Sunday, December 1, 2013

Space Coast Half Marathon 2013 Race Review

I'll admit, I had decided to do this race mainly because I liked the medal.  For the past few years, the medal has been some form of a 3D space shuttle.  This year they decided to start their "big bang series."     The next 5 years will be a series of medals dedicated to each one of the space shuttles.  If you do 3 of the 5 years you get the milky way medal and if you do 5 of the 5 years you get the intergalactic medal, too.  This year's medal was dedicated to the Columbia shuttle.  

I signed up for the race on their website  The race sold out in July.  I was impressed with their pre- race info.  Their website has pretty much all the information you need about the race, expo, hotels, restaurants in the area.  They had maps of the courses, a map of the start and finish areas, and maps of the surrounding areas.  They seem to answer people's questions on Facebook pretty quickly.  They started to send out regular emails as the race got close.  It was really well organized.  

Getting there:
The one negative of this trip was the cost of the airfare.  Because it is held over Thanksgiving weekend flights to Orlando are double (or more) than their usually price.  Because of that reason it will probably be a one and done for me.  If not for the cost of the flight it would be nice for a winter getaway somewhere warm to collect the rest of the series.  

I booked a hotel that was recommend from the race website.  All the hotels are in Cocca Beach which is about a 25 min drive from the expo and the start of the race.   But I had to rent a car to drive from the Orlando airport anyway and it was nice to have a hotel on the beach.  It is about a 45 min drive from the airport.  But everyone at the hotel was really nice.  They offered a late check-out for anyone running the marathon.  Which is always nice so you don't have to worry about racing back to the hotel or not getting a shower before your flight or ride home.  Since the race started at 6 am and we were only doing the half, we did not need the late check-out, but the offer was still nice.  

I flew in Friday early morning.  Since I had a little time to kill before I checked into the hotel I decided to get a pedicure and run a few errands.  After I was done, I went to the hotel and they allowed me to check in early.  

Saturday morning I got up and went for a nice little run on the beach.  Considering how cold it was in New York, it was definitely refreshing. 

The Expo:
 After my run I went over to Kennedy Space Center where the expo was held.  If you were just coming for the expo, they gave you a pass to get into the expo only.  I wanted to see the exhibits afterwards so I bought a regular day pass, which I had a $5 off coupon that came in the virtual goodie bag from the race.  

To pick up your bib, first you had to get your bib number from one of the volunteers holding a clipboard outside.  Then you had to go inside and pick up your bib.  The lobby where they were distributing the bibs was a bib cramped.  But I managed to quickly get my bib and t-shirt.  I walked around the vendors.  There were not too many.  They pretty much just had all the usual stuff.  Not too exciting.  

My friend Kanaka had to be in Florida for a work commitment.  She managed to schedule it so she could run the race with me.  After seeing the spaceship medals, she wanted in.  After meeting with her colleagues Saturday morning, she met me at the space center.  

Being a huge science geek, I was excited to tour the space center.  I had been there once as a kid, but I had not been there since they opened the Atlantis shuttle exhibit.  

The Atlantis shuttle exhibit was pretty cool.  They start with a few videos explaining the shuttle missions.  Then you can see her hanging from the ceiling.  There are a lot of hands-on exhibits.  You can climb through a model of the international space station.  They have stimulators where you can work the shuttle arm or various other parts of the shuttle.

I have to admit that the space center is really neat.  All the exhibits are of actually space crafts, either ones that had been in space or test models.  I managed to squeeze in the Atlantis shuttle exhibit, the flight simulator, and an iMAX movie.  Kanaka agreed.  She had thought it would be like Disneyland where everything is fake.  But she was pleasantly surprised that it was the real deal.  

After Kanaka met up with me, we walked around some more.  They had a replica of an Apollo rocket capsule that you could climb in a take a picture in.  This is the picture she took of me.  Great shot of the top of my head, Kanaka.  But where is the rocket?  

After instructing her on better framing we got some decent shots. 

We even managed to get our picture with a guy in a spacesuit.

We drove back to the hotel to clean up for dinner. 

I do love to dress the part but I was not in the mood to make an elaborate costume this time.  So I decided to just make us some alien antennae to get us in the spirit.  I bought some headbands, pipe cleaners, pompoms, and googly eyes.  Kanaka, really got into our little arts and crafts project.  And she now claims to be an expert at googly eyes.  I laughed at first but then realized they don't spend a lot of time on arts and crafts in India so this was a new thing for her.    

After we got our antennae squared away and our stuff for the race laid out.  We went down the road to get dinner.  We got back to the hotel and were in bed early.

