The weekend before last, I made a quick trip to Pensacola to with James to visit his sister and her boyfriend. We made our plans with this race in mind. His sister was planning to run the 5k, James wanted to run the 15k, and I was more than happy for an excuse to pin on a bib.
(Even though I lived in Florida for eight years, I was in disbelief when I learned that Pensacola is so far west, it's on central time. I had to check a map to confirm.)
Over pizza, we discussed goals. My goal was to run the whole thing at goal marathon pace, which is, for now, between 8:30-8:45. I was coming off of one of my all-time lamest weeks of training (I ran just once, because ??), so I wasn't really feeling like my best, strong, race-day self. I felt certain I could manage GMP but worried that I'd get even more discouraged if it felt like a struggle.
At the start, I stood with James in the 9-minute pace group. My Garmin wasn't working and I cycled through the stages of Garmin frustration: denial (No, this can't be happening!), anger (shaking it, tapping it, pressing all of its buttons aggressively), bargaining (hissing, "PLEASE just WORK!), despair ("What's the point if I can't see my splits?"), and acceptance ("It's cool actually. I'll just 'run by feel.' I'm relaxed! It'll be an experiment. It'll be fine!").
I settled into a good-seeming pace right away. The course took us through downtown Pensacola, which is a mix of Florida kitsch, New Orleans-style architecture, and deep South (at mile 2, there was a big truck with a lift kit, wrapped in camouflage, blaring country music).
I was feeling pretty decent at the start as I navigated the crowds. Somewhere in the first mile, James called to me that our pace was around 8:30, and he wanted to go a little slower. We parted and I worried briefly whether I should slow down, too, but decided to stick it out and see what happens.
As one would guess by the name of the race, its "thing" is that the course takes runners across two bridges. The first is a three mile long, flat, Florida-style bridge.
Despite the monotony of running across a bridge for miles and miles, the course was pretty and not boring. James said later that he saw dolphins.
The second bridge is shorter and steeper, but because it's really the only significant hill of the whole course and I was surrounded by military dudes who were charging up the hill, I had no problem digging in and climbing along with everyone else.
At mile marker 7, I started looking for more speed. I had a lot of energy left and I wanted to burn it up by the end. Once we had crested the second bridge, the finish was almost in sight: I could see the place where we turn off for the finish. It was highly motivating to coast down the bridge and make a beeline to the chute.
My finish time was 1:19:45, an 8:33 pace. I don't know my splits, so I'll just say that I felt good the whole time. I would have appreciated an extra water station, since there were only two and they were oddly-placed (mile 2 and 7, I think?) But other than that, all was well. I'm glad I met my goal, even though now I wish I had actually RACE-raced it.
I've been feeling guilty about my slacker approach to training in January. Until Saturday, I was wondering if I was really in the right state of mind to churn out two more months of workouts before the Kentucky Derby Marathon. But this race completely rekindled my relationship with running: I remembered that I actually love running, and get so thoroughly energized by racing.
More on this later, but right now I feel recommitted to running this marathon, and ready to put in the work to get ready for April 19.