Running Over the Same Old Ground

If you’ve read enough of my boring blog you may recall that I lived in sunny south Florida for 15 years or so before moving north to the real south. I started running when I was living in Florida so I always look forward to returning to run on sweet level terrain, even if I dread running in the heat. I had the opportunity to go back the weekend before last to run in the Paradise Coast Half Marathon and 5k in Naples, FL.
This year’s Paradise Coast Half Marathon and 5k was held in the North Collier Regional Park in North Naples, which is not necessarily what you think of when you think of Naples. The park facilities are nice and include softball and soccer fields, basketball courts, a water park and paved nature trails with an occasional bridge. There was also a complex in the middle where there were real bathrooms for that pre-race visit. On the negative side, the park appears to be maybe 3 miles across in any direction, and you know what that means: the dreaded loop run. In fact it was 3 loops around the park plus a jog outside the park grounds that repeated twice. If you’re not a fan of repeats in your races, this is not the half marathon for you.
We got to the park early and picked up my packet with ease so we had plenty of time to kill in the car parked right by the start line. The Paradise Coast 5k and Half Marathon began at the same time and as usual when that is the case I was a sucker for keeping pace with the 5k folks and as usual I went out way too fast. I ended up running the first 3 miles in 24 minutes and change, beating the winner of the 5k in my old man group by about 9 minutes, but I still had a long way to run. And sure enough after running so fast for the first 3 miles my pace declined steadily for the rest of the day. Mile 4-8 went from 8:21 to 8:56 and by mile 9 I was 9+ minutes the rest of the way. Did I mention that Florida is hot?
So I finished in 1:54:21, a full 5 minutes slower than my Mercedes time two weeks ago, but just a minute above my average. The day of the race they showed my finish as 4th in the old man group and although they were apparently awarding prizes for the first 5 in each age group, we decided to split rather than wait for a beer mug. We were able to scoop up some snacks in the post- race party on the way out to tide us over till brunch. I went back to the results today to refresh my memory for this post and I see that they’ve upgraded my finish to 3rd place. I reckon a 3rd place beer mug feels more legit than a 4th place beer mug, but I still don’t regret getting pancakes instead.