Harbour Heights Half-Port Charlotte, FL-April 4, 2015

This was the Inaugural half marathon of the Harbour Half in Port Charlotte FL, benefiting Autism Awareness. The yearly event is usually just a 5k, but decided to expand the field. The half was limited to only 400 participants.

I drove into town the day before with the pup. I decided to stay at the Four Points right on the bay in Punta Gorda, and I was not disappointed! It is a wonderful pet friendly hotel (even allowing pets to dine with you!). They have a really cool tiki bar/restaurant right on the water and a fun sunset happy hour with live entertainment! I highly suggest this property!

We spent the day resting on the dog beach in Venice, which was a good 45 minute drive away, but definitely worth it. The drive in the morning to the race was a quick 12 minutes.

PARKING
Parking was easy peasy... The school lot was easy to find and there were plenty of signs and escorts with lights to direct you. You were then shuttled over to start on a trolley, which were very prompt.

PACKET IPCK UP
Packet pick up was available race morning and was very simple. They did allow for a bag drop as well.

PORTY POTTIES
Since the start was at a public park, there were real bathrooms, and I arrived early enough to not have to wait in line. There were also potty potties for the event, which I never had to use. At the boat ramp next to the back of the line of Start, there was another public portal potty which I used right before starting.


START
We started and finished at a public park in Harbour Heights. Unfortunately the park was under construction, so there were some areas where you really needed to watch your step before you twisted an ankle, or filled your shoe with sand.

The National Anthem was sang by a group of kids, which was really cool.

There was a slight delay on the start of the race of about 10 minutes. The race was already starting after the sun rise, so this was just added to the time in the heat.

We arrived at dark and it was a full moon which was cool. We then got a peek of the sunrise as well over a small lake.

Unfortunately right before we started, I realized I left my Garmin in the hotel room. At that point, I decided to just turn off the pacer as well and just run by feel.

COURSE
Honestly, there is not much to remember of the course. It went through a lot of neighborhoods and was very quiet. There were a couple of peeks of lakes, but not much. There was at one point an elderly lady taking what looked like her daily morning walk and was shocked to see all of us running right by her. She was very friendly and was waving and walking right along with us! It was very cool.

There was also a large group of pink runner skirt ladies (and a man) that were all doing the Galloway run/walk and wearing pacers and a couple of them were even wearing step alerts (not sure of the actual term, but it was constantly beeping to tell her when/how fast she was supposed to be taking each step)....SO ANNOYING!... I understand this could help with training, but you've got to be more considerate during a race with people around you! Honestly, the one lady I was with a good portion of the race, the noise was so annoying, it made me run faster just to get away from her. However once it started getting hot, she gained back on me and at that point I had given up and let her pass.

The weather started off a little cool, but as soon as that sun was high, it turned hot quick.

HYDRATION STATIONS
Stations unfortunately were only offering water. Not once did I see Gatorade. This is definitely not acceptable for a long distance race. They did offer a gel, but they have got to get more fuel to the runners. I know, I know most people say to carry your own. However, I strongly believe if I am paying for a race, that is what I should be paying for.... at the minimum!

SPECTATORS
This is a very quiet race, even though we run through neighborhoods. Maybe once the community catches on that there is a half marathon going on, they will come out and support more

FINISH LINE
Unfortunately there wasn't much at the finish line except cold bagels, peanut butter and granola bars.

AFTER PARTY
There wasn't beer at the finish, nor live entertainment, but they did do something unique and gave everyone a raffle ticket for a chance to win some great prizes, including airfare, bikes, gift baskets, etc. You could also buy additional tickets to better you odds.

RESULTS
Once I started getting really hot around M8 or so, I pretty much gave up and was just going to finish. I had no idea what my time was since I didn't have the Garmin, so that didn't help much. When I came around to the finish line and saw the time was under 2:30, I was super surprised and happy. However, I later heard a few people say that their Garmin were all short of 13.1 miles. So again, I don't know.

MEDAL
I do love the medal and how it has the Autism Awareness symbol on it, however I wish the name of the race would be a little larger


SHIRT

OVERALL
I think the race is great and supports a great cause and I would suggest it once it gets some experience under its belt.



 HM #49
13.1???-2:27


I am running a half marathon a month while I complete my goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states, all to raise breast cancer awareness and promote a healthy lifestyle through running and walking. 100% of donations raised goes towards 26.2 with Donna (70% Mayo Clinic and 30% Donna Foundation). Please show your support by making a donation today! www.donate.breastcancermarathon.com/2016-marathon/melissajohnson


Tomoka Half Marathon-March 29, 2015





This was the 2nd Annual Tomoko Marathon, Half Marathon, and 5k with 314 marathoners, 669 half marathoners, and 225 5kers, benefiting Halifax Health in Ormond Beach, FL


THE COURSE
We started and finished at the Casements, winter home of John D Rockefeller, in Ormond Beach. We would tackle the Granada Bridge (apx 65ft incline) within the first mile or two and of course finish it within the last. Once over the bridge, we run along some homes on the intracoastal. It was perfect timing with the sun rising in the distance beyond the bridge. We then head into Tomoka State Park, where the road turns to a hard packed sand. I have to say, I'm not sure if my time significantly dropped because I was tired, or the loss of traction. (prob both). I do have to admit I wasn't overly impressed with park. We really didn't see anything but trees. And trail. And runners. Which is nice and all, but I guess I was just expecting more beauty.

COMMUNICATIONS
There is a Facebook page for the race as well as the Live Your Life Well page which are active. There were only a couple emails sent out the week of the race with basic information. The website had just enough information.


PARKING
With Ormond Beach being only an hour and half away, I decided to wake early and drive in race morning. (there was a host hotel and shuttle for those wanting to stay in the area).

There were warnings about parking in designated spots only in Ormond Beach to prevent ticketing, and a strong suggestion was to park at the Elementary School, which is what I plugged into my GPS.  However, I pulled up to a locked and dark school. Luckily there were a few other cars that pulled in at the same time and I was able to follow them on the back roads, as there was another entrance completely on the other side. Disappointment set in, as I would have never figured that out on my own.

After we finally found the parking area, we were once again confused on which way to walk to start as there were no volunteers and limited signage (we actually did not see the sign until daylight on the way back after the race). Its never a good feeling, being out of town and feeling lost trying to find a race on time.



START and PACKET PICK UP
Each race started in 30 minute increments starting at 630a with the full, half, then 5k. There were a couple vendor there and you were able to pick up your packet before the race (you also had the option the day before at the Y). We received a reusable grocery bag and short sleeve gender specific race shirt. That's it, no tons of useless flyers, which is good. However, no samples either. Boo. Halifax Health though, was handing out free Live your Live Well headbands, which was neat.

