Gulf Coast Half Marathon at Pensacola Beach – Race Report

This is the first day since the half that I’m enjoying sitting on my rumpus instead of constantly being on the go. I figured it was the perfect time to finally put my race report together for Sunday’s half.

We decided Friday night that we would get a couple of hotel rooms that way the kids could sleep in a room with my parents so that I could get as much rest as possible, we could get up around 5am instead of 3am (eww) and the kids could come to the race site later with my parents. A quick search on Expedia and we had a couple of rooms reserved for us for the following night.

With two cars loaded up, we headed to Pensacola. First stop was at Running Wild (a running store) to pick up my packet & t-shirt. The parking lot was ridiculously small and full when we got there. I was lucky enough that someone was leaving right after we got there, so I took that spot while my Dad went to the neighbouring business to find somewhere to park/wait for me. Things inside went smoothly and didn’t take long at all. I didn’t know what my bib number was so I had got it from one of the volunteers then headed over to where my number was. I was second in line so it went pretty quickly. I signed a waiver and headed to the table at the back of the room for my t-shirt and I was good to go. The whole process probably took less than 5 minutes.

After packet pickup, we headed to the hotel. We checked in, checked out our rooms (a little smelly, probably from being closed in, but they were clean) and the kids started going a little crazy so we decided to go for supper even though it was still a little early (just past 4 pm). I chose Olive Garden so that I could carb up on some pasta. 😉  I had written directions from google maps for our various destinations during our stay but we decided to use my parents’ GPS to guide us to the restaurant. We plugged in the address and were on our way. It was soon apparent to me that we were not going the right way but I figured the GPS knew better than me since I’ve only been to Pensacola once before so I’m really not familiar with the roads or the area. I continued to follow my parents and, after zigzagging and looping our way through Pensacola, my Dad turned into a mall parking lot. There was no Olive Garden to be seen. I parked next to him and he informed me the GPS told him he had reached his destination. LOL Uh, yeah. Kohl’s was not our destination. I got the address out of my car and we plugged it in again. The GPS made a new route and I saw what I thought we were doing with the initial directions. Olive Garden was South of our hotel’s location. The mall the GPS brought us to was North of our hotel. GPS fail! I got back into my car and we put our faith into the GPS once again. This time, it served its purpose and got us there successfully. We got there just in time, too. A rush of people came in not long after we got there. We were told we would have to wait 5 minutes for our table while people who came in after us were given estimates of 20-30 minutes. Yikes! Our actual wait was about 10 minutes but still not bad at all.

After our meal, we headed back to the hotel. While my Mom gave the kids a bath, I moved their car seats into my parents’ car. The kids had a quick snack after their bath while I hooked up to the hotel’s wireless internet connection so that I could show my Dad where he would need to go the following morning to get to the race. We said goodnight to the boys and my husband and I headed to our room. I quickly took a picture of my shirt & bib and posted it onto Facebook then I set up the connect thing that would update my Facebook when I passed the half way mark & finished the half.


My husband is still on midnights and he passed out in one of the beds while I was checking in online. I decided to take a quick shower and get into my PJs so that I could hopefully hit the hay soon. I crawled into bed around 8 or 830pm and set two different alarms to make sure I didn’t miss this race. My husband woke up at some point in there but I was exhausted and kept slipping in and out of consciousness. I slept pretty shitty at first. The pollen is insane here right now and we’re all suffering pretty bad w/ allergies because of it. The lack of being able to breathe through my nose kept waking me up plus I wasn’t in my bed. I remember waking up at one point with a stream of snot across my face. Sexy! Eventually, I conked out and didn’t get up again until just before 5am. I think it was my husband who woke me up five minutes before the alarm was supposed to go off.

I got up, got dressed and logged in online one last time. One of my biggest fears for the half was having GI issues so I was hoping and praying that my body would be nice to me and I could #2 before we had to leave. Without getting into TMI territory, I’ll just say that it was a success. lol We got our stuff and headed out the door. The thermostat in the car read 72 degrees at 540am. The air was also very heavy with humidity. Clear indication of how gross the weather was going to be for running later. The mapped out route on google maps said it would take 30 minutes to get to the race and I believe it took us about 20 minutes. No, we didn’t do any crazy speeding either. 😉

