The Race For Women’s Wellness Half Marathon & 5K is held annually in Coral Springs, Florida, and all proceeds go to benefit The Lisa Boccard Breast Cancer Fund. This fund provides free screening mammograms for women who cannot otherwise afford them. A great cause, to be sure, and as a smaller-sized local race, this was definitely something in which I was interested. Supporting local races is A Good Thing For Any Runner (hence the capitalization), supporting breast cancer screenings is A Good Thing For Any Human Being, and a Start Line about a 10 minute drive from our house is A Great Thing For Me, so this was a triple-win situation for all of us at HokeyCo Ltd.
As I participated in the Half Marathon, that event will be the focus of our review. And it was definitely a smaller-sized event; there were a total of 470 participants in the Half, which gave runners a broad amount of running room throughout the entire 13.1-mile course (comparatively, there were almost 780 people who participated in the 5K). The race started and ended adjacent to the Coral Springs Tennis Center, where Boots and I found ourselves on the morning of Saturday, March 26, 2016. As an aside, I absolutely love Saturday races. Sunday races totally kill your weekend vibe. With a Saturday race (especially a half marathon), your weekend can really start roughly around 9AM on Saturday, which you means you still get a full weekend night of carousing or pinochle or full-contact mah-jongg or whatever floats your fancy. We don’t discriminate here.
What I don’t love, however, is unseasonable heat and humidity, which is exactly what we received that morning. Temperatures were at 73 degrees at race start, but with NINETY-NINE PERCENT FULL SOUTH FLORIDA HUMIDITY. Seriously. It felt like the worst of summer all at once. I sweat more walking from the car to the Staging Area than I did during the entirety of the 2015 Chicago Marathon. OK I might have engaged in a scintilla of hyperbole there. Maybe.
The race was scheduled to start promptly at 6AM, which meant about a good hour of running before sunlight made an appearance. This could mean either cooler temps or harsher humidity for that first hour; sunrise burns some of that oppressive mugginess off, but it also raises overall temps. We’d see soon enough. Either way, it was a fun, festive atmosphere at the Staging Area. I met my Friends In Training pals at our tent, chatted for a bit, and posed for the requisite team pics:
There were color coded PortaJanes for both genders, and I have to say these were THE best porto-potties ever. They were clean, lit, and fully flushable via foot pump. People were praising the Almighty for hours afterward!
After the ceremonial PRP I sauntered over to the Start Line as the magic hour of 6AM was rapidly approaching. I took position near (but not at) the front of the pack, because I’m not a dingbat, but I did start out with my buddy Mishele, who’s super-ridiculously-fast and is soon gonna be running Boston.
Here are some start line pics:
After the National Anthem and a few announcements, the race in proper began. I punched up my latest Zombies, Run! mission (“We’re Needed”), plugged in my earphones, started my Garmin, and took off like a bandit!
Let’s take a look at the race course, courtesy of Google Maps and my much-adored Garmin 920XT:
We started out north on Sportsplex Drive, turning east onto Sample Road. Heading west on NW 33rd Street and south on NW 123rd Avenue, the route took us Royal Palm Boulevard. Turning east, the course took us past the 5K mark until we reached University Drive at approximately mile 5.25. South on University we went for almost two miles, turning westbound on Riverside for a 2.5 mile stretch that reached Atlantic Boulveard. We proceeded west on Atlantic until a mile 10 turn onto Lakeview Drive began a 2 mile stretch back to Royal Palm, where we returned to the Sportsplex and the Finish Line next to the Tennis Center.
I wasn’t kidding when I said I took off like a bandit. I had no aspersions of PR’ing — it was way, WAY too warm and steamy for that kind of dreamy dreaminess — but I spent the first 0.75 miles keeping up with Mishele, just to see if I could. I did. Then I dropped back, because mama didn’t raise no fool and I didn’t want to burn out that quickly. It was just as well, because even though I ran the first mile at 8:30, I knew that kind of pace was anything but sustainable. And boy was the humidity in full effect. By the time we reached the hydration stop at Mile 1, I was drenched with sweat. Yikes.
