Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Melbourne, FL Half Marathon

After my Miami half marathon, Chris and I headed off to Orlando.  We rented a car, and drove to Orlando. Everything was great until we almost got to our hotel.  We drove around in circles and couldn't find it. It didn't help that there were a couple of other hotels with similar names. So frustrating... this was cutting into theme park time... dammit!  We finally pulled over, called the hotel and got directions from where we were.  We were so close.  It was so worth it, our hotel was amazing!  It was a 2 bedroom suite with a full kitchen, laundry, the works!  There was also a pirate ship in the pool... how cool is that?!!  We checked in, went to our room, changed, then immediately went to Epcot.  So much fun!

The rest of the week was great, lots of theme parks.  Universal, what a great park!  Chris had this book which told us the best rides to do, the best time of the day to do them.  It was awesome!  Some of the rides of note at Universal were:  Duelling Dragons Roller Coaster, Harry Potter Ride, The Hulk Roller Coaster, The Simpsons ride and Jurassic Park, so cool!  We also went on this river ride called Popeye.  It was one of those rides where, depending on where you sat, you got soaked.  If you didn't get soaked while riding down the river, have no fear, there was the opportunity for everyone to get soaked at the end, going through a car wash like cave.  I walked around for 3 hours before I was dry.  You could pay $5 for a dryer session, but we decided we would air dry instead.

Walt Disney World, was cool, but so tame compared to Universal.  Chris had never been, so it was all new for him.  I had been when I was 15.  We went on all of the rides that I did back then, they were still pretty cool.  Space Mountain was the best there.

Disney MGM was also pretty cool.  There were a couple of stunt shows that were pretty awesome, lots of explosions and stuff. 

We had signed up for the Melbourne Marathon, but were not sure if we would go.  I was paranoid that we'd get lost again, like when we were driving around looking for our hotel.  I told Chris that if we went, we were renting a GPS with the car this time! 

Saturday, before the race, we left for Melbourne to pick up our race kits.  We had no trouble finding the place at all, it was great!  Picked up our stuff and headed back to Orlando, then went to Animal Kingdom for the rest of the day.  We got soaked from rain and then again from a river ride, although not as soaked as the poor kid sitting beside me... man, he totally got dumped on, hilarous!  I could have gotten Popeye soaked, but managed to dodge that bullit!

Got up at 4:30am on Sunday, Feb 6.  Checked out of the hotel, got on the road to Melbourne.  The highway was pretty quiet, so it was pretty fast going.  When we got to Melbourne, we had to try to find the start.  We kinda got a little lost, but then found it.  We saw a bunch of runners warming up, so we knew it had to be close.  We found the parking lot.  We were getting our stuff together and heard this tick, tick, tick on the roof across from us... it was a huge vulture looking down at us.  That was weird.  It was too dark to get a picture, but that would have been a good one!  Got to the start and there was a huge line for the toilets... were we going to get to the start on time?  Chris was thinking this was going to be another Scotia... you'll have to ask him about that.  The line ended up going really fast.  They actually had "ushers" at the end of the line to make things go quicker.

Got into the coral, wished Chris good luck in his race.  The temperature was kind of cool, it was a little bit rainy, perfect running weather.  I was running along and my heart rate monitor was showing 67, then 77... what the hell?  I finally pulled over and checked, it was upside down... DOH!  Fixed it quick and I was off again.

The course was really amazing, lots of nice scenery.  There were a few people along the course cheering us on.  The race was well organized and I think they were a little short on volunteers, but they were great!  The only thing is, they had plastic cups at the water stations, can't really bend those.

There were only two hills, which were actually bridges.  The first one was about halfway through the half marathon, it was okay.  The second one was much steeper, it was towards the end of the half marathon.  I ended up passing a lot of people running up this bridge, lots of people were walking.  I have to thank Coach Roger and his Boston Special Sunday runs for that!  (It's a very hilly course in the west end of Toronto.)

It was getting a little humid by the end of the half marathon and I was thinking, man, Chris has to do this again, he also has to run up that second bridge again... I was very happy I was running the half and not the full.

I saw the finish line.  By this time, I wanted it to be over.  I heard someone say "man, she looks terrible"... was he talking about me?  I didn't feel terrible, just tired of running.  I ended up running a better time here than in Miami.  My finishing time was 2:25:18, about 3 minutes faster... yahoo!  It was kinda fun to run both, but from now on, only one race per trip!

I went back to the car to change into something else so that I could wait for Chris to come in.  The finish was small enough that I could see him come in.  I milled around, wasted $2 on some coffee flavored water... yuck!  Finally saw Chris coming.  He looked really strong coming in.  I had a bag of stuff that I knew he would need, jacket, Advil, etc.  We sat down for a little while so that Chris could relax and get unmarathonized (yes I make up words).  We walked around for a bit, then decided to head back to Orlando and see if we could get one more visit to Universal.  We still had to ride on the Jaws ride, which was closed all week and was just reopening that day.

The drive was good, except that we had to stop and get gas, then get some junk food (McDonald's).  When we were pulling out, I couldn't get far enough over, so had to take a detour which shaved off about 15 minutes of Universal time.  Then the GPS sent us to the Human Resources parking lot... really?  Finally got to Universal.  We had time for about three or four rides.  The Jaws ride was totally worth it!  Then we had to get the car back to the airport, check in and get our flight back home.  Whew, what a busy day!

