Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Race Report: Best Damn Race Cape Coral

I had a premonition that this weekend was going to go real well when I woke up Saturday morning at 6:55am, was out the door fifteen minutes later, and managed to walk six blocks to 74th and Roosevelt to a waiting Q70 bus, get to LaGuardia's Terminal D, and through the TSA pre-check line and to my gate in a record eighteen minutes.  7:28, I was sitting at my gate waiting to board my plane to Fort Myers, Florida.  Little did I know that the number 18 would factor largely into this weekend's events.

Being dorks with my new
friend Maria!
The flight down was super smooth.  We landed at Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) about twenty minutes early, and I met up with my new friend Maria, who was introduced to me through my running buddy Donna.  Maria and I had never met in person before, but managed to work out sharing accommodations and transportation for the race in order to keep costs low.  It turned out to be an awesome weekend with a new friend who I hope to run a lot of races with!  We drove out of Fort Myers toward Cape Coral to the "expo" and packet pickup - it was really cute; tiny, but perfect for a race of this size.  It was easy to get to and the volunteers working were super nice.  We even got Advil Allergy and Sinus, a bag of Sweet Potato Chips, and a Redbull in our bags!  We even got to preview the gorgeous medal (one that I have been coveting ever since finding about this race earlier this summer!) and see some of the other medals from the other races that Best Damn Race has.

The highly coveted Best Damn Race Cape Coral finishers' medal
Seconds before the start at Best
Damn Race Cape Coral (photo by
Dean Traiger)
Now, the Best Damn Race series has been around for two years now, and will be running its third event in Safety Harbor, Florida (the first of the BDRs) in February 2015.  This weekend's Cape Coral even would be the first in this location.  Others offered are in Orlando (which will be running its 2nd event also in February) and Jacksonville (also new, running in January). From their website: "Best Damn Race® is a running series created for runners by runners. Our goal is to provide a big race experience at a local race price. It doesn’t matter if you are an elite runner, first timer, walker, or using a baby jogger, we want you to have the best DAMN race experience."

They also have a unique registration process, allowing participants the opportunity to register for as little as $1. The first 10 participants to register may pay only $1 for the race; participants 11-20 pay only $5; 21-30 only $10; 31-40 only $15l; 41-100 only $20.  I met the Founder and CEO of Best Damn Race, Nick Zivolich, at the expo, and he's a great guy, obviously very passionate about the sport of running and pumped to be able to put on these events to show off different parts of Florida from a runner's point of view.

Pre-race with Maria and her friend
Melynda, all three of us running the half!
(photo by Make Yes Happen)
We headed off for a great lunch at Rumrunner's in Cape Harbour, walking distance from the expo, where we had some great seafood (conch fritters, grouper) and some tasty passionfruit margaritas while we sat outside overlooking a canal feeding into the Caloosahatchee River.  This was our first taste of the city of Cape Coral, which is notable for having more canals than Venice, Italy.  Afterward, we headed to our hotel, the Hampton Inn, to check in.  Turns out, there aren't many ideally situated hotels near the start, and this was the most feasible/affordable/decent option.  Lots of runners from out of town were staying here, too, and we ran into a good amount of them, including Mike and Lori Schwartz, from Palm Harbor, Florida, and their son Chris.  Mike and Lori, who are members of Marathon Maniacs, would be running their 98th and 68th full marathons, respectively, at Cape Coral.  They'll both be in Mississippi and Alabama in January for the big reunion weekend, and Mike will obviously be celebrating finishing his 100th marathon.  Lori, who isn't too far behind, also has a respectable resume of full marathons, and in fact told us about having done a full marathon a mere TWO MONTHS after having a heart attack.  Such inspirations, these two!

Cannot beat the sunsets in Florida!
After settling in, Maria and I headed off to a small beach recommended by our hotel concierge, located at the Cape Coral Yacht Club, next to the Boathouse Tiki Bar and Grill.  We had the opportunity to sit on the sand for a little bit and then grab RumRunners just as the sun was setting over the horizon.  It was magical!  We started to get hungry again, so we went back into town and had a delicious Italian meal at Ciao Wood Fired Pizza and Trattoria, a cute homey old-school neighbrohood Italian restaurant, where I ordered a whole 12" sausage, salumi, and sopressata pizza and generously poured glass of Malbec, while Maria, our waiter, and the table next to us watched wide-eyed as I devoured the entire thing.  We had an early morning, so shortly thereafter, we headed back to the hotel to turn in.