The Start:

 We were up early.  The half marathon starts at 6 am and the full starts at 6:30 am.  They start the races early so you can finish before the heat of the day starts.  They decided to start the half earlier than the full this year.  The half course is the second half of the full marathon course.  They wanted to get most of the half marathon runners off the coarse before the full marathoners made it to mile 13.  So they decided to start the half marathoners before the full marathoners.  We drove over to the start.  I was worried about traffic and parking so I made sure we had plenty of time.  We were in the car by 5 am.

They had put a map on their website showing where all the parking lots around the start were.  The only problem was there was only 1 lot that we would be able to get back to the hotel without having to cross the marathon coarse.  Not wanting to have to wait until 1pm to get out of there, we decided on that lot.  Of coarse that lot  was over filled.  Since all the spots were filled, we ended up following other peoples lead.  We had to hop a curb and park on the grass island in the middle of the parking lot.   

We put on our antennae and walked over to the start.  We just followed the signs pointing us to the start of the half.  The full marathon had a different starting line.  

The Course:
It was a bit tough getting up and getting to the start before the sun came up.  But at 6am, we were off and running.  The course is an out and back course along the waterfront.  It was still dark for the first 30-40 min or so.  But the course is flat.  When I say flat I don't mean not too many hills or small hills.  I mean no hills.  Flat.  The ONLY incline was a 20 ft increase over the coarse of a mile between mile 9 and 10.  It is a great course for a PR.  There is really nothing else to say about the course.  Flat!

We had a great race.  I had been trying to break 2:10 all year.  We finished in 2:09:30.  That is a 9:53 min/mile pace.  I have to say that running with Kanaka is great.  We really do help push each other along.  We pretty much run at the same pace.  Only I tend to slow down around mile 9-12.  Kanaka runs pretty even but she does tend to want to lollygag around the water stations.  So I have to maintain pace to keep up with her.  She has to cut down her water breaks in order to not be left behind.  It works great.  All of our splits were between 9:40 - 9:50 min/mile except for the last mile we did around 10 min.  

Course support:
They did have really good course support.  There were mile makers every mile for both the half and the full.  They only had clocks every 5k, but I was smart this time.  I used my Mapmyrun app so that did not bother me too much.  The water stations were nice and evenly spaced out.    The first one was not until about mile 2, but after that they was one pretty much ever mile.  All the water stations volunteers dressed in costume according to a space-theme.  There was a Star Wars stations, Jetson station, Angry birds station, etc.   They had water and gatorade at all the stops.  They were on their game with cups in hand ready for the runners.

Post-race finisher festival:
I have to say this was the best post race festival I have seen.  As soon as you crossed the finish line they put a medal around your neck.  I forgot I was wearing antennae and got a little tangled up.  They also gave you a towel.  They had cold bottled water as well as washcloths soaked in ice water to cool you down.   There was plenty of room to move around.  They had music playing.  It said on their website that they had made arrangements with a few of the local YMCAs to allow runners to take a post-race shower if you needed to.  

They had a really nice spread of food.  Anything you could want after a race they had it.  There was a tent with hot pizza and soda.  There was a ton of fresh bananas and oranges.   They were cooking up pancakes and eggs.  Plus they had bagels, donuts, and juice.  I think they had a beer station, too.  But we skipped that one.  

We found some open grass, and the towel they gave us made a perfect picnic blanket.

They even had spacesuits you could climb in and get a picture.

Of course the medal did not disappoint.  Shiny and glittery.  It is one of my favorite medals.  

Back at the space center:
After the race we went back to hotel to get cleaned up.  Since we had full bellies, we did not need to get breakfast.  We drove over to the space center to finish our tour.  We took the bus tour.  It brings you out to the launch pads.  We saw a few alligators and a bald eagle along the way.  

After driving by the launch pads, the bus dropped us off at the Apollo/Saturn center.  There was a video about the Apollo rocket series to the moon.  They had the actually mission control panels from the Apollo rocket launches and a full size Saturn rocket there. 

After the tour, we checked out the gift shop.  I got some astronaut ice cream.  Then we hopped in the car and headed to the airport.

The wrap-up:
Pre-race info- A
Expo- B-
Overall organization- A
Course- A
Course support- A+
Swag/post-race food- A+
Medal- A+
Theme- A
Surrounding area- A

All in all this was a great race and fun trip.  Very well organized.  If I lived in driving distance I would do it every year.  Or if they moved it from Thanksgiving weekend and the flights were cheaper, I would put it on my list to do the intergalactic challenge.  I would definitely recommend this race to a friend.  A fun weekend away.  You can work in a trip to Disney, Universal Studios or Kennedy Space Center.