I signed up for the 2014 Space Coast Half Marathon back in February. The race was announced to me through Moon Joggers, a running community I found online and joined a couple of months earlier. On January 1, 2014 I began a new mission with them- a voyage to Venus. I signed up with a personal goal to run 500 miles this year and contribute my miles to the grand total of miles with the group to get to Venus. I decided that the Space Coast race would be a great way to end the year and my miles with. As soon as registration opened online I signed up. Thank goodness I didn't wait because within 24 hours the half marathon was full and closed.
The race weekend began on the Friday after Thanksgiving day. It was located in Cocoa, Florida so a month earlier I booked a flight from Shreveport that would depart on Friday and return on Monday. I had already planned ahead and booked the hotel as soon as I signed up for the race. Since the race sold out so quickly I knew that if I waited too long I may not be able to get a room at one of the host hotels that offered shuttle service to and from the race.
On Friday, I departed Shreveport around 5:00 p.m. Since my husband had to work that weekend he stayed home with the kids and I traveled by myself for this one. I flew to Orlando, rented a car, and checked in my hotel. I was starving by the time I got to the hotel, and the only place I found close by to eat at and that was open that late was a Denny's restaurant. At this point I really didn't care. I just wanted food! I finished eating and went back to the hotel. It was about midnight when I finally fell into bed, exhausted. Thank goodness the race was not until Sunday because 5 hours later I almost had a heart attack from the alarm clock that went off unexpectedly. Since I couldn't go back to sleep I decided to get up, pack and leave early for Cocoa Beach which was an hour away.
As soon as I got to Cocoa Beach, I headed to the expo to pick up my race packet. When I arrived the first thing I had to do was find my bib number located on a wall with a list of names in alphabetical order. I found my number and proceeded to the packet counter. Once I picked up my packet I headed over to the shirt table and the crowd that was already forming. I had heard that many of the racers were unable to get their shirts because they had ran out of the ladies size small. Luckily, I was able to get my size that I had pre-ordered when I signed up.
The expo was held at the Radisson Resort, one of the host hotels. There was a fairly large crowd when I arrived, and I slowly made my way around the room to look at all the vendors and merchandise. This was a space-themed race so I had to wear my Moon Jogger shirt and take advantage of the photo ops while I was there.
Since I couldn't check in my hotel until 3 p.m. I decided that my next stop was to visit the Kennedy Space Center. I could not come to Cocoa Beach and run Space Coast without visiting the space center before I left. I must have picked the perfect weekend to visit and race because there was hardly any traffic on the road and no crowds. I ate lunch, walked around the museums, and was pretty excited to see the Gemini spacecraft and the actual Space Shuttle Atlantis displayed. What an awesome experience. I will definitely be planning a vacation here and bringing the whole family.
Once I finished exploring the space center it was time to leave and go find my hotel. I had about an hour to rest before getting ready for the pre-race pasta dinner that evening. This was an exciting evening. I got to meet some of the Moon Joggers in my running group for the first time, meet the race organizers, and listen to our guest speaker for the evening, Bart Yasso.
After the dinner I made plans to meet with my running group the next morning for a group picture, went back to my hotel, laid out my race outfit for the next day, and went to bed. I did actually get a good night's sleep compared to the night before so when my alarm went off at 3 a.m. I was fully rested. I got dressed, drank my coffee, and had a post run breakfast which consisted of a bagel with peanut butter and honey. The bus shuttle was to leave at 4:15 a.m. so a little before 4:00 I went down to the lobby to wait for it. It came a little early and we left 10 minutes earlier. I felt bad for those who missed it because they had to wait around until after 5:00 for the next one. We arrived at the race site about 30 minutes later and then had to wait in line for the bathroom for another 30 minutes. Of course there was no line on the men's side. At 5:30 I met up with my running group and was able to meet more Moon Joggers. :) At 5:45 it was time to start lining up.
I made my way back to the 3 hour pace sign since that's how long it took me to run my first half last year and found my spot. It was very crowded when the race begin and it took a few minutes for everyone to start spreading out and for me to find a good starting pace. The race began at 6 a.m. so it was it was still dark out when we began.
The half marathon is 13.1 miles and this course was an out and back one meaning you run half way out, turn around, and then come back to the finish. I found my pace and decided on the run/walk pace of run 9 minutes, walk 1 minute. I started off great and was able to enjoy the sunrise as we ran past the Indian River and Atlantic Ocean on one side and fancy houses on the other. The road was lined with palm trees so it provided some shade as well as we were running. By the time I got to the halfway point it was daylight. About the time I reached the turn around point I heard the sound of Bon Jovi's "Livin' On A Prayer" blaring from someone's yard. What perfect timing as he sang, "Whoa, we're half way there. Whoa, livin' on a prayer. Take my hand, and we'll make it- I swear. Whoa, livin' on a prayer!"
All was going well until around mile 9. That's when I started noticing a familiar nagging pain on the left side of my knee. The same thing happened at the Route 66 Half. I slowed my pace down and decided to stop and stretch out my legs for a second. While I was stretching here comes the 2:45 pace group. I decided to run with them and realized they were doing the 1 min. run/1 min. walk pace so I stayed with them and ran a little bit ahead of that group. I even stopped to take a picture of the house with the scary mannequin looking out at us and the dolphins swimming next to us.
This pace seemed to help and a few more miles in I was able to pick it back up and finish strong. I didn't get my 2:45 time, but I did get a PR (personal record) and finished 13 minutes faster than my last half marathon race. As soon as I crossed the finish line, I received my finisher's medal and a beach towel instead of the usual foil blanket they give at the end.
Once the race was over I walked around stopping to stretch, eat, and take some more pictures. About an hour later I found my shuttle bus and left to go back to the hotel.
After resting up I decided to head over to the beach and then do a little shopping since I wasn't leaving until the next day. After about 45 minutes of searching for a day spa I finally found one and got my manicure and pedicure. Best post race recovery decision ever! That was the best foot and leg massage ever and well deserved tip.
The Space Coast Half Marathon was one of the best races I have ever experienced. I enjoyed every minute of this weekend. Here are the top 10 highlights of my race weekend.
10. Arriving at destination 2 days early and staying an extra day
9. Visiting the Kennedy Space Center
8. Browsing at the expo
7. Pre-race dinner w/ speaker Bart Yasso
6. Meeting some Moon Joggers
5. Staying at a hotel w/ shuttle service to and from the race
4. Hearing Bon Jovi playing when I was half way there
3. Running past the house with the spooky mannequin
2. Post race Manicure/Pedicure/foot/leg massage
1. The awesome bling I received at the finish line