The course itself took us pretty much through the gamut of suburban Coral Springs. Visually there wasn’t much to look at, but it was a pleasant, roomy race. Hydration stations were well staffed with volunteers, with cups of water and Gatorade at the ready (stations at Miles 4 and 6 also had Gu packets). My only quibble (I wouldn’t necessarily call it a criticism) is that on a morning that ridiculously hot and humid, they might have considered having Gatorade at more only four of the nine stops. Thankfully I run with electrolyte tablets, and they were more than assuredly needed that morning. I was sweating by the bucket-load.
My intervals were my usual half-marathon intervals: run a mile, walk a minute. My only goal was to be consistent and maybe, just maybe, beat my 2nd fastest time (2:06:04). I ran the first 5K in about 28 minutes and felt fairly strong about it, but as they morning went on the humidity felt thicker and the sun rising didn’t help at all, really. In short: those were BRUTAL running conditions. I hadn’t felt anything this oppressive since the 2014 Miami Half Marathon, during which I started to feel chills and eventually heat exhaustion. I’m a stronger runner now than I was then, and taking electrolyte pills every 4 miles (and Gu gels every five) kept me chugging along just fine. Mostly. But during the second half of the race, I felt every last step of every last mile. I could feel the sweat in my shoes squishing about, I could see the steam rising off the skin of my arms, and I knew that this race was going to be a challenge.
But I enjoyed the challenge. I hit the 10K split at 57:38, and I knew I was slowing down. During the first half of the race I averaged around the 9:15 min/mile mark. The second half I dropped an average of 30 seconds/mile. The last 3 miles alone took almost 10 minutes/mile. But that’s heat and humidity for you. It takes its toll on your performance. I can say, though, that good friends will keep you motivated and passionate and pushing yourself to your competitive limits… which is what happened with my buddy Debbie, a tough-as-nails IronMan triathlete and runner and CrossFitter and overall badass. Debbie and I wanted a do-over at this race, since we both got burned at the Excalibur 10 Miler the previous weekend due to some crappy race logistics. As providence would have it, we found each other during the second half of the race and managed to keep each other going.
We needed the encouragement. It was a tough, long, miserable haul. And yet Debbie PR’ed because she’s freakin’ Wonder Woman. Me?
I ran the last two miles straight through and finished with a total run time of 2:05:05. In other words, I ran my 2nd fastest half marathon out of 32. I did what I set out to do. And it hurt like freakin’ hell, but we got it done. Even if it cost me my left arm!
I’m pretty obsessed with Arm-Fall-Off-Boy lately…
I won’t deny it for one second though; after I finished, I was completely ANNIHILATED. I felt terrible — light headed, dizzy, fatigued, cramped, barely able to keep upright. I immediately got my water, bagel, muffins, banana, and Muscle Milk, found a shady area by the FIT tent, and sat there nibbling on the post-race snacks until I felt more like myself. I wasn’t particularly hungry and it was a bit of a chore to get myself to eat anything, but I knew that I needed it. I was absolutely drenched with perspiration and barely able to sit upright, but that didn’t stop my medal selfie proclivities, did it? Well a little bit. Boots ended up taking a better pic anyhow:
After about fifteen minutes, I felt good enough to stand up and walk over to where Boots was snapping pics of our FIT buddies running towards the Finish Line. I hung out with her and Katarina and cheered everyone coming in. As much as I could, anyhow. I eventually found myself sitting in the shade again. I was fine, but I felt utterly depleted. That race took everything out of me. Then again, I still managed to finish at a very respectable time, given the conditions. I was pretty, pretty pleased with myself.
Some pics of the Finish Area:
So overall, I felt the 2016 Race For Women’s Wellness Half Marathon was a small but very successfully-run local half. The course was fine, race logistics and organization went well, the atmosphere before and after the race was fun and festive, and it was all for an extremely worthwhile cause. Nobody can control the weather, except the Weather Wizard and he’s a fictional character, but on the other hand that was a pretty big takeaway that morning. Just part of the process of being a runner, I guess. Especially in South Florida. Anyway, here’s the video: