A Tale of Two Marathons: Disney Vs Five Points of Life (Part 2)
How did I end up running this race? – The only one that works
The day after Disney was a teacher work day for me at school. I intended to bask and celebrate my success but my legs felt delightfully sore (poor postrace routine, and the 2 hr drive from Orlando after the race had seen to that). I was only able to venture out and walk around a few times and I was thrilled to receive the plaudits and praise from colleagues. I was also more than happy to show everyone my brand new finsihers medal. It felt good to be appreciated, and I enjoyed it. But like I said, my legs were realy sore and didnt want to do much moving. So I spent most of this day lounging in front of my laptop. I was loving every second of my performance yesterday and the attention today made the mental marathon high feel even better. I wanted that feeling more. I wanted to do another race. I wanted to do another marathon.
I set to it right way. I simply had to find another race before summer hit and then there would be nothing around here to run. This one was going to be more tricky. No corporate sponsorship this time, I was going to have to do this one all on my one. Self financing severely limited my race options. It meant that it was going to have to be close enough to be within day off driving distance (I could not afford a hotel), it meant that it was going to have to be cheap to register (dont have much expendable income), and it meant that it was going to have to have either same day packet pickup or mailed packets. As I clicked away at the race calendar, my frustration grew enormously. There were a ton of races out there, but almost none of them worked for me.
Miami- Too costly, too far away, and being less than a month away, a rush to get ready- NO WAY
Jacksonville- Too costly, too far away, which sucked because runners love this course and it probably had just enough training time. Jacksonville offered no same day packet pickup as I recall, because I honestly considered trying to make a 4 hour drive at 3 am in the morning to get to this race.- NOPE
Melbourne- Right on the border of too costly at this point, too far away, and no same day packet picket- NOT HAPPENING
Tallahassee- I calculated in my head how long the drive to Tally had been minus the traffic the other time I went, but it was too much. I also believe that they discouraged or didnt allow same day pickup. A shame because the race was on the border of what I was willing to pay, but at less than a month from Disney, probably too close anyway.- WRONG, TRY AGAIN
Ocala- This one perked me up again. Seriously, Ocala perked me up. Close enough to drive (even twice if I needed to), race fees were around 80$ at the time which is too much, but I was getting desperate. The proximity meant I didnt have to worry about same day, but the date just didnt work. It was only two weeks away. – GRRRRRRR
FT Lauderdale- Too far away, too costly, etc, etc. etc.- NO
Boy Scout Ranch- Too far away, too obscure- NO
Only one worked. One had reasonable race fees if I signed up today at 65$. Besides Ocala, one was within driving distance away at an 1:30 of mostly highway driving from my house. One had same day packet pickup at 6, for a race at 7. It also perfectly fit my training schedule at 6 weeks away. That would give me a week to rest from Disney, 4 solid weeks of training, and a week to taper. As my only real choice , I started to put it together in my brain. I could simply get up at 4 and eat in the car, and be there at 6 without a problem. It was totally doable. I started to get excited and after I read a few decent reviews, I got my wallet out. Gainesville it was. Freaking Gainesville. I wanted to do another race that much
Just like that I was signed up for the Gainesville race known as the Five Points of Life Marathon. Most people not from Florida only know Gainesville as the home of the University of Florida, and although it seems to be a nice place there isnt much there beyond that. Its just plain. Gainesville also had another thing worth discussing, that most races in the area didnt have. Hills. Im not going to act like its Denver or these hills were anything like you might find in races up north, but very few races in Florida have them. So that was notable as well.
I didnt immediately tell people about sining up for the race. Non-runners either dont care about #2 or think you are insane for doing it again. They dont get it. Runners might think that a newbie endurance runner is trying to tackle too much too soon. I didnt want to hear their lectures, even if they had a good point. To me, runners run. Its just that simple. There always plenty of reasons not put on your sneakers and run, there are a million reasons more when you are talking about running races ; but real runners run. They train and they run races, they feel that desire to compete with the clock and test themselves. Thats me. I wanted to do another one. This one fit, my body would be ready. Gainesville it was.
Pre Race Weekend Home/Gainesville– A Zenith of Boredom
I had a originally planned on taking the Friday off before the race that Sunday. That would prevent me from too much driving too close to the race, or so my pop logic went. However, I had to attend a function in Tallahassee on Thursday that was really important to me. Thus I had to take Thursday off and do a long road trip with my mom. In retrospect, Im happy I had to go to work on Friday because by 8 pm Friday I had reached a zenith of boredom. Friday nights arent normally extravagant experiences for me, I normally take it pretty easy on those evenings. For some reason this one got particularly boring really early. I was glycoloading, clearing out the DVR, and laying around the couch with my one of my cats sleeping on me. This is how I spent most of Friday evening and a good portion of Saturday as well. Lounging and eating carbs. Ironically, how most unhealthy Americans spend a large chunk of time. On Saturday afternoon I did skip out for a bit to read the new Runners World, which had lots of interesting articles, including a particularly good one on disordered eating.
On that note, I went home and made my pre-race night before dinner. Quite a step down from the fancy, schmancy, super foodie looking Italian place I ate before Dsiney. Yessir, this dinner consisted of 3/4ths of a box of Barilla penne, smothered in tomato sauce from Publix, and a copious amount of French bread purchased from Target. Total cost of meal was probably less than $8. Now thats budgeting, or laziness, or well..both. Im not really a good cook, and you really have to keep it simple the day before a race, so I went really really easy. I allowed myself a dessert of fresh pineapple slices and raisins my mom had given me. Disney’s meal may have been far superior but this one did the trick and I enjoyed it. I knew it would do the job for the following morning, and once I had had enough food for the evening. I put the finishing touches on my race day car backpack and crashed out by like 10:30, managing to set the alarm clock to the ridiculous 3:47.
