2020 Orlando Utility Commission (OUC) Half Marathon

OUC1

“I plan on having such an epic run, Morgan Freeman should narrate it”.

(Runner’s World)

Running and racing has become such a large part of my lifestyle that I felt a definitive loss in 2020.

I will not harp on the COVID-19 impact on our daily lives.  There are more important things in this world than me traveling around the country and chasing people in my attempt to gain a personal record (PR) in the half marathon.  Everyone who reads the Walk into the Future blog or listens to me long enough know I love my PR attempts. 

My 2019 progress set the stage for me to run even faster in 2020 while tackling more races and new locations.  I targeted 7 half marathons to complete in 2020 with an incremental decrease in my PR time for each race I ran.  My goal continues to be to run the half marathon distance under 2 hours.  I will need to bring out the Benjamin Button affect again at some point to reach this goal. 

Luckily, I was able to complete the 2020 New Orleans Rock N Roll half marathon in early February before we knew the future impact of COVID-19 on the country.  I left New Orleans with a goal to train harder and get ready for the 2020 Nashville Rock N Roll half marathon scheduled for April—Nashville is my favorite race and city.  Missed seeing the sights in Nashville and line dancing at the Wild Horse Saloon.  Maybe in 2021!

Races 2 (Nashville) through 7 (San Antonio) were all canceled/postponed/terminated due to COVID-19.  Most of my running friends wanted to race but we knew eliminating the races was the right thing to do.  I still trained but not with as much intensity because I did not have a finish line to run across.  I wrote earlier about the virtual race process but never felt the same excitement racing against myself.  Could not make myself run fast without someone else around for me to compete against.

Fast forward a bit and my favorite running club, Track Shack in Orlando identified they received Orange county and City of Orlando clearance to stage the 2020 OUC Half Marathon in December with new safety measures.  I did not immediately sign-up but got excited when I discovered a real race was possible again.  I did a lot of research on the Track Shack race safety measures to make sure I would not be at risk during the event. 

The entire race experience was adjusted by the Track Shack staff to keep all runners physical distanced before and after the race.  We were required to wear masks prior to starting the race and immediately after crossing the finish line.  We did not have to run with the masks on but had to have them for the finish line.  Runners were lined up in corrals based on estimated finish times, but we had to stand on assigned markers on the ground before we could start the race.  Felt a bit weird but everything was done to protect the runners.

I registered for the OUC half marathon on October 15, 2020 with a race date of December 5, 2020.  This timeframe gave me less than a two-month physical and mental preparation window for the 13.1-mile journey in front of me.  Decided at this point to just enjoy the training runs and eliminate the thought processing of chasing a PR.  This concept provided me with a free mind and gave me the perspective that completing the race was the most important thing.  Thing #2 was to run the race and not hurt myself! 😊

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Race day

The Orlando weather was a bit warmer than I expected but the cloud cover kept the sun away which helped a lot.  I did not queue up close to the front corrals since I knew I was not going fast this year and wanted to let the faster folks go out without me in the way.

The new safety measures allowed about 200 runners to go out at a time, so I ended up waiting about 20 minutes before I made it to the start line to begin the race.

Mask off and I was back in my world of racing!  I am sure people wondered why I was smiling so much but the joy of running was there at the beginning.  My first mile pace was 8:50—which was not too bad considering my goal was to go out nice and easy.  Felt good so I kept running at this pace for a bit to see what I had under the hood this year. 😊

A fun fact–at the 3-mile marker while running through a downtown Orlando neighborhood I passed the house of one of my old on-campus recruiters from my UCF days.  He was standing on his front lawn cheering on the runners with his daughter.  Did not know if he would recognize me in my running gear but I was able to say hello to him and invite him to recruit students at my new school.  Please note, I never broke stride but was able to successfully network with an Orlando recruiter while running a half marathon. Completed a Zoom call with him the following Monday and he is excited to recruit our students in the spring semester—small world, huh?

Miles 3 through 8 were my parade through Orlando neighborhoods.  I waved at spectators who were out on their lawns to cheer for the runners.  I stopped at a pop-up table serving shots of beer as a refresher during the race.  I thanked law enforcement officials who were there for traffic duty.  You would have thought I was a politician with the amount of smiling, waving, and speaking to people I got done during this race.

Miles 9 through 13 were not as enjoyable as the previous set of miles.  Limited training also means my lactic acid thresholds were not built up as they should have been.  This means my legs started to hurt and it only got worse the longer I went.  I have been here before, so I was able to press forward but my speed and demeanor changed quite a bit.  The smile was gone, and I did not feel like waving at folks anymore.  Had to bear down and keep moving forward towards the finish line.  Luckily for me I was not chasing records and just wanted to complete the race while enjoying the process of running again.

Crossed the finish line with a smile on my face because I was able to run and compete again.  COVID-19 has beat us up in 2020 but it could not keep me from running in one of my favorite cities.  Mission complete!

The post-race area was sparse as part of the safety measures.  No beer, doughnuts, or music to enjoy this year.  We were handed a Publix bag with water, banana, granola, and our race medal.  That was it—no fanfare, networking and hanging around to cheer other runners on.  Run, conquer, and go home was the message of the day.

No worries, we had a great day to race and fantastic people to chase around Orlando again.

Fingers crossed that racing returns in 2021—I have a few PRs to set! 😊

What are you looking forward to in 2021?  Let’s make it happen!  Irie!

“You never realize how long a minute is until you are running”.

