It seems like I’ve been planning this race forever (since last February, I believe).
So this year, I did run the Publix A1A Fort Lauderdale Half Marathon as my 43th Half Marathon (49th if you count the six 2020 virtuals) for these reasons:
- A warmer weather race-cation opportunity
- I had a flight credit from a cancelled vacation.
- I had enough points for 4 nights in a hotel.
- It was held on Presidents Day weekend (one less day to take off from work)
- It was advertised as a scenic course with ocean views.
- The race’s COVID-19 plan provided enough safety for its racers IMO.
- I’ve never been to Fort Lauderdale.
- I had four friends that lived nearby (for the winter.)
- I had gotten BOTH of my COVID vaccines.
Half Marathon Training:
If you follow my posts, you also know that I am not strict about following a training plan. I ran my last half marathon in November (an in-person one.) I didn’t wear a watch. It was very hilly and so I was thrilled to just finish.
As with all my half marathon training, I did not really care about my week day runs. They were usually 3 easy miles.
However, I do try to do longer runs on the weekend. I did manage ALL year to run at least 10 miles every weekend. I even got in one 11 miler and one 12 miler before this race.
Though I did feel somewhat prepared to run 13.1 miles, my goal for this half marathon was still to just finish and to ENJOY RUNNING A REAL RACE!!!
Pre-Race Activities and Preparations:
Although the half marathon was scheduled for Sunday morning, I arrived (with no flight drama) in Fort Lauderdale on Thursday afternoon. I rented a car there and drove North to Boca Raton where I spent the next two days (staying in a hotel rather than at my friends’ places.)
I got to hang out with my four friends while visiting the beaches, gardens, bird sanctuaries and outdoor restaurants. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there (even wearing a mask almost all the time).
On Saturday afternoon, I left Boca, headed back to Fort Lauderdale to the expo to pick up my race packet, then returned North to Pompano Beach for a Lighthouse Tour (by Boat) followed by dinner across from the Pompano Beach pier. Instead of my usual pre-race pizza, I chose Shrimp n Grits (and hoped that it was an adequate carb loading substitute.)
Finally I arrived at my Fort Lauderdale hotel in time to organize my usual race outfit (tank, skirt, cap) and hit the sack earlyish.
I brought my oatmeal and coffee from home with me and got up around 3:00 am to get ready and have breakfast in my hotel room. I was a little nervous when it was already 78 degrees with 91% humidity – ouch! Not much I could do except leave off the compression calf sleeves and the throw-away clothing.
I had decided to purchase in advance the VIP parking. For $29, it was affordable (hey how many races did I NOT pay to run in 2020?) and piece of mind that early in the morning. You had to be at the race by 4:30 am!!
The parking lot was at a hotel and very easy to find. And you were able to use the hotel restrooms (and there were many!) and the race start (and finish) was right across the street. It was a little breezy so I put on my DIY arm warmers but they sure didn’t stay on long.
You were required to wear a mask until you crossed the start line and everyone complied. The runners were so friendly and from all over the US. This was actually the best part of the race….making new friends.
There was a staggered start. – 20 runners at a time, 6 ft apart. You lined up by estimated finish time. I lined up behind the 2:15 pacer. however most runners around me said that they were slower but didn’t want to wait that long to start. I felt the same way!
Eventually the race started with the announcer reminding runners to throw their bib in the trash and not on the course. (You would be given another mask after you crossed the finish line to wear in the finish/food/band area.)
I started around 6:30 am.
I’ll do my best to recap the race below. (Warning: it’ll be long…)
My plan, as usual, was to stop and walk briefly at every water stop (so I wouldn’t get dehydrated) and to stop and walk longer to eat a GU around every 3-4 miles. I planned to walk whenever necessary and NOT RACE it. It was VERY hot (85 degrees with 95% humidity) and I didn’t want to end up in an ambulance.
We started running south (with the ocean on the left) and ran along route 1A and around the point where we viewed some gorgeous oceanside homes.
As always, I felt more energetic during the beginning miles. Unfortunately, my feet hurt from the first step to the last. I was disappointed but was prepared for the pain. I was trying to run at a consistent pace. I was not very successful at this as the race went on.
I stopped at each water stop as planned. They were at about every 1 1/2 miles which normally would be frequent enough but not when it over 85 degrees. After the first few water/Gatorade stops, I started taking TWO cups of water – one to drink and one to pour on myself.
Around mile 3, a lady went down. At that point, I decided to slow down and make sure that it would not be me. Now we were heading north toward the race start (with the ocean on the right).
I was very excited to finally get to see the sun rise over the ocean without clouds blocking the sun. I think it was around mile 4 and I ran over to snap a photo.