I have to admit that there is a really “runners snob” type part of me that loves the insane hours I get up for races and even summer long runs. Its sick and probably wrong, but I savor the fact that Im up chasing the day and putting work in before most people are close to being awake. Thats usually what charges me up on these days. Today was no different, I was alert and fired up to race. I didnt even need the large Diet Mountain Dew I had purchased for the ride. It flew by, and before I knew it I was parking. Best of all my legs didnt feel tight as all.
I had known the race was small but I had know I idea it was this small. They were still setting up as I was getting there and the cops were just arriving for race control. It wasnt yet 6 , but I went over to talk to the 2 people running the race tent and they helpfully gave me my shirt ( a nice blue short sleeve one, which depicts the 5 ways you can donate to this charity) , my race bib, and my bag. The bag was full of almost next to nothing, which I had anticipated in a “you get what you paid for” type sense. Still all things considered I had zero complaints, it was still an hour to race time and I was good to go with my car parked probably all of 50 feet from the tent and probably about 500 from the finish line. Thats insanely convenient, and indicated a race smaller than any of the ones I had ever run before. Small race sometimes means big convenience.
The Race– Too much, too soon
I had trained hills both on the treadmill and on the actual ground, but I was still worried about running an endurance race with lots of terrain. I just had little experience doing so. The game plan was to go out slow and run “negative splits” the back half. Granted, I had only learned what negative splits were a week ago, but it sounded like a good plan. The number of racers were impossibly small and after the race started seemed to shrink like a cheap concert t-shirt after the first time you wash it. Everything got spread out fast, and it wasnt lost on me early in the race that this course was impossibly boring. Nothing against Gainesville, but like I said earlier it isnt that exciting. U of F is a lovely campus, and running through a sports stadium is always fun, but other than that it was pretty vanilla. This is not to say it was not well maintained or organized. The course was marked fairly well, and their were copious volunteers for first aid, water, and gatorade at nearly every mile. It may have been small but it tried pretty hard. None of it mattered to me at the time because I was running pretty well.
I ran a great half. I mean a great half at 1:43. One minute short of a personal best. It was also a half that shot my gameplan straight to hell. It was totally unsustainable, and I faded hugely in the back stretch. I didnt bonk, I super bonked. I didnt hit the wall, I car wrecked into it. And not at mile twenty either, at mile 15. For a while the race just became about finishing, which is always admirable. As I struggled due to my stupidity, the isolation really started to play out. For long stretches of the race there was only 1 other person in sight. Cops would helpfully wish us luck after they stopped busy intersections full of angry drivers to let a couple of intrepid souls pass. Volunteers numbering in the twenties got to hand out one small cup of water and cheer on one particular runner at a time. The personal attention did help make up for how I felt. It also helped make up for the obnoxious wind pushing into us the back half of the course. Conditions were brutal on this not so simple course. A personal best pretty much vanished from my thinking.
Towards the end of the race, I was running for the most part by myself. Completely assured that everyone was ahead of me (not so much as it turned out), and just hoping to finish. Random people out and about were not sure whether I was in a race or out for a Sunday jog, something I found highly amusing . I scraped over the line at 3 hrs and 44 minutes.
Post Race at Gainesville – Just not that much there
I was of course not thrilled with the time I ran, but the more I went through the post race the better it felt. Ironically, that was how my body responded too. All the stages of soreness that I had gone through following Disney were there , but it was all severely lessened. I felt ok; I walked around, stretched, made delirious conversation, and sampled the ultra tiny post race.
There was not much to sample. Basically, the Publix Table had Bagels and bananas of which I took handfuls . A couple of other places had water and gatorade, but that was it. I laid down in my car, and relaxed, determined to wait a while before I made the drive back home. I examined the medal, it was no Mickey but it was cherishable as well. A gator in the center of a bronze colored square, surrounded by the different ways to donate. I left it on the whole post race and ride home. 45 minutes later, and not interested in the results that much, I was happily on my way back to Wesley Chapel and then on to Tampa to visit my brother and my nieces.
Summary– Better as I drive away
The drive home was key for me here. As I thought about this race more and more, the more pleased I got with my time. The more reasonable I got with myself. 3 hrs and 44 minutes was a respectable time for any 2nd time marathoner. Besides which it had been unseasonably warm that day. It had been unseasonably humid as well. The course had been hilly and not easy. And that wind was ridiculous on the back stretch. The time was solid, and I believe running hills (especially hills in an endurance race) made me a better runner.
Later in the day, I would find out that my time would place me in 25th place out of 168 marathoners and 3rd in my age group for 14 marathoners. I would also read several stories from fellow runners in the days following about their immense struggles with the conditions out there. Yeah, my race time was solid and I am really proud of it.
Close to 10,000 people ran Disney, the Five Points of Life Marathon featured only 168 intrepid marathoners. Disney may have been an all galazy experience, but 5POL was not without its strong points. I cant even begin to imagine what Disney would have set me back had my parents not paid for it. Gainesville was a great experience that didnt necessarily break my bank. Although lonely for long stretch of times, it is a good cheap race that just needs more people to fill in the course. There is little chance I will ever get a chance to run Disney again for obvious reasons. However, as long as I live in Florida, I will always have to keep Gainesville in mind because of its rather minute marathon cost