(Pinterest)

The running tourist returns to New Orleans

“An American has not seen the United States until they have seen Mardi Gras in New Orleans”.

(Mark Twain)

Returned to New Orleans for the 2020 Rock N Roll Half Marathon in early February.  This was my third year running the race and I enjoyed the adventures of being a running tourist again this year.  The weather was warmer than normal for February but not too bad where runners couldn’t finish.

Decided to take full advantage of the running tourism available in a city with so much culture and things to see.  Of course, food is a major attraction in New Orleans, and I made sure I got to sample from different locations while visiting.

Rock N Roll EXPO

The EXPO was a little bigger this year with new vendors and products to try or take with you for use later.  Always exciting to see the other runners at the EXPO.  People from all over the world converging with the same mindset to run and enjoy their time in New Orleans.  The live DJ was a new twist at the EXPO but fit with the New Orleans experience.

Got to take a few pictures prior to picking up my race bib, t-shirt and goodies.  This is a highlight while visiting the EXPO—you’ve got to get your picture taken with the multiple props the Rock N Roll folks provide.  The giant Brooks running sneaker was a new feature to the EXPO this year—created a long line to get next to that sneaker.

Made my way through registration and the Rock N Roll merchandise shopping area—didn’t purchase any new gear this year.  Sampled some B12 drinks provided by vendors and stocked up on Energy Jellybeans for use before the race.  I’ve tried these before so no fear of a bad stomach reaction; I never try new things before a race so I don’t experience stomach issues–lesson learned. 😊

My favorite vendor at the EXPO provided massage chairs for use.  Of course, they wanted to sell some of the chairs, but I was able to get a FREE 15-minute chair massage and enjoyed every minute of it.  This was an added benefit of attending the EXPO.

“It’s rude to count people as you pass them.  Out loud”.

(Adidas ad)

Rock N Roll Half

My hotel was only two blocks away from the start line this year so got a little extra sleep on race day.  Race time temperatures normally start in the mid-40s this time of year, but racers were greeted with high-50s and humidity prior to the start.  This meant we were in for a race finish much warmer than most of us wanted.

I was pleasantly surprised my race corral was #2 this year.  I remember my first Rock N Roll race had me in corral #24 so looks like I’m moving up in the world. 😊  The New Orleans course is flat and mostly shady which helps when the sun comes out.

Decided to enjoy the course and scenery during the first half of the race—didn’t push my pace to let the other runners thin out a bit around me.  The first mile is always the toughest for me because you’re surrounded by so many people.  Had to display a new level of patience knowing I could make up time later in the race due to training progress and enhanced fitness levels.

A good portion of the half marathon takes place on St. Charles Avenue which is lined with homes, shops and restaurants.  It’s a rich environment for spectators to cheer runners and provide additional encouragement.  This area feels like New Orleans to me and I enjoyed the scenery while making my way through the city.

It’s always great when we get to see the ELITE runners on the opposite side of St. Charles Ave. after they make the turn to head back towards the Warehouse District–this is the only time we get to see the ELITES until the finish line.  They are impressive to watch run!

We made our way through the Warehouse District then into the French Market before ending at Roosevelt Mall in City Park.  The French Market is always full of people eating breakfast who come out to cheer for the runners.  This provides a little more inspiration to finish—please note, there’s no shade here and it started to get hot quickly so people cheering was appreciated!

Was able to lock in mentally at this point and trust my training to get me to the finish line.  Took my last energy gel at Mile 11 and decided to enjoy my experience, the scenery and the other runners and pushed forward.  Even high fived a few spectators who lined the streets to cheer for us—this was a fun day!

Completed the half in 2:07:34 which was 3 minutes faster than I ran in 2019.  Not bad for the first race of the year and the temperature. Full disclosure, this was my second fastest half marathon so I’m extremely happy to start running season with a bang.  Got two full months to prepare for Nashville in April.  Another highlight of the Rock N Roll weekend is a new event added to the 2020 calendar—Clearwater, Florida in October.  Excited to have a home state race on the calendar!  Got my early bird registration in for Clearwater to take advantage of the low price.  Should be fun!

Chicken and Waffles again!

Raved about the chicken and waffles at the Creole House last year and had to try the dish again this year.  They did not disappoint!  This is still one of my favorite stops in New Orleans. The food, service and atmosphere are first rate and highly recommend the Creole House if you plan to visit New Orleans.

Found a worthy competitor for the Creole House at Daisy Mae’s.  Daisy Mae’s is on a side street most tourist may not venture down.  Got lucky because it was one street over from my hotel and I noticed the locals going in and out.  Decided it was worth a visit and I was not disappointed with my choice.  I’m not a food critic but would recommend EVERYONE stop by Daisy Mae’s for the chicken and waffles.  I’m not a huge spicy food eater but the spice on the fried chicken was amazing—spicy but not over the top.  I love the Creole House, but Daisey Mae’s has made it on my must visit list too.  Please be patient, they cook chicken as it’s ordered so the wait can be 15 – 20 minutes but well worth it!

Won’t bore you with French Quarter recaps—I drank, listened to great music and took in the Bourbon Street scene multiple times.  Always an eye-opening experience!

Looking to expand my running tourism reach in 2020—got some new cities lined up to visit and enjoy while running.  Who’s with me?

 

Where are you running in 2020?  Where have you always wanted to go but have not been yet?  What’s holding you back?  Get out there and Walk into the Future!

“I run so my goals in life get bigger instead of my belly”.

(Bill Kirby)