I drove over to a friend's house a few hours from the race site on Thursday. She and I headed out to Apalachicola Friday as we had hotel reservations for Friday and Saturday night. We were right on the beach and were looking forward to being beach bums after we finished the marathon.
The expo was small, not really an expo at all, with only one vendor and packet pickup. That's ok by me... no chances to spend tons of extra money like at the huge races. One thing that had been worrying me from the start is that the course map was not to scale, and did not show where the aid stations would be set up. That is when I decided to carry my hand held water bottle during the race. Good decision.
There was no organized pasta dinner, so we ate at one of the local joints, I don't remember the name. I chose to eat a chicken sandwich and a side of cheese grits, which by the way were very good. We headed back to the hotel after dinner to get our stuff ready and thankfully got to sleep pretty early. St. George Island is the halfway point of the marathon, so we had to drive over the race course back to the start in Apalachicola which was no problem at all. There was plenty of parking. Things were rather disorganized at the start. I heard an announcement that marathoners should start first followed by half marathoners, 10k runners with the 5k runners last. I don't really know what the actual start time was (supposed to start at 7am) the people in front of me started running, so I took off too. I am guessing around 7:02.
The first part of the race was ok, kind of crowded in the break down lane of the bridge, and strangely enough we were headed out with the traffic instead of against it.
Now for the REALLY strange stuff. All of the races started together, the 5k and 10k folks had to turn around on the bridge which was not closed to traffic, even at the start of the race. There was only a woman on a bicycle trying to stop cars and trucks... the runners and walkers had to risk life and limb, cross that bridge and head back toward the race finish again on the wrong side of the road. Wonder what the Race Director was thinking? So do hundreds of other people!
Water stations early in the race had no cups, several people reported aid station volunteers pouring water from 5gallon jugs into racers hands so they could hydrate. Since I regularly do ultras... I was prepared. Handheld water bottle, Endurolytes, and my own nutrition. There were people out there on those concrete bridges with temps in the 80's, of course there was no shade and the wind was really gusty from the southeast. These people who depend on having basic support from race organization and did not bring their own gels, etc, were just up a creek without any paddles. This goes back to the course map not showing the locations of the aid stations, or no info on what sort of sports drink would be provided. Well, there was no sports drink until some nice folks that were monitoring their friends and relatives took care of it. There was also NO medical aid station anywhere on the course.
I usually don't need medical aid at a race, but even a basic need like a bandaid for a blister was nowhere to be found. That is until a nice local heard me asking the race volunteers and course marshals if there was any medical aid because all I needed was a bandaid for a blister that had developed 8 miles ago. This nice man apparently went home and found some bandaids and looked for me on the course. If not for that kind individual, I would have had a REALLY bad day.
So, all adversities aside, Mellody catches up to me and gives me renewed energy and we take off at a blistering 14:00 pace. LOL as we crest the last part of the course, a steep cambered bridge, we see the finish line being dismantled down below. OK, I am training for a 100 mile race, I am not supposed to be fast, that is the main reason I chose this race for my Florida marathon. They bragged unceasingly about how ANYONE could do this marathon because it has an 8 hour time limit. They took up the timing mats at 6 hours, and when we saw them dismantling the finish line, it was about 6:15 into the race. If it were not for Kathy and her policewoman voice telling them that there were still several marathoners out there who had paid the entry and they also deserved to finish the race through the official finish line like everyone else, that would have been gone too. After she gave them what for... they at least put the clock and finish line arch back up. Let me tell you... we hung around there until the last finisher was in sight so they had to keep things going. Though someone was overheard saying she just wanted to go out in her truck and pick up the last finisher to get this thing over with. How's that for feeling like you are welcome in a race.
Most of the medals were broken, but the race director has already sent out emails promising replacements, so I will let that one go. Inaugural events always have problems, and no one is perfect, but I understand that the Race Director left before the event even wrapped up, or at least he was no where to be found. This guy is just lucky no one was killed on that bridge, or that no one died from heat exhaustion.
blah blah blah. After the race, we went and had some fun in the surf, lazed around on the beach and had a nice dinner! I am over this one, and know that the next race will be lots of fun, because they can't ruin this for me, I am having too much fun in my middle age!