It was just after 6 when we pulled up near the parking area. It was filling up quickly but we easily found a spot. I got my gear on and got out of the car. It was very windy (we were right next to the Gulf of Mexico) and, with the humidity, it made me cold. I was a shivering nervous mess. We headed toward the pavilion next to the parking area to meet up with Steve and a few other DMers. I spotted him in front of the pavilion with a few other people. We greeted each other, eventually took some pictures then split up for a bit. My husband and I headed toward the beach next to the pavilion to get a few pictures. We quickly discovered that I forgot to take the memory card out of my computer and put it back in the camera the night before. Ugh! Oops!! Fail on my part. No pictures. Dang it! He took some video instead as that was the best we could do. I decided I should probably hit up a toilet before the race start. There was a public washroom available but the line was insane so I decided to just hit up a port-a-potty (eww) and get on with life. I had to wait in line for a good 5 minutes or so before it was my turn. I don’t need to explain the nastiness that is a port-a-potty with you. I’m sure you know from experience. lol I did my thing and got out as quickly as I could. Thank God they have hand sanitizer dispensers on the outside of the doors. I loaded up on it when I was done. No sooner did I get out of the john, I saw Steve waving me over again. We got a few more pictures taken with other people (that I’ve never met lol) and then it was time to line up.

I had been stewing over whether I would use my Camelbak or not. Being nervous about the race in general, I was afraid of using new gear so I finally decided against using it and relied solely on the water provided at the water stations along the route. This was a decision I would later regret. I gave my husband a kiss the headed closer to the start line while he went off. As we waited, the sun started to rise above the tall building in front of us. I was so far back in the pack that I didn’t hear any announcements (if they made any) nor did I hear the national anthem I’m sure they played before the race started. It didn’t take long before they fired a gun (or something) and we were on our way. We walked toward the start and, once we were close to it, the crowd started to disperse a little and we started running. I started my Garmin when I reached the start line.

The first two or three miles were weird. They’re usually a warm up for me and it wasn’t any different in that regard but the whole experience was just so surreal to me. I don’t know if I was caught up in the ‘I can’t believe I’m here’ mentality or what was going on but it was almost an out-of-body experience. I chugged along and my pace was naturally in the 9’s.  The wind was blowing really good and it made my mouth dry which made me really thirsty. I can’t remember where the water stations were located but I do remember that I ate my first Clif Shot Blok at the second one. I’m guessing it was between 3 & 4 miles in. I pretty well continued to eat them at every second water station along the course.

Everything was going well until I neared mile 6. Uh uh, you guessed it, my left hip started to bother me. I had taken small walking breaks before I reached 6 miles but, once my hip started to hurt, it was a battle to keep running. Once the fast runners started to go by us after they reached the turn around point, I kept my eyes peeled for Steve. I also ran as much as I could because I wanted to be running when I spotted him. lol I don’t remember how far I was when I saw him, but I did and we exchanged glances and a wave. The turn around point was still so far away, it was a little discouraging and I was envious of the faster runners. At this point, the sun was beating down on us, we were on a highway next to the Gulf and there was NOTHING around us but hills of sand. A handful amount of people came out to cheer on their runner that was doing the half and the only other people we had cheering us on were those at the water stations. I will say those at the water stations did a wonderful job and were very encouraging but it wasn’t enough to keep me going. It was easy to get caught up in mind games. I was so very thirsty, my hip was being a pain in the ass and I was walking far more than I wanted to. I was becoming more and more disappointed as my average pace got higher and higher. I got lost mentally during the last few miles and chugged along as best I could. It was so hot and I wasn’t getting enough water. I was taking two cups at every water station but it felt like I was teasing myself as I continued on. Thank God I had the Clif Shot Bloks. I can’t imagine the state I would have been in had I not been taking them.

There was a bunch of us that kind of stuck together during those last few miles as well. We were all struggling and would run past one another, then walk and be passed, then run again, rinse & repeat. The view during the last bit of the race was a little better. We were heading West through neighbourhoods and could see some water on our right. Throughout the race, there were some times that we could see the Gulf but I remember seeing endless hills of white sand more than anything. Or houses as we zigzagged through neighbourhoods. So seeing water was a nice change and also a bad thing because I just wanted to jump into it. I was so hot and over it at this point.