There seemed to be plenty of porta potties, with the lines being less than 10 deep. Dunkin Donuts was there with coffee and donuts holes. There was a gear check which was a pretty quick drop, despite there being only one volunteer having to write each persons bib number on duck tape to put on each bag.

There was some sort of military drill that you couldn't see, and then the national anthem was sang, and we were off.

HYDRATION STATIONS
There were plenty of fluid stations that were properly stocked. There was 1 stop with Hammer Gels as well as oranges and bananas.

SUPPORT
Besides the volunteers, there were no spectators for this event. We did run by some homes before entering the park, but no one was out. One road is still open in the park, but there was only 1 car that was actually trying to drive through, which didn't seem to impact many.

RESULT
The weather was quite perfect for a race day. We started in the upper 40s and it wasn't expected to warm much more than mid 50s. (even if it was a hot day, its mostly shaded, except the bridge portion). It was a gorgeous clear and sunny day.

March had been a very stressful month for me with my dad being in the hospital and then just a couple weeks ago, a good running buddy had suddenly passed away. I had run very little anyways since Gasparilla at the end of February (maybe 5 miles.....a mile at a time) and I just couldn't get myself to take those steps again, feeling I was going to complete break down mid run. As race day approached quickly, I decided to just wait and just leave it all out there on the course.

I decided to push it and try a 4x:30 (run 4 minutes, walk 30seconds). And I felt really strong for a PR for the first half. Around M6, I had to downgrade to a 3x:30, and it wasn't too far later that I went to a 2x:30. Despite the little training I had done, I felt strong the entire time, my endurance was (understandably) just not there.

I thought about my friend the entire race, and how she had so many more races she wanted to complete. I just can't get over how incredibly unfair it is how someone as special as she was has to leave this world so soon. She was my energizer bunny on finding new races. I could count on having a text at least once a week asking about a new race. She was my motivation to keep going as we were always sharing healthy lifestyle tips and running stories. She was my competition to push harder as I could see her getting stronger and faster with each run. She was my encourager to experience new things as I had many 'firsts' with her and her family. She was a complete stranger I had met at a random race and she welcomed me into her close circle of friends and family. Instantly she made me feel like I was family. She had one of those happy lives that everyone envies. She extended a loving hand to anyone in need and could make a friend anywhere. She has taught me many lessons in all aspects of life and she will forever leave her footprint on my heart. She appreciated every moment and enjoyed life to the fullest, and that is what will bring me comfort through this difficult time. I know she will continue to be racing with each and everyone one of us Running Buddies as we continue our adventures.
















FINISH
The Finish Line was a quick loop after descending the bridge. It was an awkward set up, as the timing mat was before the inflatable 'finish line' and a lot of people were stopping before you actually had to turn sharply to run under the inflatable.

After you were handed your medal, there were bananas, chips, and more Hammer Gels as well as water. There were some local beer samples (shot size) and then Michelob Ultra cans. Cold pizza was handed out as well. There were complimentary massages (for a strongly suggested $5 tip) set up, as well as a finish line photo op.

It was a beautiful day and you could now see the beauty of the Casements in the daylight, located right on the water. It was fun to watch the marathoners cross the finish line, especially those qualifying for Boston.




SHIRT
The gender specific short sleeve race shirt is pretty cool and fits well, however, its one of those tacky race colors (neon green) and is plastered with sponsor logos all over the back.



MEDAL
I love the sponsor/slogan for this race, "Live Your Life Well", which is on the medal with a spinning tree, which makes this medal unique. I do wish the tree was bigger though and the race words smaller. Minimal critiques.


OVERALL THOUGHTS
The entire time I was running this race, I felt like I was repeating a race I've done before. (Ft Myers Beach came to mind, starting and finishing right at a bridge at the beach). As well as the Reindeer Half that runs through Ft Clinch State Park. (road and trees, road and trees). Its a good run, but there isn't enough that makes it stick out as its own. I would recommend it if you are looking for a new race, as all the logistics are spot on and the surrounding Ormond Beach area is beautiful.

HM#48
13.1-2:21


I am running a half marathon a month while I complete my goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states, all to raise breast cancer awareness and promote a healthy lifestyle through running and walking. 100% of donations raised goes towards 26.2 with Donna (70% Mayo Clinic and 30% Donna Foundation). Please show your support by making a donation today! www.donate.breastcancermarathon.com/2016-marathon/melissajohnson

Gasparilla Distance Classic Half Marathon-Feb 22, 2015











Gasparilla.....aahhhh....the fun filled pirate event held in Tampa that I oh so loved attending when I lived there years ago.... and lo and behold, they have a Half Marathon and Challenge Weekend to accompany it! Ugh, but unfortunately, it is ALWAYS right around The Donna Marathon. Every year, I have watched this race go by, wishing I was able to participate. But there was NO WAY I would NOT do The Donna. Well, lets go back to last April when I was lucky to be asked to help man The Donna booth at the Expo of the Boston Marathon. Well, right across from us was the Gasparilla Distance Classic group! We were completely floored when we were generously offered comp entries to participate in their race! Well, OF COURSE we had to say YES then!

In previous years, after The Donna, I usually waited weeks, before I did any kind of long distance run. I just....Didn't....Feel....Like....It.... But this year was going to be different. I went into Gasparilla seven days after running the full marathon at The Donna a little hesitant, but feeling good because we had planned to just take it easy with a slow Galloway 2:1 pace. (run 2 minutes, walk 1 minute)

So, what exactly is Gasparilla Distance Classic? It is one of the infamous Challenge Weekend events that are gaining such attention all over the country. There are lots of races of various distances... add them up, and you have created a 'challenge' and earned yourself an extra medal! There is a 5k and 15k on Saturday, then a half and 8k on Sunday. I believe there is also a fun run for kids sometime.
The Ultra Challenge-15k, 5k on Saturday, then half marathon and 8k on Sunday=30.4 miles in 2 days
The Amber Challenge- 15k, 5k, half marathon=25.5 miles in 2 days
The Lime Challenge-15k on Saturday, 8k on Sunday=14.2 miles in 2 days


COMMUNICATIONS
Leading up to race day, you are not short on communication from the race director! There are plenty of emails as well as Facebook posts with the weekends event information. Their website is also fully stocked and loaded and there is a thick Event Program printed as well. If you don't have the information you need, its not the races fault..... although it may be because you are a little overwhelmed with how much information there actually is! But then again, there are 4 races and 2 challenges that make it a bit confusing if you are not used to navigating all the lingo.


DAY BEFORE
The Donna Girls drove in from Jax Saturday morning, arriving to the Expo at the Tampa Convention Center right before noon. (hint for free parking.... park at Publix). It was a gorgeous warm sunny day, so we soaked up some rays at the outside bar to unwind from the 3 1/2 hour drive. It was still an active scene as the 5k and 15k were wrapping up.




