Update – 12/19/2016 – the race published pictures! I talked about each individual picture here, but I want to come back in and put them into this post for anybody that might be looking for reports on this race. Pictures!
Here’s how the website describes, in part, The Florida Run at Lake Louisa State Park:
“Known as one of Central Florida’s more challenging and unique races, the course will take runners on paved surfaces, dirt trails, grass trails and some sand.”
Lake Louisa State Park is in Clermont, Florida, about a 30 minute drive from the house. I was worried about timing for my traditional pre-run oatmeal, so I had my coffee and a bowl of cereal, snagged a couple of Lara bars, and headed out. I have visited the park before – and I hit the gate at about 6:20am for an 8am start. Normally the park opens at 8am, but they make an exception on race day. I made my way to the back of the park and headed over to the lakeside bathrooms for a quick break … and saw this – which is a sunrise that you normally don’t get to see:
After that auspicious start, it seemed it might be a good day.
This is a really small race but is very well managed. The Florida Run includes a half marathon, the 10K, the 5K, and a kid’s fun run. There wound up being 114 finishers in the 10K, and it was probably a few more than that for the half marathon. But, packet pickup was smooth and easy, and the timing company did a great job. There was an announcer, a nice chute, and good signage throughout. Just very well run.
For whatever reason I needed two more trips to the restroom, and then headed over to cheer on the half marathon start, which left at 7:45. While the mosquitos chewed on me, we had an opening prayer and then a very well done National Anthem – 3-2-1 go, and they were off. Took maybe two minutes, maybe less, to clear the chute. 15 minutes later we lined up in the chute for the 10K, same 3-2-1, and off we went.
Because we were in a state park and running what can only be described as a rural route, there was no spectator support. We were on our own almost immediately. The first mile was paved, was uneventful and maybe slightly rolling. The first water station was at about the 1.5 mile mark, followed immediately by one of the bigger hills I’d seen in a while. By my New York standards it almost doesn’t even count as a hill. By my new Florida standards, it was tough. But I powered up and did OK. And then at about 1.8 miles, we turned off of the pavement onto a path, and the second mile marker was a bit down this path. Mile #1 clocked in at 10:44, and Mile #2 at 11:04.
This part of Central Florida is basically one big sand dune. And these paths were like a beach that had a lot of grass growing on it. The ground was always a bit soft, and if there was no grass in an area it was not all that different from any sandy beach. Obviously we tried to avoid those. Maybe 0.75 mile into this we made a sharp right turn and headed up one of the bigger hills I’ve run in literally years. Again, by non-Florida standards I don’t think it was so bad. But, when you factor in the sand and the pancake-flat ground around my house that I train on, it was pretty brutal. The next aid station was at the top of this hill, and they laughed when I said “Well – that sucked.” The top of this hill was also the third mile marker – Mile #3, which included that crappy hill, was an 11:17 mile.
At that point, we were back on pavement, and started back downhill, and I knew I was going to have a good day. Even after those hills I was feeling good, and I knew that the hardest part of the run was behind me now. Given that, I decided to uncork it a little and start reeling people in. That got easier because at about this point the 10K and half marathon courses converged, and I was suddenly in the middle of a bunch of runners that were halfway through a race that they had started 15 minutes before I had started mine. If this were a Ragnar, I’d say it was a target-rich environment, and I started focusing on picking people off. Mile #4, which included some more off-road sandy trail, was a 10:31 mile, and Mile #5 – where we passed the first water station again going the other way, was a 10:41.
At some point in all of that the half marathon course had diverged again, and there were only two 10K runners in front of me within reach, so I focused on trying to pick them off. I actually got both of them with less than a quarter of a mile to go, but one guy apparently didn’t like that I passed him and hit the gas – he finished ahead of me by about 10 seconds. I had passed a girl, too, and right at the very end she went by me at full sprint speed – again apparently not liking the idea of being beaten by a fat guy. I wonder how far she would have been ahead had she portioned that energy out a little better. Mile #6 was a 10:44 mile, and then the last little bit took a little over a minute – I forgot to hit the button on my watch until well after I crossed the line, so I don’t know exactly.
I’m not sure who the spotter was as we came in to the finish, but the announcer called my name and town as I entered the chute, and I collected my very nice medal and bottle of water and headed over to the food tent. They had Clif bars, oranges, bananas, and chocolate chip cookies – not a horrible spread. About 10 minutes after I finished the first half marathon finisher came in, at about an hour and a half. Dude was flying.
My stated goal going into this was a PR (1:13 and change) and my really hope-to-get goal was 1:08. My finish time was 1:06.32 – a PR by nearly six and a half minutes! I was and am thrilled. Especially with the hills and the sand, I never would have expected to be able to do that. I know based on my recent 5K and some recent training that I’m capable of that speed, but I didn’t think I would have been capable of that kind of endurance. And my weekly mileage isn’t really that high – Crossfit is getting me into the best shape of my life.
I’m officially on the training schedule for the Celebration Half Marathon in January – this makes me very optimistic for that.
- Can’t say enough about how well the race seemed to be organized, especially for such a small race. I’ve run races that were quite a bit bigger than that one that didn’t have some of the niceties, and that didn’t go as smoothly. Well done.
- Those hills could have been worse, but they also weren’t exactly smooth. I’m going to have to figure out how to get hill training in somehow if I ever want to run any events outside of Florida.
- I haven’t been training with water, so I didn’t take any at the first two water stations. I took Gatorade at the last one, with the thought that maybe I’d get a boost. Not that I could tell, but it didn’t hurt, either.
- When I got done with the last bit of trail running, there was a volunteer there that was yelling “No more sand!” I told him he was my hero. I meant it.
- I wish I had taken a picture of the trophy table. Other than a trophy that was designed for local teams to pass around, the trophies were all pieces of cut 2x lumber that had been laser printed with the race logo and the winner’s category. Unique, and very cool.
- Actually got a SWAG bag, which doesn’t happen that often anymore. There were some coupons and flyers, a couple of medicine samples (Advil, etc.), and a little tube of sunscreen. The race shirt was cotton but very nice (though they only had XL, so I may never be able to wear it … <sigh>). And we all got a very nice medal. I still don’t know how I feel about getting a medal for running a 10K, particularly since it is the exact same medal the half marathoners got (and, not for nothing, that the 5K runners got). BUT – I am not conflicted enough to not hang it with all of the other medals. The bib also was not only race-specific, but it was distance-specific … the different distances had different colors and descriptions. I love that detail
- Next race: Ashburn Farm 10K, Ashburn, Virginia – a Thanksgiving day race that I now intend to try and absolutely bomb. We’ll see.