Finally, after what seemed like forever, we were coming up to the area with businesses and civilization. They didn’t map out the route properly and my Garmin started beeping away the miles before I reached the mile markers along the course so I had no idea how much longer I actually had. But, I knew the end was near and that made me happy. I chugged long and started to see runners who had finished with their medals around their necks. Then the people sitting on the curbs started to get heavy. Then there was a bunch of people and I spotted my husband and Dad w/ cameras aimed at me. I was almost there. They were at the turn before the finish. After I passed them, I sprinted toward the finish. If I had known it was so close to where they were standing, I would have started sprinting before I did. I crossed the finish line with a time of 2:38:40 (the distance on my Garmin was 13.28 miles, so my pace was 11:56), got my medal and a cold bottle of water (HEAVEN!) and walked around aimlessly trying to find my family.

Coming up to the finish (in case you didn't know, I'm the one in the pink Team Sparkle skirt) 😉

Sprinting to the finish

I did hear the announcer come on and announce that I had crossed along with a handful of other people when I was walking around. He must have been busy when I actually crossed. I finally found my husband and we made our way over to where my Dad & the boys were. There were so many people. It was like flies on a piece of shit. I don’t do crowds and I really wasn’t feeling good and all I wanted to do was get the eff out of there. My Mom had gone to the bathroom so we had to wait for her to make her way back to us. We probably waited a good 15 or 20 minutes. Apparently the wait in the bathroom was super long and there were a ton of sick runners in there. Eww. I’m thankful I was fortunate enough to avoid tossing my cookies or dealing with heat sickness or severe dehydration. When my Mom found us, she hugged me and congratulated me. I can’t remember what else was said, my mind was focused on getting out of there. We parted ways, my parents were going to head back to our house with the boys while my husband and I went back to the hotel room so that I could shower before heading home. On our way to the car, I heard someone yell my name. I turned around and saw Steve coming our way. We talked for a couple of minutes. I remember he asked me how I felt and I couldn’t answer him right away. I was so numb from the whole experience that I didn’t really know how I was feeling. I was sore because my hip hurt so much and I think that’s what I went with. Or tired. I can’t remember. I know, sad that I can’t remember our conversation. We parted ways and headed to the car. I couldn’t wait to have the cool air of the A/C blow on me. My husband brought my Clif Builder’s bar to the finish and gave it to me but I couldn’t stomach eating it until we were almost back at the hotel. I forced myself to eat it because I hadn’t eaten yet (other than Clif Shot Bloks) and I knew I needed to get something in me and that it would probably eventually help me feel better. We got to the room, I checked Facebook real quick to see if the updates had shown up and they did. Woot, something went right. lol I finally made my way to the shower, peeled my clothes off and got in. I felt like butt the entire time but it felt good to wash the stink off. I got dressed, we packed up the rest of our things, packed up the car and went to the Wendy’s across the road to grab a bite before we headed home. It was kind of nice to eat without the kids for a change. 😉 My legs were bothering me the whole time. They were very sore and I’m assuming it was lactic acid buildup or something. I also failed to do any kind of stretching when I was done because I felt so sick so I’m sure that didn’t do me any favours. Oops. When we were done our meal, we were on our way back home. That was it. My first half marathon was over.

Unfortunately, the pride of having finished my first half marathon was clouded by so much disappointment. I was disappointed in my time. I was disappointed in the weather. I was disappointed in the lack of spectators/cheering along the course. I was disappointed in the “spectacular view” we were supposed to have along the course. I was disappointed in most everything about how this race went. It’s not how I envisioned things going. The initial disappointment in how things went subsided after a couple of days and it helped to read that other runners had also struggled with this race; most of which were seasoned runners that had more than one half under their belt. I felt much better knowing I didn’t struggle because I was a newbie but because we had all kind of odds stacked against us. It was hot. It was humid. It was windy. There weren’t enough water stations for the conditions. Etc..

I have filed this as I have my other firsts– as a learning experience. I will be sure my next half is scheduled when it’s cooler outside. My luck, it’ll be unseasonably hot and I’ll suffer again. lol

My "most useful finishers medal in America" (It's a bottle cap opener)

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Posted on April 19, 2012, in half marathon, race, running. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Nice job with the race report! I felt like I was there suffering with you! Try doing a half in the fall, it’s much more enjoyable!

  2. I think your time is amazing for your first half 🙂 Someone once told me that your first race of any distance your goal should be to finish 😉 and you did it girl!!!! YAY

  3. I ran the Pensacola half also and I was so sunburned I thought I was going to die! Congratulaions on finishing in my opinion it was a very hard race!

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