EXPO
The Expo was of a great size and nice and spread out, not too crowded. We did get to snap a pic with Gaspar the Pirate, and received a comp Gasparilla sweat towel as well as a good quality reusable grocery bag. However, we were a bit disappointed on the actual merchandise. The only thing I walked away with was a 13.1 pink visor that wasn't even race specific. I was really disappointed there wasn't more pirate gear. And even the event merchandise itself wasn't very pirate-y.



There was a huge Gasparilla sign with everyone names listed on it, so it was fun to go through the scavenger hunt to find your name.

The Jose Gaspar ship was located right outside the Expo was a cool photo op.

After the Expo we headed to Victorias for some local Cuban sandwiches, then spent the afternoon bar hopping in Ybor (I told you we werent going to take this race easy! Hey, we were still in celebration mode from The Donna Marathon!). We had happy hour at Columbia's (a local must) with sangria, and then headed to the Spaghetti Warehouse for our carbo loading. It was a fun day, but boy were we pooped at 9p when we got back home. I was passed out shortly after lights out.

RACE MORNING
We stayed just a few miles down the street from the Start at a friends family's house. We set the clock to make it a very tight schedule in the morning, and I have to admit, I was a little nervous, but we were able to wake, dress, leave the house, stop at Starbucks for breakfast, find street parking, walk half a mile to start, use the porta potty, and be in line just a couple minutes behind the start gun....all under an hour!!

PARKING
Since the race starts downtown, parking is basically anywhere you can find it, fees vary. HINT- you can park for free on the street in the neighborhood along Bayshore Blvd and walk to start, which is what we did.

START
Because we basically arrived just minutes before actually running, I can not comment much on the Starting area. I do know the bag drop/gear check was located inside the convention center, which we found a little inconvenient, so we planned to keep our stuff in the car. There were Pacers set up and you could basically place yourself wherever, as we realized we were in the 8minute pace group, but it was too crowded to make our way further back.

COURSE
The course is A to A, starting in the same area as the Expo (Convention Center). It runs over to Davis Island to do a loop, and then back over to Bayshore Blvd which is basically an out and back.
Bayshore Blvd is one of the most scenic areas of the Tampa Bay.

The race starts at 6am, which is about 45 minutes before sunrise.  Running in the dark during that time was a bit stressful. There were limited street lights and it was very crowded. I was surprised more people were not carrying hand lights. I definitely would have brought mine, if I had realized. There were some cobblestone areas, potholes, and very tight bridge. Just about all of the Davis Island portion of the race was crowded and because of our poor lining up and our 2x1 pace, we were being passed for the first half of the race.  The pace groups were large and took over the entire street when they came through and weren't too fond of our walking periods. In fact, there weren't a lot of run/walkers at all. We even had someone question what we were doing, which is always fun to explain.

The temps started in the upper 50s, but it was very humid. The heat continued to climb after the sun rose and there was very limited shade.  They actually had a section with some sprinklers out, which was nice.

Some runners dressed as pirates and a couple were in full on elaborate costumes on the sidelines cheering us on. There was a flame thrower and also a Caribbean man on a mic singing, shouting out motivational words, and giving hi fives! But the best part was a the Huge group of young kids lining the street and throwing up high fives for you, as the Gasparilla Distance Classic supports youth organizations and running programs in Tampa.

Once we got to Bayshore Blvd, the street was wide and we finally spaced out. There are beautiful mansions along this stretch of road and is the same road that the Gasparilla parade takes place.

I surprisingly felt awesome doing the 2x1. I even felt like I wanted to do more, run further or faster, but that was our plan being this was our first time doing a race after a marathon. However, I have officially decided to never do a full minute walk again. 30-45 seconds is plenty of time for recovery.

PHOTOS
Photographers were everywhere you looked (and didn't). You definitely have plenty of opportunities to get that perfect pic.

PORTA POTTYS
Plentiful and often

HYDRATION STATIONS
I never felt dehydrated. There were plenty of hydration tables. Unfortunately they were only on one side of the street, and with the street being so wide on the second half of the course, you had to keep cutting over.

FINISH LINE
The biggest upset of the entire event is the city law of no alcohol served before 11a on Sundays. Yep, I guess this includes races as well. The race starts at 6am, so even if you did the half and 8k, you are still awaiting around for the 'after party'. I'd say to start the race later, but we are in Florida, and temps get hot quickly.

Once you cross the Finish Line, you are handed your medal and get a photo opp with the official Gasparilla Pirate Crew (yes, its a real thing) and they even officially congratulate you!

Once you make your way over to the After Party area, you are given a bag to stock with all kinds of goodies! (Suja juice, bananas, Special K bars, fruit bowls, sodas, Fruit Buddies.) I would have liked to have seen something with salt, like chips, but still an awesome assortment. It is a long line of item after item and then you end at the yumminess of Columbia Restaurant official race meal. Unfortunately some runners (well a lot) would cut the line for the real food. They really need to put up ropes of some sort to prevent this from happening, because we were in line for over an hour waiting.
























It was definitely worth the wait though!.... paella, salads, rice and beans, bread! YUM! We all wanted seconds!!


SHIRT
The long sleeve, gender specific Race shirt is very thin, almost see through. I was a little confused on why they would make the 'Half Marathon' letters so large, and not the actual name of the race.

MEDAL
Everybody wants the Gasparilla medal. It is a good one.


AFTERWARDS
We did not wait around for the Official After Party with Michelob and the Awards. Instead we had Mimosa waiting for us at home! Brunch was had at Datz (a Tampa MUST!). It was a long wait, so we ordered coffee and a sweet at Datz Dough. Which left me entirely too full for brunch, but the menu looked scrumptious! And to top that off, there were Girl Scouts selling cookies! SCORE! Perfect timing!


OVERALL THOUGHTS
This is definitely one of those family and/or friends filled weekends.... as there is a distance for everyone. The additional challenges makes it unique and brings out your competitive spirit to see how far you can push your limits.

Tampa is an action packed city and being so close to Clearwater and St Pete beaches, you can easily extend the weekend to make it a fun vacation.

Before we even finished the half marathon, we were already discussing signing up for a Challenge in 2016! I will still be doing the Donna Marathon the week before, but then taking on the Ultra Challenge, to make it a total of 56.6 miles in 2 weeks, which honestly, I was doing over 30 miles a week for training anyways so..... easy peasy, lol.... we will see! :)


HM#47
13.1- 2:30

I am running a half marathon a month while I complete my goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states, all to raise breast cancer awareness and promote a healthy lifestyle through running and walking. 100% of donations raised goes towards 26.2 with Donna (70% Mayo Clinic and 30% Donna Foundation). Please show your support by making a donation today! www.donate.breastcancermarathon.com/2016-marathon/melissajohnson

8th Annual 26.2 with Donna-Feb 15, 2015



This was the 8th Annual 26.2 with Donna National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer! This is THE RACE of the year for me. This is what I run for! All year long (Mar-Jan) I run half marathons across the country, trying to check off the fifty states, but also train for the full marathon (the one and only I will do) and raise funds for The Donna in February. You see, The Donna is the only Marathon in the US where 100% net proceeds benefit the Mayo Clinic (70%) for breast cancer research and the Donna Foundation (30%) to help those in financial need to get through their treatments. Fundraising is completely optional, but even part of your registration goes towards the cause. Once you realize what these monies have helped to create (a new vaccine trial for triple negative breast cancer patients is the latest), its hard to not jump on board to help the cause! Plus, there are fundraising incentives that include some pretty cool gifts and Jaguar tickets! I have participated every single year (officially known as a Streaker) and can not see myself NOT participating.

THE YEAR LEADING UP TO DONNA
We will start this blog back in the beginning of the year. As a reminder, I completed 2014 Donna marathon with a Huge PR, crushing my 5 hour finish time goal with 4:55, a whole 34 minute improvement! So needless to say, I told myself I needed a break from running. Yes, I still managed my half marathons, but I was running VERY little other than that. And before I  knew it, it was months down the road and I had slacked for a whole 6 months! Well, you could probably guess, my performance had plummeted. I completed my running year without a single PR. Not only was I disappointed in myself, but I was scared I would not be able to 'match' another 5 hour marathon finish time.

DONNA TRAINING SEASON
My training season was pretty strong. I tried to do a whole 26 weeks of training, however, the heat took a little toll on that.  I also had to regain my 'base' of what I had slacked on, so it ended up being more of a 16 week training program. By October I was able to start adding over 13mile runs to my training. For 3 months I was able to manage no less than 25 miles per week, with most at 30-33 miles per week. I had 5 days that were 20 miles or over. I kept with the breaking up the miles like I did last year (ie, 2x10mile runs a day) to aid in faster recovery. Besides the running, I tried to do Pilates and Yoga at least once each a week. I did drop the weight lifting training this year, which I think may have been a mistake. Something different I did do this year was run in high altitude while on a ski vacation just a few weeks before race day. It was very little miles, but it was 3x of very heavy breathing! I don't know if that did anything or not, but I feel that breathing training would definitely help.

WEEK OF DONNA
The week of Donna is packed full of events! Being a Streaker (someone that has participated in Donna since day 1) and also a Top Fundraiser, I was invited to the One Ocean VIP Reception. This is an interesting event with hordeourvs and cocktails mingling with some very important people that make this event take place. The Donna Ambassadors are also there, which is always interesting to hear their stories from all over the world.

Saturday there is also a 5K in the morning (held at the same place as the Expo, and provides a medal too) and then a by invitation pasta dinner held at Mayo Clinic. Unfortunately I have bypassed the invitation to the pasta dinner the past couple years because I have been more focused on resting since race morning starts at 4am. This year I heard it was fantastic as they did a tour of the Mayo Clinic laboratories.




EXPO
The Expo is held at the Prime Osborne Convention Center located in downtown Jacksonville and is a 2 day event packed with vendors from all over the world. It is free and open to the public and is one of the best expos I have ever attended as there are so many shopping and educational options. There is a Donna Merchandise area as well as other breast cancer organizations set up. Donna herself is there meeting with the runners, as well as Jeff Galloway, the man responsible for the run/walk theory. Kurtis Loftus, the artist responsible for the great designs of the tshirt, medal and posters was there with a table set up to make custom spray painted shirts for $25.

There are local running shops like First Place Sports, as well as ones from afar (I ended up purchasing from the state of MI!) who come stocked with sale merchandise. We are given a reusable drawstring Donna bag, and there were free noise makers (varies every year, this year was thunder sticks) and yard flags to anyone who wanted them.

There was a pink fire truck you could sign parked outside and inside there were huge billboards with encouraging words such as Strength, Love, Finish that you could leave messages on. These would be placed on the beach for our Miracle Miles section of the course.

PARKING
Parking  for the race is open 3 1/2 hours prior to the Starting time with 2 separate entrances, so there is plenty of time for everyone to get there on time. We start at the TPC Sawgrass (for those that don't know, is a huge golf event location) which has more than enough spots for runners and spectators.



STARTING AREA
The Starting Area is pretty big and spread out. Once you get out of the parking, there is the UPS Gear Trucks, which is very easy to pass off your belongings. They transport it to the Finish for you. There are also so many porta potties, you never really have a long line to wait in. Besides Dunkin Donuts being there handing out coffee, there was also water, bananas, and muffins if you forgot breakfast. There is a big warming tent with tables and chairs, or there is also portable heaters scattered around to keep you warm. If you forgot your sunscreen, because its still dark out, don't worry, there is even a table for that as well. This year they tried a new line up. Flags were up with finish/pace times and you placed yourself where ever you pleased. There would be pulse starts for each time. If you did not line up early enough, you started later, but it didn't matter. Your own time doesn't start until you cross the Start timing mat with your chip on your bib. This made it easier to start with your friends and loved ones instead of being separated off from each other in separate corrals. A big part of it is to still be 'considerate' to other runners and staying true to your own pace and line up accordingly. I started in the first group which actually was a lot larger than I expected, but was not impacted with slower or faster runners trying to weave around.

COURSE
The course is A to B starting at TPC Sawgrass and finishing appropriately at the Mayo Clinic. There is a shuttle that takes you back to the start parking lot once you are finished. We run through Ponte Vedra, Jacksonville, Neptune, and Atlantic Beaches, with about 1-2 miles (depending on if you are running the half or full) run right on the hard packed sand. The beautiful white sand beach is where you are engulfed by the beauty of Jacksonville. The sky is still filled with beautiful colors as it is still early in the day. If you look close and if you are lucky you can see the dolphins swimming right along side us. The course is constantly in the beach neighborhoods where you see an endless stream of people coming out of their houses to not only cheer you on, but they have set up elaborate decorations and even 'aid stations' stocked full of oranges, waters, pbj sandwiches, bananas, candy, beer, mimosas, anything you can imagine, they have you covered the entire course! ....until the last 3 miles of the marathon which runs on JTB (a closed highway). The course is completely flat until you reach the last mile where you have enough of a challenge to prove your marathon strength with a small bridge.


