So the next time somebody asks me if I have ever done a half-marathon, I can proudly say yes, yes I have! And thanks to a wonderful location (Apalachicola, FL) and great company, the whole experience was as much fun as I’ve had in a long time.
We made the trek down from Birmingham early (oh so very early) on Friday morning for the Saturday morning race. My training partner Lael, her husband Mason, and their 4-year old daughter were kind enough to let me tag along with them. Also along for the ride was an old friend of Lael’s and Mason’s, Nick. I hadn’t spent a whole lot of time with Mason and never even met Nick before Friday, but any fear of potential awkwardness (in the ‘oh crap, I’m stuck having to be around this guy all weekend?’ kind of way) went away very quickly as it was obvious that Mason and Nick were very cool folks.
Lael had found this awesome place right on the Apalachicola River called The Consulate. The place was once literally partially a French Consulate before it burned down. The building that now stands was built in 1900 and restored in the mid-1990’s. Our suite was probably bigger than the house that I grew up in as a kid and just simply gorgeous. Pine wood floors, tin plated ceilings, two balconies, a brilliant view of the river….I could go on and on. I highly recommend this place if you ever decide to spend some time in Apalachicola. As an added bonus, the place was within walking distance of numerous great restaurants (the seafood in Apalachicola is awesome!) and both the expo and start/finish line for the race.
It’s hard to describe how nice this town was. Quaint. Charming. Picturesque. Old-fashioned. These are the words that come to mind, but I don’t think I can do it justice. I will say it was very nice to be somewhere where as far as I could tell all the businesses were locally owned. You will NOT find Starbucks, McDonald’s, or Wal-Mart in Apalachicola! What you will find is friendly service. It appears that the town somehow manages fine without having a store operated by a mega corporation.
I have to post a few pictures that I took while I was down there. Hopefully pictures are worth a thousand words (though I do wish I was a better photographer, and I also wish I would have taken some pictures of the downtown area):
Taken from the balcony
Cool, a full moon.
Nearby St. George Island Park
OK, now about the race itself. The race started at 7am est, so we were able to start off under the beautiful full moon. The course takes you over a bridge that crosses Apalachicola Bay. There we were able to see the sunrise as we crossed over. It was absolutely stunning. I can’t think of a course that could be more scenic than this one. We received a very nice “tech” shirt and what has to be one of the nicer race medals out there for finishing.
But unfortunately I can’t say that it was all good. I don’t like to whine too much, and to be fair this was the inaugural race. But let’s just say there were some issues. The main problem for me was a lack of water on the course. I sweat a lot, so I have to hydrate more than the average runner. I did bring my own fluids, but I had planned to supplement that with fluids provided by the race. That was a bad idea. I ran out and couldn’t get anything for several miles. When I get dehydrated, I start having issues with cramping, and even though I had slowed my pace I started having spasms in my calves after about 10.5 miles. Having experienced these before, I know if I ignore these it’s just a matter of time before I completely lock up with a major cramp. So I tried to nurse myself home by going with walk/run intervals. I started out doing 2 minutes of each, but when that proved to be too much, I cut back to 1 minute.
So this was working out fine (well as fine as walk/run can, naturally I would have rather been just running), but when I got to final stretch that was downhill, I thought I could run the rest of the way. I get within probably 300 yards of the finish line when my right calf completely and painfully locks up (my left calf also temporarily locked up, but that went away quickly fortunately). But I guess if I was going to have to get a big cramp, getting in right in front of Nick, Lael (who both had already completed the half-marathon) and Mason was a pretty good spot. They helped me get the cramp out and get myself back together to finish. And finish I did, in about 2:30. I’ll take it!
The other issues of the race are being pretty well documented on Active.com. General lack of support (there was also a full marathon, who REALLY need there to be water, sports drinks, and food on the course, as well as aid stations in case somebody has health issues on the course. I did not see anything that I would classify as an aid station.), lack of traffic control, lack of organization, etc. It’s all true. So I think what I would say is that this race has a TON of potential. But they have quite a few kinks to work out before next year.
But I did have SO MUCH fun. Hanging out with great folks, eating great food, and enjoying great weather at a beautiful location. You can’t beat that! I highly recommend Apalachicola as a vacation spot! By the way, there is no oil, the food is more than fine to eat, and these folks could really use your business. You can come back now, BP managed not to break everything!
(A little note: searching around I have seen some folks wondering what happened to the “marathon kitten”, the kitten some of us saw that had become trapped on the bridge trying to avoid the stampede of runners. I can happily report that apparently somebody was able to get the kitten off the bridge and placed the kitten safely into a box with a blanket beside the expo building.)