At the start with Half Fanatics and
Fifty States Half Marathon Club
members
It was about 5am when the alarm clock went off.  We were out the door by 5:40 to get ourselves to the start area for parking; the race organizers had warned that streets would be closed off by 6am, and with the start at 6:45, we wanted to be parked close enough to the start at the lots located near the startline.  With the temperature in the mid 40s, it was really chilly for the Floridians, and maybe a little chilly for Maria and I, braving the elements in our shorts and sleeveless tees - so we sat in the car for a little bit before we headed to the start at 6:20 to organize for a pre-arranged picture with a few members of Half Fanatics and the Fifty State Half Marathon Club.

Struggling through the last few miles
of the race (photo by Make Yes Happen)
Mind you, the sun still hadn't come up yet, but by 6:51, we were off!  We ran the first mile up Chiquita Boulevard, north toward Cape Coral Parkway, before making a turn onto SW 48th Terrace.  Over the second mile, we continued down SW 48th Terrace with a couple detours onto the closest-to-the-sidewalk eastbound lane of Cape Coral Parkway, just to cross over the canal, and then made a turn south onto Skyline Boulevard.  Miles 4 and 5 weaved into a quiet neighborhood with single family homes, and then proceeded along Rose Garden Road for the next two miles into Rotary Park, before making a turn around back along the same route to the finish.  A simple route, but still very scenic through some of the pretty residential areas of Cape Coral.  And great, though small, crowd support from spectators along the course - expected with the size of the race, but still greatly appreciated nonetheless!

Setting that PR with a big smile on my
face!! (photo by Make Yes Happen)
The first 10k sped by pretty quickly for me!  Having come off a 19 mile weekend the week prior, and no running since then, by about mile 5 I started to realize that this could very well be a PR race for me.  It helped that it was early enough, the weather was optimal and not too humid, and the course was flat as a pancake.  My first three miles were all sub-9 minute miles, and registering as such alongside the physical mile markers along the course.  Mile 4 may have been a little off (I think my GPS may have had a little blip here because my watch beep came super early before the marker came along), but it regained the "sync" for mile 5, where I was registering consistent 9:03 to 9:06 mile pace.  I even hit an 8:54 at mile 8, and a 9:00 flat at mile 9... but that's when my speed started to get the best of me.  My last three four miles were 9:20, 9:20, 9:27, and 9:41 (ack!), before I gunned it for the last 100 meters to make it in at a 2:00:53 clock time, 2:00:18 chip time.

Ringing that PR bell and doing my
#victoryheadstand!
It was a PR nonetheless, but I was still bummed that I was only a mere 18 seconds away from the elusive sub-2 hour half!  If only I was just four or five seconds faster in my last four miles, I would've hit it.  The disappointment lasted barely a couple minutes while I headed off to the post-race finish festival, and got that majorly-coveted finisher's medal.  I quickly got signed up for a massage, which felt AWESOME, and waited for Maria, who only finished about eight minutes behind me.  We stuck around to check out the official finishes (which was all gun time - but I got the official chip time upon arriving back in NYC), before making our escape from the area so that Maria could get to the airport for her noon flight.

Half #13 done!
(photo by Make Yes Happen)
After quickly packing up our bags, showers, and check-out, we headed out to RSW and bid Cape Coral adieu, so I could drop Maria off.  Since my flight wasn't until later that night, I spent the rest of the day exploring southwest Florida, getting a much needed Publix sub (a whole Turkey Cranberry Holiday Sub, hello!  I mean, when in the south...), ate it on the beach at Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park just north of Naples, trekked over to Naples Pier to check out the view, and then spend some time at the Miromar Outlets in Estero.  I was sad to leave Florida (and this amazing weather) after such a quick trip, but was glad to have marked off State #11, half #13, and get a PR out of it, too!

Check out these amazing race photos that were provided free of charge to all participants of the Best Damn Race Cape Coral, courtesy of their partnership with Make YES! Happen.  For more information on Make YES! Happen, visit http://www.makeyeshappen.com/

Merry Christmas from Florida (Santa hearts running!)
Beautiful Naples Pier! I didn't want to leave...

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