April 26, 2014
I had originally planned on running both the Lake Minneola half and the Orange Blossom half (in March) so that I could do the double and get the special challenge medal for completing both races. I opted not to do the Orange Blossom because it didn’t really fit in my schedule. But, I decided to go ahead with the Lake Minneola.
The Lake Minneola half is in Clermont; about an hour north of Winter Haven. I drove up the morning of the race. I left plenty of cushion because I had to get my race packet also. This means I would need to go back to my car to put away the extra stuff that I wouldn’t want to carry during the race.
I got to the park in plenty of time. I parked and had to wait in line as there were many runners who also needed to get their race packets. The line wasn’t moving very quickly at first. But, then one of the race crew let us know that there were multiple lines and things started moving a little more quickly.
Once I got my gear, I walked back to my car to put away the extra stuff and get my SPI belt with my race food. I still needed to use the bathroom before the race started as well so I didn’t lolly-gag. The bathroom lines were fairly long but they moved fairly quickly. Everyone seemed to be trying to go as quickly as possible.
I was a bit disappointed in this race from the start. There were runners lingering outside the pavilion where we got our packets. There wasn’t any signs pointing to the start area. About three minutes before the start of the race, someone came walking out and said that the race start was about a quarter mile from where we were gathered. Needless to say, a large group of folks had to rush down to the starting area.
They started the National Anthem just after I walked up (just seconds to spare; WHEW!). Everyone was pretty packed on the walking path by the lake. So, I just squeezed in where I could.
Once the race started, the path opened up relatively quickly. We stayed on the walkway around the lake for a stretch and then headed down the street through a residential area. Then we headed along another paved trail. This was a fairly nice section to run. It was semi-shaded so it wasn’t super hot and it was quite pretty. There was a water stop along the way that we would pass twice as this stretch was an out and back loop. Here is a look at the course map.
As we headed out, we got to the big hill section. Clermont is one of the hilliest areas of Florida that I know of. And this hill was no joke. I had been doing fairly well with my intervals until this hill. It was relatively steep and just seemed to keep going! I ended up walking up most of it because it was still early in the race and I didn’t want to burn up my legs.
We made the loop back at the top of the hill. Of course, the downhill is much easier for me! We continued along the same path until we got back to the lake. Then we turned to make our way around the lake instead of heading back towards the park where we had started.
This part of the course was more flat and took us through more residential areas. The first part of the circle around the lake was really shaded with large trees along the sides of the road. While it was pretty warm, being in the shade made it tolerable. There wasn’t a lot of breeze so the shade was very welcome.
The shade was short lived though. I made the left to continue along the course around the lake. The lakefront houses don’t have trees along the road so the course is no longer shady. The sun isn’t right in my face but I am missing the shade as it is quite hot. The water stations had very cold water though (the coldest water I’ve had at any race thus far!) and it was AMAZING! It is so nice to drink something so cold.
The race course continues around the lake and I know I am getting close to the end. My Garmin says I’m nearing mile 12. I see some medics just ahead and there is another runner down. This always scares me a bit. You never know when something may happen. I say a silent prayer for the runner and hope that they are OK. The course medics are there but an ambulance passes me a short time later and I know they are on their way to assist. I say another silent prayer as the ambulance passes.
As I enter the final stretch, I realize how tired I am and how hot it is. I am ready to be finished. Hearing the noise from the announcer and crowds ahead gives me a little burst of energy and I am able to push through the last quarter mile or so and cross the finish line. My official finish time is 2:48:16; not my greatest or my worst and I’m happy considering I tried to conserve some and it was so hot.
I collect a bottle of water and my medal and then go to stretch for a few minutes. After I stretch, I walk around and get some food so I can refuel. There is a mini-expo of sorts with several vendors. After I eat, I walk around and check out a couple of the booths. There is a shaved ice vendor (i.e. Snow Cones) so I buy a cherry shaved ice. It’s so delicious especially on this hot day. At the moment, it’s the greatest thing ever!
There isn’t much reason for me to hang out so I head back home. I’m tired and I am really ready for a shower. I did have enough foresight to bring a towel and a clean shirt for the drive home. This way I don’t have to sit for over an hour in a sweaty top. I also brought my flip flops so I can take off my running shoes and socks. My feet are happy I remembered this (because I almost always forget!).
I liked this race overall. The course was very nice and it was well supported. Since it started off a little negative (with the lack of signage or information directing runners to the start), I am glad that it ended on a positive note. The course itself was a challenge with the hills and I continue to realize that I need to do more hill training! It was hot but, this time of year, that really is to be expected.
I’m running another half tomorrow. This will be my first time doing back-to back halves and it will be my first trail run. I’m excited about this as it is a completely new experience for me. I’m not really sure what to expect and I’m not the most outdoorsy person, but I am going into it with an open mind. It should be fun…I hope.
Lake Minneola numbers: