I signed up for the Islamorada Half Marathon back in June with the intention of it being my first post-Chicago Marathon race. On last-minute race registration whims, however, I did the Miami Beach Halloween Half Marathon and the Turkey Trok 10K before the Islamorada Half.
Part of what drew me to the race was that it was in Islamorada - a group of Florida Keys islands that are a 90-minute drive from Miami - and thought it would be fun to make race weekend a mini family getaway. I planned on running this race in 2017, but Hurricane Irma hit and caused a change of dates for the race that made it impossible for me to participate. Looking back, I’m happy I didn’t run this race in 2017 because my mental space post-Chicago Marathon 2017 wasn’t all that positive and I needed all the time I could get to reset and refocus.
This year, Chicago was what it was and I learned what I needed to learn about myself and the 26.2 distance. This means is that I learned (really, I remembered) that 13.1 is my favorite distance; it’s long enough to be challenging, but also short enough to not fully drain me of all energy.
This lesson was in full effect during the Islamorada Half Marathon as I talked with friends before the race and experienced the truth of it during the run itself. I love 13.1, but some days it’s a challenging distance and race day was one of those days.
I went into the race a little nervous as I’m working on improving my running form and I haven’t run this long since I started making changes to my form. In general, running has felt “off” lately because changes to my running form have left me feeling like I’m just getting into running and learning how running and different paces feel in my body. Also, I’m always nervous before races when I’m waiting around in the starting line area.
The first 10K of the race felt great, but then my stomach started bothering me so I made a bathroom stop before mile 7. I was able to get back into the race and pace, but the course has very little coverage and the sun was fully out. The last 5K felt like a true battle of Me-versus-the Sun and I didn’t feel strong enough to sustain my pace. To get through those miles I went into my version of the run-walk-run method where I ran for 200 steps and walked for 50 steps. Counting helped distract my mind from the sun and walking helped my body feel less heated.
During those last miles I tried to keep up with a runner who was also making stops. When she passed and then stopped close to the 13 mile mark, I ran up to her and told her we would be finishing together; no more stopping until we finished and could stop for good. That last .20 was probably the longest-feeling and, yet, strongest-feeling stretch of the entire race. Thank you runner for keeping me moving forward and for helping me finish.
I finished the race, which was my 33rd half marathon, in 2:01:31. I am incredibly happy with this time because (1) it means I finished a half marathon, (2) I did 13.1 miles with form in mind the whole time, (3) finishing in two hours was my time goal for the race, and (4) I feel like my goal pace for my goal race is within reach (if weather cooperates a little more).
Things I liked about the race: Location! Islamorada is beautiful. The course is flat and has some breathtaking water views. Packet pick-up at Robbie’s was fast and gave us a great excuse for having lunch at Robbie’s. The swag was worth the race registration: cool shirt and even cooler hat. There were a fair amount of runners so I never felt alone on the course and, had the weather been different, I think this race would have been a perfect PR-making race. There was plenty of water and gatorade on the course. Start- and finish-lines were in the same place and there was free beer at the finish line!
Things I didn’t like about the race: There wasn’t much shade on the course, but I can’t blame the sun for coming out. There also weren’t many porta potties on the course. There was shuttle service from the parking lot to the start/finish area; the shuttle back to the parking lot had different pick-up/drop-off locations, which caused some confusion.
All in all, a fun race that I would do again (with many more prayers to the weather gods).
Next up for me is the iRun x lululemon 5K, Miami Half Marathon, Disney’s Princess Half Marathon, and 305 Half Marathon.