Blue Mountain Beach Half Race Recap

Hello friends.

We just got home from a wonderful one-day getaway on 30A. I ran the Blue Mountain Beach half marathon in Grayton Beach this morning. This was my first time to run this race. Actually, I had never even heard about it until this year and only stumbled upon it online. I was searching for a half marathon to do as a tune up race before New York and most of the half marathons around here are later in the year. This weekend is 3 weeks out from the marathon and that is about as late as I could fit one in and reasonably expect to be recovered enough for the marathon. We had to travel a little bit to find a race, but believe me, there are much worse things than having to travel to a beautiful destination race at the beach for a weekend.

Daniel had to work for a little while Saturday morning and I had my training group Saturday morning as well, so it was a pretty quick trip over and back, but it was a lot of fun and it was a nice break. We dropped Brooks off at the doggie ranch and headed over to Florida Saturday afternoon. We stayed in Miramar Beach, which is just east of Sandestin. We got checked in and settled into our room and discovered that Daniel forgot to pack his running shoes.

Y’all. Really? We went to New York and he forgot his dress shirt and now we go to a race and he forgets his shoes. He didn’t run the race, but I definitely wanted him to run the warm up and cool down with me. I am starting to think he is doing this on purpose. Luckily, we were really close to the outlets and so he was able to find a new pair of (very bright) racing shoes at the Adidas outlet.

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Since we were already at the outlets, I decided to do a little shopping myself. I got two pairs of jeans at The Loft (they were buy one, get one free … don’t mind if I do) and got a super cute pair of boots and a necklace at the Saks. We will see if Daniel forgets anything next time! Ha.

After we left the outlets, we stopped by the grocery store to stock up on some snacks for the game and for the race. Then we ordered dinner to go from Applebees and came back to the room to watch the Alabama game and get to bed early. If this is what being old feels like … I really like it!

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We woke up pretty early this morning to get ready for the race. Packet pickup was at 6 and the race started at 7. We got there right at 6, because I wanted to get my packet and have plenty of time to get a good warmup in and not be rushed to get to the start line. Since I missed (aka bombed) my long run last week, coach wanted me to get one last 20 miler in this weekend, which meant that I needed to do at least a 3 mile warmup before the race and then 3 or 4 miles after as well.

The race start and packet pickup was at the Grayton Beach General Store. We found the start and got checked in with no problems. There were more people than I was expecting, but there were actually several races going on. Today was the half marathon and a 10K and yesterday, they had a 5K and a 10 mile race. You could sign up for the 5K and 10 mile race Saturday and the half marathon Sunday and over the course of the weekend, you would’ve raced a marathon. They called this 26.2 @ Blue. We weren’t able to do that this year, but it does sound like a fun option to try sometime. They have a similar type race on Tybee Island in GA where you run a 5K Friday evening and then a 10K, a half marathon, a 2.8 mile run on the beach and a one mile race Saturday, giving you a total of 26.2 for the weekend. We’ve always wanted to do that one as well!

Anyways. Back to the race report … Daniel and I did a three mile warmup and then it was time to line up for the start. My goal pace for this race was 6:30 per mile. My actual average pace was 6:31 per mile, so that was pretty much right on target. Unfortunately, I didn’t really run the smartest of all races and I was struggling at the end! My splits were: 6:31, 6:14, 6:17, 6:22, 6:23, 6:31, 6:27, 6:39, 6:37, 6:41, 6:43, 6:42, 6:38. The first 3 miles were too fast and I paid for that. I was supposed to “ease into” 6:30 pace, not start at that and then drop down well below that in the first 3 miles of the race. Note to self: do not do this next month in NYC.

I got sucked into running someone else’s race instead of my own. When we lined up on the starting line, I knew I had some competition. There was a girl who was running striders out and back from the start line the entire time while most of us were just standing around waiting for the start. Daniel was standing off to the side with me and I told him that she looked serious. He said, maybe so, but he wasn’t entirely convinced. After this went on for a good 5 minutes, the race director announced that there was one minute until the start. At this point (almost on cue), she immediately took off over into the bushes (like 50 feet max from where everyone was standing), went to the bathroom and then darted back over to the start line. I have never seen anything quite like that (from a girl at least) in my life. At that point Daniel looked at me and said, “Yep, I think she is serious. Good Luck!” And we were off!

