2014 Pensacola Marathon Race Report

My first Florida marathon is in the books! It was definitely an interesting journey, and not exactly what I planned when I set my original goals, but I really wouldn't have it any other way. When I signed up for the race, my plan was to set a new marathon PR. My first 26.2 is still my PR, so I felt like it was time to finally beat that. I set the goal of running a 4:30 to beat my PR by just over 6 minutes. I knew it would require really great training and I would have very little margin for error, but I figured I'd be settled in my new home of Pensacola, FL well enough by then to really focus on training.

Terri (L) & Janee' (R) Johnson at Casino Beach after the race
Another fun piece to this puzzle was that Janee' & Terri Johnson were going to come down and visit us! They are two of my best friends from Kansas City, so I was excited to have them come visit and run their first marathons with me. I've been working on getting Janee' to run a marathon since I first met her shortly after my first back in 2011. I was impressed with her toughness as a runner even back then when she had never run more than about 4 miles. I knew she could get there and she had expressed that she wanted to eventually run one, so I started encouraging her. Shortly after that, she ran her first 10k, then her first half marathon. Eventually when Kristy & I decided to move to Florida, I was able to talk Janee' into signing up for the marathon and visiting us. Terri was quite a bit easier to convince.

The 5 hour pace group led by my buddy Jamie Knight
My training didn't go as well as I had hoped. I was enjoying discovering the restaurants of my new city, so I was gaining a lot of weight. Also, it was taking me a lot to adjust to the differences in the weather. The temps and humidity during the summer aren't a lot different, but the effect is much different. I was, for the most part, hitting my runs, but I wasn't able to hold the paces I needed and they were wearing me out more than they should have. Eventually I decided to stop training for a 4:30 and start focusing on a 5 hour and run with the Johnsons the whole way to help them through their first marathons. The Running Wild store here in town does the pace teams, so I was able to start doing some long runs with the group. The group was led by my good buddy & fellow Marathon Maniac, Jamie Knight. It was great because they are awesome people and I was able to make some new friends.

Marathon Maniac group picture at the Pensacola Marathon
Finally, race week arrived and Janee' & Terri were flying in. Unfortunately, Terri was having some issues and would have to drop from the race, but she still came to visit and to support Kristy (running the half), Janee', and me. Saturday (day before the race) the Johnson sisters flew in to Pensacola. After picking them up, Kristy, the Johnsons, and I went over to P'cola beach for some Surf Burger and to show them around before heading to packet pickup. At the expo, I bought Janee' a 26.2 sticker that had Pensacola, FL on it to commemorate her first marathon adventure. I also got a great deal on a Running Wild tri top and some Running Wild logo'ed Injinji socks. We then headed back to Kristy & my house to enjoy a little pre-race pasta dinner together and enjoy good company. It was so great to spend some time with two of my favorite people after not having seen them in the 5 months since we had moved.

Pre-race with Janee'
On race morning, we got up early, got all ready to go and headed out to Veteran's Park where the race was starting from. I had my Team RWB shirt, Marathon Maniac Buff, VFF Bikilas, Injinjis, American flag calf sleeves, Mizuno shorts, Marathon Maniac arm sleeves, throw away gloves, sunglasses, handheld bottle with G2, a couple GUs, a couple Honey Stinger chews, and Garmin 610. Ready to go for a nice day out running with great friends through my new home city. I was excited for the day. It was a gorgeous morning. It was cool, but certainly not cold. It was 48* at the start, but set to warm up throughout the morning. Hence the arm sleeves and throw away gloves. We found the 5 hour pace group and I introduced Janee' & Terri to the group, including Angie and Richard who were also running their first marathons, Jamie (the leader), Amy, Megan, and Greg (who had run his first marathon at MCM two weeks before). It was going to be an awesome group to run with. They are all very fun, friendly, positive people, so I knew running with them would be fun and a great way to keep Janee' positive throughout the race. As anyone that has ever run a marathon knows, it really helps to have people there to keep you mentally engaged since there are some dark down times during every marathon.