WEATHER
All week there was a close eye on the weather. All over the US has been a brutally cold and snowy season and it was looking like we would be impacted by a strong cold front with high winds. Even race morning was predicting what was opposite of what we actually had. I swear this race is blessed. It ended up being in the 40s early and 50s later. There was some wind, but it was not a consistent direction, and it was never steady either. I arrived with long sleeves and pants with gloves, but ended up removing my sleeves and ran in a tank. By the end of the day I was saying I could have even gone down to shorts and tank, but I was fine. It was a gorgeous day!


MANTRAS
I totally believe that running, at any distance, is half mental. I try to go into marathon day with a list of mantras to get me through when I start to boink. This years included....
Better your Best
Embrace the Suck
Breathe thru it
Run with your Heart

AID STATIONS
There is tons of GU available on the marathon course.
On the second half I noticed they split up the water and Gatorade, instead of having both of them every mile, which made it weird because I like to swish out my mouth with water after a swig of Gatorade. A secret to the aid stations (esp the ones with a medic tent) is, they have aspirin and chips if you need, which I always love a mouth full of salt around M18.


GOALS VS RESULTS
My initial goal was to just match last years performance, since it was such a huge PR. But I have also always PRd on this race, so of course I didn't want to end that streak. I would have to maintain a 10:29-11:16 pace to finish between 4:35 to 4:55.

I wore a 4:35 pace tattoo that I had picked up at the Expo to keep me on track.

I am probably the most backwards runner there is, as I like to go out strong for as long as I can and then ease up at the end. For the marathon I do a consistent run/walk method. Below is what my goal was vs what actually took place.

M1-3 - 3x30, Actual-M1-12 3x30
M3-7 -  3x45, Actual 3x30
M7-13 - 3x1, Actual 3x30
M13-16 -  2:30x45, Actual M12-15 2:30x30
M16-20 - 1:30x45, Actual M15-18 2x30, M18-20 2x45
M20-23 - 1:30x45, Actual M20-23 1:30x45
M23-36 - 1x45, Actual M23-26 1x1

I took a GU every 3 miles starting at M6, a mouthful of water and Gatorade for every hydration station, a couple of bites of oranges somewhere on course, and a mouthful of chips around M18.

I ran the first 7 miles with my friend Constance who was taking on her first half marathon. I definitely felt like I wanted to run faster (like I always do and then crash early later) so it was good  she was there to keep me consistent. I unexpectedly ran into a friend Barb on the corner around M16 where I was just beginning to die down. I had co workers support (my work hosts a hydration station) at M8 and 18. My bartender friend surprisingly yelled out my name from behind the bar as I passed by at M 19! My friend Michelle was holding posters right after M20. And of course I had to take my usual shot of beer (the best carbs there are) at M21.

From the first couple of miles, I thought my GymBoss (pace alert) was dying or broken. It would go through one cycle of run/walk, but then stop. Luckily I was able to realize I could just push the button after the end of each cycle to start another. Unluckily, (but probably luckily) I forgot to do this several times and ran longer than I was supposed to. Thankfully it did last the entire race. I really stressed the first miles thinking I would not have a pacer at all. Unfortunately I realized after the race the exact problem and solution for it. (hand to forehead!)

Looking back, I was amazed how well I felt on the 3x30 (run 3 minutes, walk 30seconds) for so long. I was very consistent on overall pace the entire race until those last three-five miles. I could have definitely pushed myself more on JTB for the last 3 miles where I dropped down to a run a minute, walk a minute. With my performance and knowing what my body can handle, I will probably never allow myself to do another 1minute walk break again.

Physically my body was never in any serious pain. I had a nagging right hip and right knee ache and then some sort of feet pain I have never felt before in my life, for the last 10 miles. It is hard to describe, but it was like I was running barefoot. Like a raw feeling, or when your feet are asleep and then starting to wake up again. Nothing too terrible, just interesting.

FINISH LINE
Because I didn't know anyone doing the marathon this year, I was really expecting anyone at the finish (which is pretty usual for me). I slowly crossed the finish with a 5 minute PR and pretty much started hyperventilating. I was overcome with emotion and started to cry, but for some reason it led to almost a full blown panic attack. I continued to take my medal and walk towards the Finish Village when I looked up and saw Constance and her family still there. After a hug my breathing started calming down.

Constance and I stayed for a bit to enjoy the Finishers Village. There is pink champagne (which I had never been able to find previous years), Michelob Ultra, soup, and later we found out there was free pizza and hamburgers being handed out by Mellow Mushroom and Hardees. There is also a massage tent if you want to stretch out your muscles!

SHUTTLE
We didn't stay much longer and made our way to the shuttle to get back to start. It is always a long 30 minute drive back (so  make sure you have your back up clothes, flip flops, anything you want to make you comfortable after the Finish Line)

AFTERWARDS
After the race, we went to a friends who whipped up some yummy food for us. We met up with a couple other half marathoners and shared running stories.



SHIRT
The Finishers Shirt is a long sleeve gender specific tech shirt. I know they have been trying different  qualities and designs for the shirt over the years. I do hope that one year they can actually get the sleeve length right for ALL runners. I am a tall person and receiving long sleeve shirts really can be a hit or miss anywhere, but with that said I have plenty of other running shirts  from other races where the length is just fine. This years shirt, is once again about 2 inches short. I am glad they went back to the beachy design. But the shade of the pink is also a little weird. It looks like a light pink color washed with a bunch of dark clothing.



MEDAL
I love our medal and the stained glass. This year they decided to make it a heart shape, which isn't my favorite, but something different. The wording on the medal is entirely too small. I would love for the 26.2 and Donna words to be more of a focus.

PHOTOS
There is a good amount of photographers on course and at the Finish. There are also a slew of local photographers that end up posting additional (not organized) photos on multiple news sites, as well as Facebook pages. This year was cool as being a 'Streaker' we were given a $20 discount to use with Sport Photos and I was able to order a custom keychain for free!

Pink Feet's photo.
STREAKER EXTRA!
It has been pretty cool the past few years they have gone out of their way to show appreciation to the Donna Streakers.... those that have run every single year. This year they gave a heart running ribbon heart saying "Streaker 8 Years".

OVERALL THOUGHTS
If you want a standing ovation for all the hard work you put into training 16 weeks for a marathon, you should experience the Donna. It is literally 26 miles of people lining the streets cheering you on, calling out your name, saying Thank you for Running. The crowd support is among the largest I have seen in all my races. Running on the beach is also a huge highlight, making something stressful as a marathon, more relaxing and enjoyable. There is an awesome Galloway training program that can get anyone to run their first marathon. If the marathon is too much, there is always the half, the relay, or the 5k the day before!



