Spoiler alert: This race did not go as planned.
But we will start at the beginning.
I had many friends who had run Space Coast and when they came out with their five year race series honoring the shuttles, I had to go. I have always loved space and this series was not to be missed.
On the Friday after Thanksgiving, I hopped on a plane to Florida hoping for some warm weather. I was not disappointed, though it was a bit cool.
Saturday, I headed to the expo. It was held at Kennedy Space Center and we got free parking, so that was a win. Getting into the expo itself was a little annoying. You had to get a free ticket to get you through the gate, but that only got you into the little visitor center. Would have been easier if it had been outside the gates. But no matter. The expo itself was pretty tiny, and the packet pickup could have been much better organized, but I got what I needed. And the shirt is pretty sweet.
I opted to buy a ticket to the Space Center to wander for a while. It was worth every penny. Such a cool place and they have Atlantis displayed in an amazing manner.
And they decorated for Christmas.
I mean, who doesn’t love giant holiday ornaments?
Race morning arrived and I woke with a crazy headache. To the point where I wasn’t sure that my food was going to stay in my stomach. Not great. Definitely not great for a race morning. I remember thinking that if I didn’t want this medal and want to try to do this whole series, I would back out. But that was not an option.
I wasn’t convinced that food would stay in my stomach so I didn’t eat anything before the race, just had some water. I had gels with me. I knew that wasn’t enough fuel, but it was what I could handle. I was feeling better but not great.
There was some confusion with bus transportation, but we got to the race start in plenty of time. The line to the “real potties” was ridiculous but the porta potties had very little line. Pretty awesome.
When we got into the corrals, the announcer was a bit piercing, but the speakers kept cutting out, so that was a plus. Unfortunately, they also kept cutting out during the anthem. But the runners weren’t going to let that happen. Instead, as the speakers cut out, the runners picked up the singing. One of the best versions of the anthem that I have ever heard.
When the race started, I set off with my 1/1 run walk pattern. It was okay, but I just wasn’t feeling it. And it wasn’t helping my headache at all. After a mile, I realized that it wasn’t sustainable. So I made the decision to walk. Not ideal, but I was determined to get that medal.
A few miles in, I heard a funny comment. Those of us who do Galloway are used to the question “What are you running?” The person is asking what interval patterns you’re running. But I heard a great answer during the race. “13.1, what are you running?”. Okay, so it isn’t that great. But it made me laugh.
I decided with my walking that I would try to keep Disney pace (16 minute miles or less). I slowly ate my HumaGels and that kept me going, but with just that and Gatorade in my system, I only had about 400 calories before and during the race. Not great. But at least all the calories stayed in my belly.
By mile 11, the haze finally started to burn off and my headache went away for the most part. Clearly weather related, and likely nothing I could have done about it. I considered running, but my legs were fried from walking that long. The muscles are used so differently that even though I am used to a run/walk pattern, this was not awesome. It wasn’t how I had trained. So I just kept going.
The course was an out and back, with the marathoners joining the half during the second part of their race. I loved that! It meant I saw all of my friends while we ran. Huge perk. When I saw my friend Anne, who was running the full, we stopped and chatted for a minute or two, which definitely perked me up.
Somewhere between 11 and 12, I was so ready to be done. My legs were stiff. My feet were blistering (need to go buy blister powder to keep the bottoms of my feet happy, I think). But I had to keep going. I needed that finish.
So I powered my way in. Walked the whole way, didn’t even try to run across the finish. I just wanted to be done. And then I was. And I got my medal and my towel and they are glorious.
Post-race was excellent. Soda, beer, water, fruit, pancakes, and eggs. And probably other stuff I didn’t find. They were mixing pancake batter in a giant bucket with a drill attachment which was genius.
Cheered in the rest of my friends, many of whom set PRs, including Anne, who powered through sickness to finish her first full. It was great to be there for her finish. Cheering on finishers is one of my favorite things.
And we celebrated, then went back, showered, went to IHOP, ate, put our feet in the ocean, and went back and crashed hard. Worth it.
I will be back. I am a little worried because next year’s medal is Challenger, and for a lot of people my age, the Challenger disaster was a huge moment in their lives. But I am sure I will get in.