Monday, December 16, 2013

OUC Orlando Half Marathon Recap: My first pacing experience

This recap is late, but you know what they say...better late than never. 

I signed up to be a pacer for the OUC Orlando Half Marathon that was put on by Track Shack back in the summer. I absolutely love Track Shack - I am part of Marathonfest, a marathon training program that Track Shack hosts, and it is unbelievably awesome. Seriously, I would not get half my runs done without Marathonfest. I'm a co-dependant runner.

Only a few of the large Marathonfest group before the race. Can you spot me?

I ran my first OUC race last year and it was a PR. Loved the course and loved the medal, shirt, etc. It is a really great race, and seems to be turning into a destination race for Floridians. This year is was on December 7, and the weather conditions were sucky, for lack of a better word. It was HOT, and HUMID, and to be honest, if I was trying to race, there was no way I would have PR's (so congrats to everyone that did!)

So, after my Space Coast fail I was a little nervous about pacing the half marathon. (The half was 6 days after Space Coast). I signed up to pace the 2:15 group. The pace per mile is 10:17, which is a good minute slower than my long run pace. I was worried about being inconsistent, but that morning when I woke up, I decided that I was going to try my best to be the best pacer possible, and have a lot of fun. Ended up doing both. Boo ya.

The race started at 7am, and I had to be at the Track Shack tent by 6:20 to get my pacing sign, meet everyone, and be available for questions for anyone that wanted to run with me.

All the pacers before the race.

I was getting really pumped when I saw all the people that planned on running with me! Some of them were running their first half, and some were trying to PR. I told them that we would have fun and explained my strategy (run straight through, no intervals) and that my goal was to get them through the finish line about 30 seconds under 2:15:00.

Before I knew it, it was time to grab my pacing sign, and line up in the crowds. 

One of my favorite running buddies, Rick, found me before the start of the race and told me he would run with me. I was so happy to have someone from my running group there. Rick and I usually stick with each other for long runs and he is awesome.

The national anthem was sung, the horn blasted, and we were off. I knew the first mile would be slow, and it was (10:34), but I warned everyone who was running with me about that. This race had almost 4,000 finishers and the first mile was very packed. We picked it up the next two miles (just under 10:00 each), so that our average pace was just about 10:15. I wanted us to be able to finish strong, but to have some extra seconds in case something happened during the race.

The miles seriously flew by. Rick helped me so much with pacing because my Garmin (though I love it dearly) tells me my overall pace per mile, but only for the mile I am running. It does not tell me overall pace for my entire run. Rick made sure we were sitting around a 10:15 pace the entire time. He was awesome.

Before I knew it, we were passing the 10k, and then we were at the halfway point. I was feeling good because the pace was pretty comfortable and I wasn't pushing myself. I loved carrying my sign and I thought my arms might be tired by the halfway point, but they weren't at all. Everyone was chatting away and really enjoying the crowd support and volunteers. They were SO cheerful and positive! So many residents came to support the runners, which really helped morale. Much of this course is through residential neighborhoods, and seeing families, dogs, children, etc. really made the run enjoyable.

We passed the 15k and had a great pace still. Right after that we came to a tailgate that I had heard about through Facebook and they had.....BEER!

They were giving it out in these lovely cups. 

Rick and I shared a cup and the beer was delicious. It was cold and definitely hit the spot. I love beer on race courses. Usually I skip it if I am trying to run fast and "race," but since this was more of a fun run, I helped myself. The people there were probably wondering who the alcoholic pacer was for the 2:15 group.

Miles 10 and 11 passed pretty quickly after the beer stop, but there were some "hills." More of inclines, but that's all we have in Orlando. We kept our pace consistent and still had a 10:15 pace. 

Rick spotted a race photographer just after mile 12, so we turned on the smiles and posed. 

We are just so photogenic.

I saw the finish line just around the lake, and knew we would finish strong. We were passing a lot of runners, but our pace was consistent. By that time, it was almost 9:15 so it was miserable outside (the understatement of the year) and you could tell a lot of people were hurting. We tried to pump them up and have them run in with us, which was cool. Runners are so nice to each other. 

We crossed the finish line in 2:14:29. 

Looking good.

I was so happy! I had done it. I paced perfectly and got in thirty seconds under. The race announcer even commented that the "2:15 group is awesome, coming in within a minute." Seriously, that made my morning.

What did NOT make my morning was the line for free beer after. We had two Mich Ultra vouchers but the line was like 30 minutes long. I love beer, but I'm also impatient and I knew I had some in my fridge, so we said forget it. Rick and I took some photos, got some chocolate milk, and hung out for a bit before leaving. The race had a good after party with massages, ice, beer, and chocolate milk. My kind of perks.

Rick and I after the race. We make an excellent pacing team.

Some things I loved about the race:

1) I was able to run with one of my former student's mother and she ended up with a 20 minute PR! She had to ditch us around mile 8 for a bathroom break, but she found me after the race and that alone made me so happy. 
2) People cheering, "There's the 2:15 group! Go 2:15 group" everyt ime we passed supporters. I felt like a celebrity and it was AWESOME. It really kept me going and gave me more excitement. I think it helped other runners too.
3) The thanks I received after the race. I have never in my life felt so appreciated! Tons of people told me thank you for pacing. Some told me I helped them make their goals. I had some who PR'd and others who told me thanks because they stuck with me for half the race and then went on to finish faster with negative splits! It was one of the most rewarding experiences. 
4) The free race swag. Well, duh. Track Shack hooked it up. Free Brooks pacer tee, event tee, the awesome medal (see below), and a gift card to Track Shack, plus free race entry. I will definitely pace this race again next year if I have the chance!

 Lookin' fine with my bling.

All in all, a SUPER fun race (the race I have had the most fun in to date) and an excellent event put on by Track Shack. Run this race next year if you are able to - it is worth it!

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