Marathon #6 -4:50


18th Annual Ocala Half Marathon-Jan 25, 2015



 
 
This was the 18th Annual Ocala Marathon, held in Ocala, FL. This is a very small race in a small horse town. There were 67 marathoners, 223 half marathoners, 92 5kers.
 

COURSE
This is a loop course with a small out and back that starts and finishes at Paddock Mall. The marathon does 2 loops. Other than horses, Ocala is one of those Florida cities known for its 'rolling hills' but still small compared to other parts of the country.  All races ran the same course, all with different start times. With it being such a small event, the roads were still open, even on the side of the road we were running. There were some cones and some officers, but then there were other areas where the cars would race by, not move over enough, and I even got honked at! And not in a good way! A small portion of the course had rough/uneven asphalt and another portion you had the option to run on the busy highway partially blocked by cones or on the large sidewalk. I chose the sidewalk.

The course started off beautiful with a lot of horse farms. It was an almost freezing morning, so I'm not sure if all the horses were out. The ones that were, were beautiful in the morning light. There were also a lot of cows. At one point the cows were so close to the road, I could have reached out and touched them. I could see their eyeballs literally watching every step as I ran by them. Then another group of cows started running across the field. I couldn't help but laugh as I had never seen cows run like that before. I guess even us 'slow movers' can pick it up when we want! Being in the country, you also came across some interesting things on the road.... such as a dead snake (which I almost stepped on) and a large carcass (maybe a deer)?


PACKET PICK UP
January is an awesome time of year for Florida races. So I decided to try this Ocala race only 2 hours and 15 minutes away. I left the house around 345a, which put me as one of the first to arrive race morning. They had the option of picking up your packet that morning, which worked out nicely. There were other options to pick up the days before for those in town.

PARKING
Because we start and finish at a Mall on a Sunday, parking is endless and close.

START
It was a very brisk 36 degrees, so I quickly got back into my car and waited after I got my packet. I parked so close, I could crack my window and hear the guy on the loud speaker. They gave a mile by mile course review, but I'm not sure there were even that many people of there yet. They then did the National Anthem at 650am and walked the marathoners over to the Starting Line (just a few hundred yards away) for a 7a start. The Half would go at 715a.

As I lined up, I realized my IPod wasn't charged. Luckily we ran right by my car, so I threw it in. It was meant to be. This course is good to run sans music. We were in the middle of nature. I heard the most amazing nature sounds the entire course (well, until we hit the busy highway at the end). The quiet and stillness of the sunrise rays beaming through the trees, the fog hovering over the large ponds, the sprawling fields of wet (or frozen) grass. Birds starting to wake everyone for the day. All I could hear in those first few miles was my breath and the steps of the runners. (and an occasional other runners blasting IPod). There were moments on the course where I was all alone and could hear nothing. Absolute nothing. It was wonderful. And then I would hear a marathoner approaching and speed by me. (a little bit of an encouragement killer not only for this race, but also for my own upcoming full marathon)

SPECTATORS
There were no loud spectators cheering you on, just a random quiet 1 or 2 waiting for their loved ones. There were no motivating posters saying you can do it. It was just you surrounded by nature enjoying the gift of being able to run. This would be the same at the Finish. Sure there were people waiting for their loved ones, but there really wasn't a lot of cheering going on if they didn't know you.

HYDRATION/AID STATIONS
The Aid Stations were amazing! And probably one of the best spreads I have ever seen! I guess that's one of the perks of running with a full marathon. Of course I didn't need much of it for the half marathon, especially on a cool day that we had, but it was nice to have the option! Besides the usual Gatorade, water,  and some sort of GU. They had oranges, bananas, pretzels, fig Newtons, candy as just some of what I can remember.

FINISH LINE
The finish line also had a great spread as well. There was pizza, personal pies, multiple fruit options (pineapple, grapes, bananas), granola bars, fig Newton, cookies, bagels, peanut butter, Nutela just to name a few.

I didn't see any beer, but then again I wasn't really looking. Besides it being Dry January and training for the full marathon in a couple weeks, I also had to drive home and run another 10 miles!

 
SHIRT
The shirt was great, no obnoxious sponsor logos plastered all over the bag, except it was unisex. And a big unisex of that. I am drowning in a Medium. Oh well, one of these days they will all be turned into a tshirt blanket anyways!


MEDAL
The medal is basic but nice.




PHOTOS
A huge shout out for having FREE race photos.... and organized by bib numbers! I know this may have something to do with the small field, but still. The photographer was waiting at the Finish Line and I had at least 5 pictures to chose from. Unfortunately I forgot they were free, and didn't 'strike a pose' or even smile. Oops.

RESULTS
I felt good in the cold. The gloves stayed on the entire time! It was disheartening a few times as the full marathoners raced by you, as the full does 2 loops, so the fast ones catch up. However, almost every one of them had encouraging words for me as they sped by! Which was very nice. I tried not to push it too hard as I knew I had to go home and run another 10 miles for my marathon training. I did finish in my average time despite the hills, so I am happy.

OVERALL THOUGHTS
For a small town race, they do know what they are doing. I would definitely recommend this race as an experience if you are in the surrounding area. The course is "Florida" challenging, but not enough so to not make it unenjoyable. Being engulfed with nature and escaping the fast pass of every day life is definitely a perk! Ocala is also very accessible to some great cities and major attractions if you are looking to extend your weekend!


HM#46
13.1-2:24

I am currently running a half marathon a month closing the year with a full marathon at 26.2 with Donna. In the meanwhile, I am also checking off the 50 states. Please show your support on this mission by making a donation. 100% proceeds benefit the Mayo Clinic and Donna Foundation!
Www.donate.breastcancermarathon/2015-marathon/melissajohnson

Holiday Halfathon, Madiera, FL-Dec 14, 2014


 















This was the 13th Annual Holiday Halfathon which is part of a starfish medal race series in the surrounding Clearwater Beach, FL area, held by Florida Road Races.

I drove down from Jacksonville and stayed with friends in Clearwater, about 20 minutes from the Start. It was a gorgeous mild and sunny afternoon, so we had lunch on the patio on the water, and had a visit with Santa! After a cold, but gorgeous sunset, we had a relaxing evening at the house. Unfortunately I spent the night tossing and turning and woke up feeling I barely slept.


COURSE
This festive race is held on the barrier island of Madeira Beach and runs through Remington Shores, Indian Shores, with a huge part along the Pinellas Trail, a very straight, paved pedestrian trail that basically runs between the backs of peoples houses and some woods. This is an A to B course, starting at City Hall and finishing at Taylor Park where you do have a little bit off the pavement. It is a flat course with one small bridge over the water and 2 small overpasses on the Trail.
The first few miles are just a block from the ocean, but there is very limited views of the water between all the tall condo buildings.

