Alternatively titled: Sweet 16 marathon + That one where I WON!
I was BEYOND excited to return to Jacksonville this year for my favorite race weekend, 26.2 with DONNA. 2017 marked my fourth year running (previous recaps – 2014, 2015, 2016) and my triumphant return to the full marathon distance. Additionally, for the 10th anniversary, a new race was added to the weekend (a 10K), as well as a race challenge that included the 10k+5k+half or full, called the Booby Trap Challenge! Of course, I was all in for that!
After a few weeks of going back and forth on the decision, hubs and I discussed that it would be the best idea for me to travel to Jacksonville solo, which meant that he, Abby, and the pups would be staying back in Sarasota. It was the FIRST time for me to be away from Abby overnight, so that was a little daunting, but it ended up being a good thing for all of us – bonding for hubs and Abby, and a little extra sleep for me!
Now, I will do my best to keep it “short” but this two race days were packed with so much awesome, I can’t make too many promises 😉
SATURDAY: 10K + 5K
The morning kicked off at 5 AM for me, as I woke up a little early to pump before getting race ready. Since Abby doesn’t drink from bottles anymore, I wasn’t worried about saving the milk so much as relieving “fullness” before running.
This race weekend, my fellow race ambassadors and I (Chris, Elisabeth, and her BF, Bryan) had rented an AirBNB property on Jacksonville Beach – and it had a GREAT location! One block from the beach one way, and one block from a Starbucks the other way! So, we hit it up for some coffee before Liz left early to pick up Joanie (yes, Joan Benoit Samuelson! NBD), and around 6:15, Chris and I headed out (about a 25 min drive).
Both the 10K and 5K start lines were right outside the Prime Osborn Convention Center (which is where the expo is held) in Downtown Jacksonville, and were scheduled for 8 and 10 AM, respectively. We were able to mingle, hit the restrooms, and take some fun photos before it was time to head to the starting line.
For these races, I had coordinated with my fellow ambassadors, Melissa and Meredith to dress as “DONNA Care Bears.” I loved how our outfits turned out, and we got tons of compliments! Totally fun.
For the 10K, the starts were separated into two “waves” – a 10-min or faster wave, and a slower than 10-min pace wave. Our Ambassador group split, and, as per tradition, E and I headed up to the middle of the faster wave to run. We didn’t really discuss our pace, but managed a 52:40 finish, enjoying the 6.2 mile urban course, while chatting the whole way through. My favorite part was running by the Jaguar stadium!
Before lining up for the next race (we had about an hour to spare) we cheered for the rest of our team at the finish line, and enjoyed some complimentary coffee and donuts, as well. Soon enough, it was 5K time, and despite the warmer temperatures, we rocked that race, too – we both took home age group awards!
After crossing the finish line, we popped into the expo for a bit before heading back out to cheer again, before heading back to the condo for brunch and mimosas. Pretty much a perfect day, if you ask me!
SUNDAY: Marathon + Post-race party
Beep, beep, beep!
The alarm went off at 4:50 AM, much like the morning before. I double checked my race bag, got dressed, doused myself in sunscreen…then triple checked my race bag!
Our goal was to hit the road by 6 AM – and that we did! Since we all had participated in the “Fundraiser Experience,” we had a VIP Parking Pass at the Starting Area – let me tell you, that was more than worth the $1K fundraising minimum! We were parked and headed into the runner’s start village by 6:25, thanks to that – seriously awesome.
We were able to hang out in the Fundraiser Experience tent as well, so we had tables, chairs, and heat (heat wasn’t really needed. but it was comfy). After a quick stop at the port-a-potties (seriously quick, as this race has MORE than enough, which is always amazing) and a drop of our bags at gear check, it was time to head to the starting line!
The starting area was congested, but after some weaving, E and I worked through the crowd near-ish to the front/middle. The start cannons went off and we were RUNNING!
E was running the half, so we’d be able to run together until the split (right before Mile 7). That morning, there was an incredible cover of fog that was thick and wet, but kept our core temperatures down, which was nice.
After the initial first half mile or so, the course evened out a bit, which gave us a lot more elbow room. We were running at a comfortable pace, walking through water stops, and feeling good! The early miles are really nice – beachy neighborhoods with friendly spectators sitting on their front lawns, with boom boxes, signs and lots of cute dogs!
Before I knew it, we were heading into the course split. I was kinda bummed that E would be pulling into the left lane, to head toward her last 6.1 miles, while I had 19 ahead of me! But then I remembered how much I loved the “back half” of the marathon, and I summoned up my strength, and waved goodbye…it was time to hammer down those miles!
Since I had left the headphones at home, I was thankful that this pivotal point in the race had its own soundtrack, thanks to a DJ station conveniently stationed nearby. Foo Fighters’ “My Hero” was ringing out over the quiet streets and my spirits were lifted.
My pace felt strong for the next cluster of miles – in fact, I hit the half at 1:49:04! Of course, I knew that soon, the heat would be coming out to play, so I had to stay smart – I continued to stop at every water stop, sometimes double fisting water and the on-course hydration (Body Armor – that stuff is yummy!) I waved at spectators! I slapped high-5’s! It was so much fun.
At Mile 15, all that hydrating caught up with me and I needed a quick bathroom stop! After going in and out, I was back on track…until, UH OH! There was the sun! All of a sudden, that foggy cover was gone and I was on the sunny, unshaded portion. Hot, hot, hot!
At Mile 17, my skin was sizzling. I pulled to the side of the road, removed my bib from my tank and re-pinned it onto my bra, and started back out.
My pace was inching up, as I had to sprinkle in a few more walk breaks. Cramps were spreading from my calves up into my quads, but I did my best to hit a few lengths of strides before the final miles – especially the overpass ramp and bridge.
Seeing the bridge loom in front of me was daunting, but repeated “one foot in front of the other” in my head – whether that was walking, running, or that weird shuffle combo that can be all too familiar near the end of a race. Fortunately for me, there was a friendly and energetic photographer there in Mile 24 that encouraged me to jog it out – which helped both my pace, and attitude – I felt unstoppable after that!
UP AND OVER…I was now heading down the last stretch…down the ramp, under the underpass road, and down the last straightaway toward the finish. A Sub-4 was going to happen today! Just a week after a 1:48 half, and two weeks after my 3:40 (PR) marathon! Tears were streaming down my face…there’s nothing like that finish line feeling.
Marathon #16: 3:57:29. My second best DONNA time, and second postpartum marathon!
My legs were stiff and heavy, my skin was covered in salt, and the bottoms of my feet were burning…but I could not have been happier. There’s just something about the marathon that keeps me coming back.
For the next few hours, I joined my team as we cheered in fellow team members. I downed about three bottles of water, a Coke, a Sprite, and two margaritas before we headed back to the condo, and cleaned up for diner.
It wasn’t until the next day that E let me know that the official results were posted and I found out that with a combined time (5K/10K/26.2) of 5:14:40, I was the FEMALE OVERALL WINNER of the Full Booby Trap Challenge!!!!!
That unexpected surprise just took me over the top. It was truly an unforgettable weekend, and it could not have been possible without the support of so many – my family, friends, donors, and supporters…so thank you for making this mama marathoner feel like a REAL CHAMPION! ❤