As you can see, we were still running with the water on our right. I was desperately trying to focus on the beautiful views and not on how hot it was and how dizzy/nauseous it was making me feel. I took my first GU at this point and slowed down which made me feel better.
I continued slogging along running until a water stop. But my running felt like a crawl. I used my watch to see what mile we were on. The mile markers were painted on the ground (very lightly and often crossed out from last year’s course).
Although I loved looking at the ocean, it did get monotonous after awhile. Other runners told me that in previous years, it was not a loop and so not as much ocean views but a variety of views including a park.
Many runners were dressed up in their tutus for Valentine’s Day and that was at least a distraction.
I just continued putting one step in front of another. I was determined to finish even if it meant walking the rest of the race.
The turn around which seemed like a marathon away finally arrived around mile 8 and then we did a loop until mile 9.
Then we returned onto 1A with now the ocean on our left. The slower half marathoners were now heading in the opposite direction (as opposed to the speedy ones that passed me by before.)
Around this time, I ate another GU and started drinking more water and walking longer at the stops. And there was the blister forming on my left foot – ouchy!
By this point, I was struggling big time. Not sure why. The course was flat!
The Vaccine? Too much activity on previous days? Not enough sleep? The heat? The humidity? My feet? ???
Whatever the reason, I knew that it would NOT prevent me from finishing. I kept thinking that there were marathon runners completing the course TWICE!!!!!! I certainly can do it once.
One last GU and I was able to re-energize and sprint toward the finish line.
I crossed at 2:35:58.
A big PW but I was thrilled to have finished and have “run” a RACE!!
I was immediately handed a bottle of water, a mask and the finisher medal wrapped in plastic.
It took me a while to get up enough energy to move from sitting on that wall. I first headed to get some chocolate milk and then sat again and chatted with a few runners (all happy but very very hot and sweaty.)
Next I dragged my aching feet to the ocean and boy, did that feel good.
Then I decided that I needed to eat. Nothing really appealed to me though there was quite a variety but my stomach felt too queasy for tacos, burritos, refried beans…
I opted for some fruit, cookies, rice and a cold brew. I think I also took some other items and drinks but skipped the beer (before 10 am.)
Eventually, I headed back to my car since my friend Barbara was picking me up at my hotel in order to meet two other friends for a airboat ride on the Everglades.
Additional Race Reflections:
- A real Race
- 2 day expo with mandatory mask requirements
- A good number of booths and food/drink samples at the expo.
- Excellent communication about every aspect of the race before, during and after the race. – FB video on 1-19-21 and many Q & A’s.
- Easy packet pick-up
- VIP parking available and city lots (COVID rate) and public lots
- Sufficient number of port-a-potties at start/finish and along the course
- Staggered start – 6 ft apart, 20 in each corral (.5 mile area). Each corral started every 20 seconds.
- Spectators required to wear masks.
- Sanitizing stations throughout the race.
- Water stops 1.2-1.5 miles apart – 6 so you could stop 12 times.
- Disposable masks given out at the finish line.
- Volunteers/police directing traffic.
- Many racers dressed up for Valentine’s Day.
- 6 hour time limit for the race (since it included a marathon)
- Pre-packaged food post-race and safe places to eat.
- Music (Band) in the finish area
- Custom Sand Castle
- Lots of photographers on the course
- Sunny weather
- Beautiful course. Water views throughout.
- Friendly staff, participants, volunteers, residents.
- A large variety of food (tacos, burritos, fruit, cookies, beer, chocolate milk, cold brew, etc.)
- Ocean near the finish area (to go swimming)
- Age groups awards mailed.
- A real race.
- Early 5:45 am start time (but probably necessary due to temps)
- ALL COVID Restrictions (but very necessary).
- Cooler and less humid temps would have been nicer.
- Large number of racers (but 50% capacity of the original) – about 2000 runners.
- No Bag Check – not necessary if you parked close by
- Ocean views could get monotonous (but necessary due to revised course and no shuttle to the start)
- I had no friends running this with me (missed you Cari!)
- Nothing 🙂
Would I recommend this race?
Yes. Yes. Yes.
It was super well-organized. Special attention was paid to EVERY detail. The course was scenic. And if the pandemic ends and it returns to the previous course, it will be even better.
I am so proud that my body can run even when the conditions are not optimal. Yup, pain is temporary. I quickly forgot the next day how much it had hurt.
A far cry from my 2:06:52 PR in 2017 and my NYC qualifying time of 2:11:15 in 2019.
This old broad will just have to be content finishing upright from now on, I guess.
Druthers Helderberg to Hudson Half Marathon. (on a revised course – same as the Fall Classic)
Since today is Tuesday, I’m also linking up with these ladies and you should too.
I’m linking up also with this new link-up:
Happy Running! Have you ever been to Fort Lauderdale? Ever run this race? Any in-person races planned for 2021? Please share.