Finally it was time to go and we got started. I was ready to finally get the show going. We headed off for the short loop around the park before heading down Bayfront and on to 17th St. 17th St. is the first hill of the course. Compared to running in Kansas City, this is an unbelievably flat course. There are only a few hills and even they are not much. 17th St. is the first one. It's short and not too steep, but for Florida it is a pretty big hill. At barely a mile into the race, it was not much of a challenge to climb this hill. We were all still having fun, chatting about various things, and enjoying the day. After 17th St., we headed down Cervantes and up Scenic. It was gorgeous, as always. The Sun was coming up over the water, giving us a great view whenever there was a clearing in the trees. All of the runners, not just our group, were having fun, joking around, and encouraging one another. For the most part, the first 9 1/2 miles were pretty uneventful. Just a bunch of friends running, enjoying a pretty morning, and chatting. I lost my gloves fairly early on since it was warming up fairly quickly as the Sun was coming up.

At about 9 1/2 miles we came to an aid station and Janee' needed to stop and use the porta potty there. I stopped and waited for her so she wouldn't end up solo. When she was done we sped up just a bit to catch back up to the pace group. We caught up fairly close behind them after about a mile, but never completely caught back up. At about the half way point, Janee' wanted to take a short walk break. I could tell it was starting to get a little warmer than she liked. I had even pulled my arm sleeves off by that point. I know heat gets her more than it does for me, so I knew she was probably starting to struggle. We got back to running a little slower than our 5 hour pace, but still running plenty strong and she was still for the most part quite positive.

At around 15 miles we started taking a little bit longer walk breaks, but still only at the aid stations. At one point, we started to come up on a very small aid station with only a few people working it. It had a sign that said "No water", but they were handing out cups. Weird. Then as I got closer I realized they were handing out small cups of beer! YAY!! I love beer during a run. It was crappy beer, Bud or Bud Light or something of that sort, but beer all the same. I was happy to have it. We continued on coming up to the biggest hill of the course; the 12th St. hill. It is about a 100 ft. gain in a little less than a 1/2 mile. Not terrible, but quite a hill for Florida. At this point in the race it was fairly warm and Janee' was losing steam, so we both wanted to just go ahead and walk this hill, which we did.

A poster for the race that we got at packet pickup
Once we got to the top of that hill we got back to running and only walking at aid stations. Janee' was starting to complain quite a bit, but was still going really strong and doing well. I just tried to encourage her and keep her as positive as I could. The runners, aid stations, police officers, course monitors, etc throughout the course definitely helped a lot in this aspect. They were all having fun. I was really enjoying the run, so I was talking and joking around with all of them. They were all happy to joke back and offer lots of encouragement. It was a gorgeous day full of fun people, which really helps.

Janee' & Terri at Surf Burger the day before the race
At about 19 miles we came to the last big hill of the course. It's not that big, it's just an overpass, but it's out in the open Sun, and at 19 miles we were both a little low on steam anyway, so again we walked the hill. Janee' & I were expecting to see Terri & Kristy at about mile 18, but they were not able to make their way there in time due to road closures for the race. I wasn't all that surprised when we didn't see them, but it kind of took a toll on Janee'. She and Terri are very close, so she was looking forward to getting a boost by seeing Terri. When we didn't see Terri, she got a little distraught. She kept powering through, though. She was doing what I've always known her to do. She thought she was doing terrible, but really she was powering through really strong and doing pretty well.

Somewhere around mile 20, we came to another fun aid station. They were dressed up with 80's wig, playing loud hair band music and having a lot of fun. They also had beer! Good beer this time! I grabbed one and drank it. By this point, it had really become a struggle for Janee', as one would expect for a first-time marathoner. She was hitting me from time to time when I was encouraging her and joking around. It's all good, I knew she would hit a point that she would have a point somewhere when she would really start to struggle and maybe not be the happiest with me for talking her into this. At about 21 miles, we came to the intersection of Palafox & Wright. There was a photographer there and I started joking around doing stupid poses trying to get Janee' to laugh a little. Janee' come over to me and says she has a great pose and started to choke me! It was a funny moment and I really hope to have this picture become available soon. It was a really fun moment and it was good to see her smile and laugh again. We continued on and I started telling her about downtown as we ran past it, the farmer's market they have every weekend on Palafox, and how close we were getting to the end.