Next time, I think we're going to book direct flights.  We saved money on the connecting flights, but had to pay for checked luggage, which kind of defeated the purpose... WTF?

It was a fantasic trip!  We had so much fun.  I'm looking forward to many more Kimmy and Chris adventures!

Next big race, Around the Bay, Hamilton.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Miami Half Marathon

Chris and I ran in two races in Florida, Miami on January 30th and then Melbourne on February 6th.  I'm just writing about Miami right now, then I will write about Melbourne a little later.

We got up super early the day before the marathon to go to the airport to fly to Miami.  Our flight was due to arrive in Miami at 4pm.  We were a little concerned because as soon as we arrived in Miami, we would have to go to the expo, which closes at 6pm, to pick up our race kits for the next day.  What if we were delayed?  We were thinking we'd have to go straight to the expo from the airport, suitcases in tow, that would be a pain.  Lucky for us, we had a tail wind and we arrived about 20 minutes early.  We got a cab from the airport, went to our hotel, checked in and then walked over to the expo, it was only about a 10 minute walk.  The expo was like any other, lots of booths, people selling stuff, nothing out of the ordinary.  We picked up our bib and shirt then cruised around.  The race shirts were really cool!

Then we got to thinking about how to get to the start on race day.  When we initially signed up for the race, there was an option to buy transportation tickets to the start.  Of course, we did not do this.  We walked over to the booth, they had no more paper tickets, but we were able to get on a list for a one way ticket.

Race Day.  Got up at 3:30am... waaaay too early!  Got ready.  Our room had one of those teeny-tiny coffee makers.  There was enough for only one cup.  I told Chris he could have it.  He said it was pretty awful, but it would have to do.  We got dressed, pinned our bibs, got everything we needed.  We decided not to check a bag, so off we went.  Got to the bus transport, there were lots of buses.  Got to the line and they were asking for tickets.  We told them that we didn't have a ticket, but we were on some kind of list.  They said go ahead and get on the bus.  I'm so glad we decided to get a ticket for that bus.  I can't imagine trying to figure out how to get to the start, basically in the middle of the night.

We got to the start... man there were so many people! It was amazing!  Also amazing, the American Airlines Arena in Miami was open for everyone to hang out in, use the washrooms, etc.  There were all kinds of people in there, some were standing around, others were lying on the floor stretching... everyone seemed to have the same sort of anticipation feeling.  I remember one very cold race in Burlington where we kept getting kicked out of the warm places, Chris you know what I'm talking about, right?  Big difference.

We decided that we should get into our corals.  We decided to try to meet after the race where the baggage check was.  If for some reason we couldn't, we would meet at the family meeting place under the letter "M".  We wished each other luck and off we went.

Got into my coral.  Was talking to this woman, it was her first half marathon.  She was really excited and really nervous.  I told her she'd do great.  They started playing the US national anthem.  Everyone really does hold their hands over their hearts, very cool.  The gun went off, lots of cheering, eventually we were off.  It took me about 15 minutes to reach the start, it was finally getting light out.

It was very crowded, even where I was!  It took me about 2k to get out of the crowd and get into my groove.  About 5k into the race, I passed a woman who was sobbing... not sure what that was about, but I heard someone else ask her if she was okay.  I hope she was okay.

The course was really nice.  I was going to try to really race this one, but because of the crowd, I wasn't really going as fast as I wanted to, so I thought I would just go with the flow and do my best.

Around the 10k mark, there were three guys on the sideline, one of them had a Canadian flag hanging from his belt.  I ran past and yelled "yay Canada!", they yelled back "way to go you're looking great!" Nice to have some fans... ha!  There were people spread out throughout the course cheering us on.  About 5k from the finish there was a cheering section which was really cool! 

Finally, saw the finish... yay, I can stop running now.  My time was 2:28:47, not bad, I was hoping for a little faster, but what can you do?

Got to the finish.  We got coralled through the food, etc.  There was no way I could meet Chris at the baggage check like we had planned.  As it turned out, the family meeting place was right there as you were getting coralled.  I hoped that Chris would see this right away.  After getting some food, I kind of stuck around there waiting for Chris.  Finally I saw him in the crowd, then he saw me.  He looked tired and like he normally does after a marathon.  We just went and sat under a tree for a while until he relaxed a bit.  Now to figure out how to get back to the hotel.  We decided to try to find the buses and see if we could buy a ticket back.  Found the buses, we were able to buy a ticket back, no problem at all... totally awesome!

Overall, the Miami half marathon was an amazing experience!  It was very well organized, the course was great, I would highly recommend this race!

After the race, went back to the hotel, I changed into my bathing suit and went to the beach!  It wasn't really super warm beach weather, but I had to swim in the ocean since, you know, it was there!  The water was cold.  After watching everyone's reaction getting into the water, including mine, Chris decided to stay on the sand.

We walked along the beach for a while, went to pick up the rental car we were going to need for the next day to drive to Orlando.  Then got back to the hotel, got showered and ready to go out.  We decided for dinner that night we would spoil outselves at Joe's Stone Crab Restaurant... amazing!

Stay tuned for my Orlando report.