PARKING
Being an Out of Towner, parking was a little bit confusing and stressful. We asked several people questions for clarification, but still went to bed the night before a little worried. The website advised there were 2 public lots to park, which we checked out the day before. Both were not large enough to hold all the runners. The other option was provided in an email to park at the Finish and car pool to start, or call pool all together. Of course, being an out of Towner and not knowing locals, this was not a choice. At packet pick up we addressed out concerns, but the volunteers were from out of town as well and had no answer. We were warned in previous communications NOT to park at Winn Dixie (at the start line) as you would be towed. At packet pick up, we were told they 'may' let us, to follow Facebook for this to be addressed. It never was. Final response race morning was it was 'at your own risk.' Under FAQs we were told you could park at the library and softball field. We never found a softball field and the library lot was ridiculously tiny, so we passed it up and headed out extra early for the public paid lot.

Later, after paying for our paid spot, we learned people were parking in grass all around the starting area, as well as Winn Dixie. There really needs to be more organization around the parking situation. We ended up having to pay $10 for the day, and still came back to the machine 'out of order' that we couldn't extend our time as we had lunch in the same area.


START
The Starting area was in front of City Hall and only a short walk from public parking. There were tons of portal potties, so only a short line. They had a bag check, but it was basically just leaving your bag next to a sign with your bib number range. It would be the same at the finish. Not as secure as I would have liked, but they warned us of that. So I can't complain.

They had a 'Walkers Start' which was about 30 minutes before the race. I still don't understand why they would start them before the runners. I'm not fast enough for a big impact, but the fast runners had to do some weaving.

They had a man and woman National Anthem duet which was unique. All the while a pelican was soaring overhead looking for fish in the intercoastal water next to us. It was very peaceful.
There was no order to lining up, just place yourself where ever. My group lined up together closer to the front and wished each other luck.

RESULT
I really was going into this race feeling like a PR. I hadn't PRd all year and it was time. To top it off, I had found my first sharks tooth ever, and thought it would bring me good luck. I was motivated and excited being with a group of friends and dressed in costume! I pushed myself for the first 3 miles, as I wanted to see if I could perform the same as I did for the Thanksgiving half (under 30). However, my Santa hat had me completely overheated quickly (I suddenly thought it was raining even though the sky was clear, but realized it was huge sweat beads dripping from my hat!) I felt okay until about M7. After that point, I felt like I was giving it my all, but the time just wasn't reflecting. I was exhausted. I could no longer see my friends and I felt defeated that I wouldn't PR again. I tried to just enjoy the day. It really was a perfect running day, but it was a bit of a mental struggle. The rest of the group did Fantastic! They had some PRs which made for a great celebration!

HYDRATION STATIONS
The stations were properly stocked, but all I could remember is they said there would be Florida Oranges at the stations, yet I only found 1 or 2 towards the end.



FINISH LINE
It was a festive finish line with huge Christmas wreaths, and Santa giving out the awards. The food line was fully stocked with pasta and meatballs as well as all sorts of snacks like fig Newton, pretzels, twizzlers, muffins, cookies, chips, bagels, bananas. Unlimited Michelob Ultra was provided with practically no line.


SHUTTLES
Pink buses took you from the Finish back to Start. It was definitely a good 20+ minute drive between the two. We waited to almost the end of the event before heading to the shuttle and there was still a line waiting for what seemed to be only 2 or 3 buses. We would have been fine, but as we finally got on a bus, the driver backed us off  as they were 'full'. We then were told only '2' more. We were a group of 5, so let others go. Then the driver yells out  '4 more!' WAIT, WHAT?! To top it off, he added even 2 more after those 6! The drivers definitely need counter devices to prevent grumpy, cold, wet, runners!!


SHIRT
Nice gender specific shirt without ugly sponsor logos all over the back!



MEDAL
Big, heavy, festive medals that really sparkle in the sunlight! The race name is a bit small, but at least there isn't ugly sponsor names plastered all over it.

OVERALL THOUGHTS
The Clearwater Beach area is gorgeous and running in NFL this time of year is perfect. This is a great location for an extended relaxing weekend. I would highly suggest this race and I wouldn't mind checking out another one of the Florida Road Races events.




HM #45
13.1-2:23

I am on a mission to run a half marathon in all 50 states. I race a half a month and a full marathon in February at 26.2 with Donna which is the only national marathon to donate 100% proceeds to breast cancer research and care. (Mayo Clinic and Donna Foundation). Please consider making a donation to show your support. Www.donate.breastcancermarathon.com/2015-marathon/melissajohnson



Subaru Distance Classic-Thanksgiving 2014


















This was the 31st Annual Distance Classic Half Marathon held in Jacksonville Florida. It is a long running tradition for this Thanksgiving Day race, which has been sponsored by different groups. Currently it is Subaru and 1st Place Sports. There is a half marathon as well as a 6k. (I have yet to figure out why it is 6 and not 5k)




This is a very simple type of race, as most 1st Place Sports races are. There is no glitz or glam about their races.  But then again, the registration prices reflect that as well. I took advantage of their 'test drive a Subaru' deal and got in the half for only $15!! You really cant complain about that! Unfortunately that is one of the only few things I cant complain about for this race.










REGISTRATION
So doing the Subaru test drive (which was a very simple and painless process, as long as you don't mind follow endless emails and phone calls asking you to buy a new car), I was forced to register by a tiny piece of paper and was told to drop it off at 1st Place Sports. I headed right over to the running shop, paper in hand, and the non customer service oriented teenage punk at the register instructed me that 'all registrations HAD to be done online' and waved me over to a computer to start typing.  So I start filling out my now Second Registration form.  Almost finished I asked what promo code I used for the test drive, and he then proceeds to tell me they have to enter the registration form for the test drives, not me on the computer. SMH....3rd registration form is a charm right? ...we'll see...


COMMUNICATION
There is a Facebook page for 1st Place Sports, but not so much hype or communication the weeks leading up to the race, since they are involved in so many other races and events around town. There was no email communication except the week of the race, which had very limited info (no bib info, and basically just directed you to see their website). I went online to check my confirmation and bib number and low and behold, my name is not there. By a quick response from Facebook (kudos) they advised my name was misspelled with 3 s's. Ok, simple human error I guess, but still it provided a mini panic attack.




PACKET PICK UP
Since 1st Place Sports has multiple locations across the large Jacksonville city, you have your choice of picking up your packet at any location, or race morning, you just put your selection on your registration form. I of course, choice Jax Beach because it is practically across the street from where I live. So I arrive and low and behold, was told it was at another location. Seriously? So I got to leave empty handed and had to rework my evening/morning plans to make sure I arrived with extra time to spare on waiting in line in the cold in the morning. Not a happy camper.