As we went down Garden St., we passed a young man who really appeared to be struggling as we ran by. He was fairly young, wearing military boots and looked exhausted. He asked me what the time was and how far we had left to go. I told him we had about 4 miles to go and plenty of time to get there and not to give up. He told me he was struggling with some cramps and felt dehydrated. I asked if he had any S-Caps and he didn't even know what that was. Janee' had some, so I asked her if she would give one to him and she did. I told him what it was and told him it would help with his cramps. He thanked me and kept moving with us. He said he was in the military (Air Force, I think), so I thanked him for his service and told him not to give up as Janee' and I got back to running. Just after mile 24, we got to the intersection of Barrancas & Main and saw Terri running toward us. Janee' perked up almost immediately on seeing her. Kristy was with her as well. I hugged Terri, then continued over to Kristy and Janee' ran over to Terri. I handed my arm sleeves to Kristy and asked how her half had been. She said she did really well and really enjoyed it. She really kicked ass, so that was a nice boost to hear. I told Janee' we just had a couple miles left and we got back moving.

At this point we were mostly walking with a little running here and there. But Janee' was going strong, and that's what mattered. I told her she was about to be a marathoner and we just had a little bit left to go. I was getting REALLY excited to see her cross that finish line. As we came back into downtown and turned onto Romana, we had about 3/4 of a mile left and the finish line was actually in sight. There were a couple girls that passed us, walked, passed us, walked, and with a half a mile left they commented that they would run to a certain point, then walk, then finish running. Janee' wanted to finish and had the finish line in sight, so she started running and didn't stop. We were coming through runners that had already finished, saw an RWB member (who I didn't know) standing with a flag who started yelling when she saw me, and Janee' was moving pretty good toward the finish. This was it! We saw Terri & Kristy as we got close. Janee' and I ran through the finish line side by side and she started crying and I was all smiles. We got our medals and a bottle of water. I gave Janee' a big hug and told her congratulations and how proud I was of her and how glad I was that we were able to run the whole race side-by-side. She was still crying. As we walked down through the finish area to find Terri and Kristy, I passed Paul (RD & owner of Running Wild) and said hi to him. He had seen Janee' and asked me if I had paced her. I told him I had and he said that was great and told me to congratulate her for him. He was really excited to see her finish her first. It wound up being 26.52 miles in 5:46:17 (13:04 avg pace).

After finding Kristy & Terri, we walked over to the finish festival and found Angie & Richard from our pace group. I was really excited celebrating with Janee' and Angie. Unfortunately, I had not realized that it was Richard's first, so I neglected congratulating him. I felt pretty bad about that. We also got to chat with Jamie and his family. There was a table from Subway there, so I grabbed a much needed sandwich. We all sat around chatting, telling stories, talking about how the race had gone for all of us, and just enjoying recovering a little on a beautiful afternoon. Eventually we headed out. We went home, cleaned up a little, then went to the Fishing Hole for some blacked Mahi Mahi tacos. Then I had a promise to fulfill. I'd promised Janee' that if she finished her first marathon I would buy her drinks on the beach. We went out to Casino Beach and got Bushwhackers. The water was too cold to get in, but Kristy, Terri, Janee', and I all enjoyed sitting down by the water, enjoying our drinks, and time with friends. \

I wish I were a more creative writer. This was such a fun and emotional adventure. I am only really able to put down the facts of what happened, I wish I were a good creative writer so I could better capture that story and the feelings that were really involved in this race. I really enjoyed it and I cannot wait for the next adventure. **Hopefully there will be more pictures too come, but below are some more of what I have now.**

Angie from our pace group. She's always
all smiles!

The 5 hour pace group.
Jamie doing his pacing duties.
Angie from Team RWB running her first marathon.
My new tri top.

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