Friday was my birthday, so when Linda asked me what I wanted I was more than happy to announce that I had picked out a race 400 miles away for this Saturday in Jacksonville, Florida. After last week’s bone chiller in Asheville we were both ready for something a little less frosty. The forecast for the Carolinas was miserable but Jacksonville was expecting a high of 80 degrees for Saturday. I liked the sound of that, and with the little bit of leverage I gained from it being my birthday, we were off to the races in the sunny confines of Florida.
We arrived at Jacksonville Beach about midnight Friday and got an oceanfront room so we could enjoy the rest of Saturday after the race and got up bright and early and headed for the Ortega River Run. The weather was as beautiful as the 5-mile course that wound its way through tree-lined neighborhoods as well as across two bridges that crossed over the Ortega River.
This was my first 5-mile race (you might remember I just started running 6 months ago in September 2008) and I was excited that it met all the expectations I had for it. My first mile was the slowest because of all the congestion at the beginning of the race and my fifth mile was the fastest (7:22). This was one of the few races I haven’t taken a walk break at all. I’m still an advocate of Jeff Galloway’s run/walk strategy and I’ll be using it plenty, especially in long races, but I felt so good in this one that I just kept going.
Almost everything about this race was perfect: the food, the T-shirts, the course, the atmosphere, and the crowd. The after-race food was the best we’ve seen anywhere and included (all free for runners) Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, chocolate milk, hot chocolate, bananas, bagels, a variety of chips, coffee, doughnuts (while they lasted), and more that I didn’t get around to.
The one drawback for me personally was that my registration information was somehow messed up and initially I wasn’t listed as being in the race although my number and times were listed. It took a couple of phone calls after we got home but the race officials straightened it out and even took the time to email me afterwards and apologize for the mixup.
Linda happened to get a photo of me just before I crossed the finish line. The photo shows 40:28 but my official chip time from the time I crossed the starting line to the finish was 39:11 (7:51 pace) so I’m really happy about that for my first 5-mile race.
We both came home sunburned and happy from spending Saturday afternoon on Jacksonville Beach in the 80-degree weather and within an hour of getting home the snow started falling and we had our biggest snowstorm (about 8 inches in Gastonia) in the past five years. It was well worth the drive and we’re talking about doing it again (or one of the other Jacksonville races) next winter.
6 – 4/6 Number of Participants (4 for less than 100; 6 for 100 or more) 7 – 1-10 Awards (Quality of medals, trophies, etc.) (1 to 10) 8 – 1-10 Awards Presentation (PA system, stating winning times, etc.) (1 to 10) 10 – 1-10 Food for Race Participants (1 to 10) 7 – 1-10 T-Shirts (1 to 10 with 5 being average) 6 – 4/6 Part of Race Series (Grand Prix, etc.) (6=Yes and 4=No) 6 – 4/6 Online Registration (6=Yes and 4=No) 6 – 4/6 Chip Timing (6=Yes and 4=No) 7 – 3/7 Certified Course (by USA Track & Field) (7=Yes and 3=No) 10 – 1-10 Course (1 to 10 with 5 being average) 4 – 1-10 Parking (1 to 10 with 5 being average) 8 – 1-10 Entertainment (1 to 10 with 5 being average) 7 – 3/7 Age Groups (7 if 5-year groups; 3 if 10-year groups) 8 – 1-10 Bathroom Facilities 0 – 1-10 Other