The first few miles were very flat and I quickly settled into my 6:30 pace. I came through mile one in probably about 5th place overall. I was trying to stay with serious girl. I figured we might could work together. I tend to run my best races when I run side-by-side with someone else. Over the course of the next couple of miles, we passed the other folks and were running 1st and 2nd overall and were running pretty much side-by-side. We actually got passed back by one guy just after mile 3 when we somehow managed to run off course (but only for a few seconds). There was a turnaround, but the sign at the turnaround said “10K Marathon Turn.” For some reason, that didn’t register in my mind that it was the HALF turnaround as well. Serious girl kept going, so I did too. We didn’t go too far out of the way, because I stopped and asked the policeman sitting at the turnaround if this was where the half turned as well. His response was, “I have no idea. They just told me this is the turnaround.” Okay then. We shall turn.

We kept the pace pretty steady for the next three or four miles. Unfortunately, those first few fast miles started to catch up with me and my pace slowed after we came through the 10K. We came through the 10K finish and the first place guy stopped. It hadn’t even occurred to me that he might not be running the half. Daniel hopped in the race and ran a little bit with me around mile 7.

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She had already put a pretty good gap on me at this point (as you can see in the picture above), but it was still manageable. When we hit mile 8, we had a little out and back segment and Daniel dropped off to wait for me to come back through. This is where the “mountain” of Blue Mountain Beach came into play. The course description said that we would run the only mountain on Florida’s beautiful Gulf Coast, but honestly I wasn’t expecting it to be anything too difficult. It probably wouldn’t have been had I paced myself properly at the beginning of the race, but I didn’t …

Miles 8 through 10 felt like they were all uphill! And it was windy. And the sun was in my eyes. Basically I was just struggling. Serious girl put a pretty big gap on me and there was no way I was going to catch her at that point. Thankfully, having miles 8, 9 and 10 uphill meant that miles 11, 12 and 13 were somewhat downhill. I was definitely thankful for that, but I couldn’t seem to pick my pace back up at all. I came through the finish in 1:24:55, which is only a few seconds off from my best half, so overall I am very pleased! I definitely needed a good reminder about the importance of smart pacing. Nothing like learning a lesson the hard way to make it stick with you more.

Daniel joined me for 4 cooldown miles. Basically this was more like a shuffle, but we got it in. That was my last long, long run (I realize this is a relative term) before the marathon and I got a pretty solid 20 miler in. Bring on the taper! We were also tracking several friends that ran Chicago today. Everyone did so well (woo hoo)! It was so much fun getting all of the text alerts after my race and definitely made me more excited about NYC.

We hung around Grayton for a little bit after the race, got some coffee and I got my award. I was hoping that they might put me in the men’s division (I registered as Sam instead of Samantha) because then I would’ve been first place! How crazy is that? I usually sign up as Samantha for just that reason. I’ve been called out in the men’s results before. I’m pretty sure today is the only time it would’ve actually been advantageous.

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We got cleaned up, checked out of our hotel and headed in search of some food before getting on the road to head home. We decided on Panera. For some reason, Panera just really sounded good to me. I got their new ancient grain, arugula and chicken salad. It had red grapes and fresh apple and cabbage slaw tossed with white balsamic apple vinaigrette and topped with toasted pumpkin seeds. It was so, so good. Maybe I was just really hungry, but I thought this salad was amazing!

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We got back on the road, I put on my compression sleeves, propped my feet up and took a nice little nap.

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Now the laundry is going, we are about to go pick up our little booger from doggie ranch and get weekly groceries. Back to the normal routine. We had a really fun trip and I would definitely recommend this race to anyone that is looking for a fun, relaxed half marathon along a beautiful scenic route!

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