PARKING




The only instructions for parking was the shopping center of Pickwick Plaza. Unfortunately, once the navigation system got me there, I realized that lot was actually the starting area and there was no parking. Already in the left turning lane into that center, I realized most people were parking across the street at another shopping center. Unfortunately no one was directing anyone, not even the 2 cops standing partially in the intersection.  The turning lanes were backing up, and there was no way I would be able to get across the street easily. After a few loops around the only small lot on that side of the street, I finally decided to jump the curb and park in a small patch of grass and squeeze under a tree, which I scratched the hood of my car to fit into.


STARTING AREA


Luckily I got to the packet pick up line with only about 5 people ahead of me. Unfortunately there were about 8 boxes of bibs with only 2 people working them, and it seemed everyones numbers were in the same box! What should have taken about 5 minutes took over 20 min. I grabbed my bag and headed back to the car to warm up and put on my bib, except they didn't put the pins in the bag!


So back into the cold I go. Oh hell no, im not standing in what is now a 30 person deep line. I warn everyone in line to ask for pins, and skipped to the front to grab what I needed. What was included in the packet bag?....last seasons local magazine (yep, advertising races and events that already passed) and a handful of flyers.





So now I am fully dressed, bibbed up, selfie taken, I put on my Shuffle and try to test it out (since Ive had issues the past several races) and of course it doesn't work. ARGH! Its ok, I really am used to running without music. But the question was, could I PR without music?? (The weather was definitely PR weather ~50degrees).




I sucked it up, and back to the starting area to find the porta potties. Except, where the heck were they?? Finally I saw.... all FIVE of them!! WHAT?! Ok, whew, no, theres a sign that says more this way. But wait?...Why would they put all 50 of them right BEHIND the shopping center in such an  incredibly small space between the building the porta potties? There was absolutely no space to create lines. People were creating one unnecessary line to get to 50 porta potties, when all the ones in the middle were open!




Heading to the Starting Line, I search everywhere for my friends, but without luck. I put myself at the 9minute pace flag. Unfortunately there were no Pacers.
The starting time was delayed a few minutes. The National Anthem was sang....well, played....with a mechanical error at the last verse. Everyone looked around for minute. All I could think was recently in the news at a Canadian hockey game, the same thing happened and the Canadians just sang out loud and finished it. So I started singing and the people around me did too. I don't think it was as moving. Oh well.


COURSE


The course is good, im not going to lie about that. Its very pretty with huge mossy trees that overhang the street. We run practically next to the river most of the course through neighborhoods, but of course all the mansions block the view. I think we had one glimpse of the river the entire course. The 6k and half run together and then split off. Before we started, there was a warning about the opposite turns for each course. Im going to give it to them, there was a pretty tall sign right in the middle of the road that said 6k this way, half this way. However, there must have been AT LEAST 10 people that I saw do a turn around, even up to the next mile or 2 after the sign. And that was just in my pace. Obviously, they have had this happen in previous years if there was a warning at start. Obviously, that sign is still not working. Why not put signs on the SIDES of the street as well?? Why not put cones out that make the two separate lanes? Why not put chalk writing on the street, so when those looking down while running can see it too?? Why not have different courses or start times??


HYDRATION STATIONS


The hydration stations were well stocked and manned except for one at about M9. The course took you by this station twice. There were 2 tables on each side of the street, but there were only about 6 volunteers. There were no cups ready. Unfortunately this was also the gel station, but you didn't realize it unless you saw the box sitting there on the table. I believe it was a Poweraid gel. I have no idea what flavor it was, but I seriously asked the person next to me if they thought it tasted like tequila as well!


SPECTATORS


There were a good amount of spectators out, as the course takes you through neighborhoods. You were constantly being told Happy Thanksgiving which was fun, and some people were even dressed up.


RESULT


I felt really strong the first few miles. I had planned to run the first 6 without stopping, but I actually ended up blazing through the first 3 a lot faster than expected. When I looked at my Garmin at M1 and it said 9:05, I knew I had to push it for the next 2miles to try to break 30min for the first time ever! I officially ran 28:53!! Im so ecstatic, except there wasnt a 5k mat to record it!! (they did have a 10k mat....weird to have 1 and not the other). My Garmin records every mile for me, so to record 3.1 (5k), I had to press the lap button to record it, then lap again at M4 to get me back on course recording every mile. Except somehow I ended up stopping the Garmin all together. I didn't realize this until after about 3 minutes or so. So the rest of the course my timing and distance was completely off and I was constantly doing calculations in my head (which ended up not being right). I did the run 3minutes, walk 30seconds from M4 until about M8, then I went down to 2min:30sec. Im not going to lie, pushing it for the first 3 miles really took it out of me. Around M10 or 11, I had calculated that there was no way I was going to PR, so I kinda gave up on the hopes and dropped to 1min:30sec. When all was said and done and calculated, I actually was only 12 seconds off from a PR!! I could really kick myself for giving up at the end. But im still happy for my 5k time!




FINISH LINE
I crossed the finish, grabbed my medal and water, and was looking for a beer. It was after all a day of celebration. I saw people with mimosas, I saw people with beer bottles. I did not however, see any table handing any of that out! I was told by someone, that since Subaru took over, they stopped serving alcohol! WHAT?! If I didn't have plans to go to the Petes street party, I would have really been disappointed. But I did, so I grabbed the banana, muffin, and crackers they were passing out and I hightailed it out of there!





SHIRT
We received a gender specific tech shirt, which finally had the first glimpse of the holiday spirit. However, it was this strange shade of grey, that is almost green in the light.Also, the screen print is one of the worst quality I have seen. There were several 'cuts' in the print, as well as 'bubble's. 





MEDAL
The medal is one of the most disappointing I have seen. I guess because, again, Where's the Turkey?? One would think doing a Holiday race, there would be something involved on the medal with that Holiday. It really is a generic medal and has little to do with anything except the sponsor and race names.




PHOTOS
There was a TON of free photos loaded on 1st Place Sports Facebook page. Which is a huge plus. However, there wasn't much organization of them, distinguishing between half and 6k.
There were also the usual overpriced photos for sale by Speedy Banana, organized by bib numbers on their website.


OVERALL THOUGHTS.
I am extremely disappointed all around with this race. Would I do it again? Probably not. I really signed up for this race for a little healthy Holiday spirit. However, there was very little to make it feel that way.





HM#44
13.1-2:18


I am on a mission to run a half marathon in all 50 states. On my journey, I race a half marathon a month and a full marathon in February at 26.2 with Donna which is the only national marathon where 100% proceeds goes to breast cancer research and care (Mayo Clinic and Donna Foundation). Please consider making a donation to show your support www.donate.breastcancermarathon.com/2015-marathon/melissajohnson