6-hour time limit, nowadays I feel more comfortable registering for the half. This year I discovered that the half has a 3 ½ hour time limit, kind of surprising since the full marathoners cover the same ground as the half except for an additional 13.1 miles tacked on so way not make the 6-hour time frame for both? This year the 2nd half of the marathon was changed to avoid the long trudge up Williston road with those miles now more scenic and less boring).

At any rate, the half is fun, though occasionally hilly (but nothing like Tallahassee!). However, signage could be a lot better. There were no directional signs that I could see anywhere along the course although there were police and volunteers at almost every turn. Almost every turn – I got lost (!!) along with my friends Harry and Giles and several others inside the football stadium where we missed an exit and had to do some extra mileage. Now, I have done this race lots of times and my instinct was to turn right but I followed everyone else as they turned left. I wasn’t absolutely sure, only had a gut feeling, but I was concerned that if I went one way while everyone went the other, I might be accused of cheating, so I stayed with the others. Next time I will persist! There are about 600 people who do the half but most of them are much faster than I am so if not for Harry and Giles and a few others I would have been by myself for most of the latter 7 miles. I finished in 2:56:40 (lost a few precious minutes in the stadium, I guess) but I was happy to finish in under 3 hours.

For those coming from out of town, staying at the Hilton right across the street from the start and finish of the Gainesville race is most convenient. Checkout is at noon so I had time after the race to shower and eat my pizza before driving home.

I hardly ever do short races but the 5k on the Disney private island in the Bahamas was a nice change from walking around and around in circles on the ship. The race is untimed although there is a timing clock so I could see that my pace was about 12 ½ minutes per mile and I finished in under 38 minutes. Of course, the weather was perfect, the course was paved and completely flat, and the scenery amazing. Lots of people of all shapes and ages signed up for the race and it was great to cheer on people who probably have never done a race in their life. We all got vinyl Mickey medals at the finish line. If I am fortunate enough to take another Disney cruise to the Bahamas, I will look forward to doing this 5k again!

 

Lakeridge Winery Half Marathon (Clermont, FL) – January 22, 2017

This was an inaugural half marathon and the first of a special series of races held in the Clermont area just north of Orlando. Last year there was a discount available to people who signed up for all three of the halfs in the series – this one at the winery, the Orange Blossom half at Haines City in March, and the Lake Minneola Half in April in Clermont. I enjoyed the Lake Minneola race so much when I walked it last year that I decided to take advantage of the series and try all three in 2017. Successful finishers of the series are supposed to get another special 4th medal.

I liked this race quite a bit. There were a few snafus, and one can read complaints about traffic, a late start, running out of shirts and medals, etc. on the race’s Facebook page.  Fortunately, I didn’t experience most of these problems, and that may have been due to arriving at the race venue very early so parking was not a problem. We also managed to pick up our bib, chip (the old-fashioned kind that ties on your shoe and must be returned), shirt, and wine glass on Saturday, the day before the race. When I asked the volunteer at packet pickup if there was anything else we needed to do, she said ‘be sure to arrive early because there are 2200 people registered for all three races’ (in addition to the half there is also a 10k and 5k). Forewarned, we duly arrived an hour and a half before the start on Sunday morning.

For the sake of brevity, here’s what I found good and bad about the event.

The good stuff:

  • The tee shirt is a long-sleeve white cotton/poly blend with a design of the winery on the front. I’ve worn it once already and plan to do so again. Though we were promised gender specific shirts, those were unavailable but we were warned in emails about the problem and our sizes were changed to reflect the alteration. My lady’s medium became a men’s small and fit just fine.
  • At packet pickup I was given a huge wine goblet, again with the Lakeside Winery logo on it. It was a good idea to give it out before the race instead of at the finish line – less breakage.
  • The course was not closed to traffic but cars were few. Some people complained about the presence of cars on the course but after doing the Ocala half last weekend (with lots of traffic on narrow roads), this seemed not really an issue to me.
  • I enjoyed the varied terrain on miles 2 through 12, a mixture of sand, clay, and asphalt. The clay and sand were easy on my legs and feet. I was glad I wore trail shoes and gaiters though.
  • Signage was appropriate with bright red arrows pointing us in the correct direction
  • The loop course had 3 short out-and-backs where we could see other runners and walkers.
  • Yes, the course was hilly but none of the hills were steep and they went down as well as up!

Things that could be improved:

  • Traffic and parking before the race is the first problem that needs to be resolved. The start time for the half marathon was pushed back half an hour from 7:30 to 8 to allow people lined up on the road leading to the winery time to arrive. I can only imagine the angst of people still sitting in their cars as the minutes ticked by.
  • There were not enough portapotties, only 10 for a sizeable crowd. There was a building with about six extra men and lady’s rooms but that was still not sufficient, and eventually women began to use the men’s bathroom. When will planners learn that women need lots of toilets and men mostly just need trees??
  • The race website is clear about the nature of the terrain so there were really no surprises. I knew to expect grass and clay as well as road. However, it’s still hard to know what that means to a fall-adverse person such as myself. It turns out that the only part I did not like was the uneven grass section because it was strewn with rocks, twigs, and roots from the start through mile 1 and from mile 12 to the finish. That meant I had to slow my pace and watch my feet carefully during those miles.
  • Food at the end was minimal. The pasta salad was tasty but that was it, unless you wanted to pay for real food and drinks at the outdoor restaurant. I was given a bottle of water but no glass of wine, kind of strange at a winery, but I had chocolate milk waiting for me in the car thanks to my husband. However, the selection of food and drink options really needs to be expanded for finishers.
  • I never did find out about an award ceremony for half marathoners. It turned out I placed 1st in my age group and I think that meant I should have received a bottle of wine but I only found out about that on Facebook.

When we go to Clermont, we stay at the Hampton Inn there. The rooms were recently renovated and very improved, though that hotel was always quite decent. There is a Carrabba’s Italian Restaurant within walking distance so we had a good early dinner and then repaired to our room Saturday night. There is also a Panera Bread, Applebee’s, and Zaxby’s nearby as well.

After I finished the race (in 3:01:50), we drove home, stopping at Blue Highway in Micanopy for our usual pizza, calzone, and antipasto. Blue Highway makes the best hummus I’ve ever tasted and their other offerings are delicious as well. Although the restaurant has sites in Gainesville and Ocala, we like the hippie atmosphere of the historic town of Micanopy so we always try to make a pilgrimage there.

Bottom line – this race is a very good choice for walkers. Just be sure to pick up your packet on Saturday afternoon, arrive very early on Sunday (at least one hour before the race start), and wear trail shoes and gaiters.