Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Race Recap: Panama City Beach Half Marathon

I had big plans for the Panama City Beach Half Marathon. My training went well. I hit all my paces. I had plans for at least a sub-2 half and maybe more.

But we all know about plans, right? And how even after training well for a race, it all comes down to one day, right?

I always have a backup goal of having fun and if you read my precap to this recap, you know that I crushed that goal! My finish time goal? Not so much...



After a restless night, I got up early with the ladies to get ready for the race. Ladies? What ladies? Did you read about my blogger weekend?

Holly acted as barista and made coffee for anyone who wanted it. I perused the breakfast offerings and decided to go with a lemon Luna bar. All of us were wearing the Momentum bracelets that I brought to Florida. We loaded into the cars and headed to the starting line.


The Panama City Beach Marathon and Half Marathon are small races and parking was easy. It was kind of cool out, but I left my throwaway sweatshirt in Mary Beth's car. We walked the 5 minutes to the start line and asked a policeman directing traffic if he would take our picture. He was happy to oblige!


After our photo shoot, we walked back to the start line. I lined up in the front, just ahead of the 2:00 pacer. The rest of the ladies headed towards the back. I started my Garmin and my music, and we were off! The group I lined up with flew down the course. I tried to reel my pace back in but it was tough, as people were passing me like crazy. Note to self: don't be so ambitious next time. I hit mile 1 at 8:23 m/m. Oops.

Yes, I screen shotted this one--don't judge. Just see how I'm flying out of the start and realize that I was way too ambitious.
The course was an out and back along the Gulf Coast. A chilly headwind was blowing off the Gulf. We were running along the water and I was regretting my choice of a tank top. I started to feel a side stitch coming on. It was hard to breathe. That side stitch was my constant companion for about 4 miles. You know how that messed with my breathing, as well as my head.

My playlist was more annoying than helpful, and so I entertained myself with the beachy storefronts along the route. Panama City Beach is a typical Florida coastal town, very "spring breaky" with t-shirt shops and souvenir shops. I also saw tattoo parlors and a condom shop. There was also a mini-golf course with large dinosaurs and other assorted statues.


After the turnaround, I came up behind a guy who I had passed at mile 5. I had the realization that he must have cut the course. There were no timing pads or volunteers on the course except for the water/Gatorade stops. I wondered how many people actually did that. Actually, at mile 5 I considered the possibility of cutting it short and heading back. I didn't, but the thought crossed my mind. I was also hopeful that with the change of direction, we'd have the wind at our backs.

Instead, I looked down at my bracelet. Never give up. 

So I forged on. I stopped to walk a few times. I was not feeling well. I kept waiting for the Tailwind to work its magic. The wind was at my back, but I still felt the cold breeze. As I headed back, I saw Holly, then Tricia and Mary Beth running together. Next was Darlene, then Karen. They all looked great. I missed Judy. She told me that when she saw me, my head was down and I was in "the zone". When I came upon the mini-golf course, I decided to stop for a few pictures. I mean, what the heck? That sub-2 goal was gone, so I may as well have some fun, right?


While I was snapping this picture with the monkey, Holly came running by. I started running again and caught up with her. She started laughing at me and I told her how bad I was feeling. We ran together for a little bit, but I had to stop again. I watched her run ahead. I kept sipping my Tailwind. And kept running and walking.

It felt as though he was on my back for most of the race.
At mile 10, I started to get a second wind. My pace picked up and I didn't have to stop to walk. At mile 11, I came up behind Holly, who was walking. I touched her shoulder and kept going. At mile 13, I came up behind Marcia and asked her if she wanted to run in with me. She shook her head no, and I kicked into high gear towards the finish line. The clock said 2:03:xx and I kicked myself as I realized I could have met my goal if I hadn't stopped to play around with my photos at the mini-golf. But as I say, finishing is winning!


Or would I have? That mini-golf photo stop gave me a chance to catch my breath, reset my head, and regroup. Maybe I needed that. As I waited for my friends to come in, I pondered the race and what went wrong for me. Should I have skipped breakfast and fueled with Tailwind? Was there something in the air that made it tough for me to breathe? I had been struggling with headaches all weekend. Who knows? It just wasn't my day.

Finish line photo. Because spotting a photog means you need to look happy. Even if you don't meet your goal.
After everyone finished, we went to the post-race party at Margaritaville. I was looking forward to some Landshark lager. Karen and I walked up to the table and grabbed our beers. The glasses were half filled. When I asked about that, the beer server made a comment that the beer was free. Weird. But we could have as much as we wanted. It didn't make sense to me. But I made a few trips to that beer table for my half glasses of beer.

There was also gumbo for the runners. The line was really long and we were content with our drinks so we waited. When we did go for the gumbo, instead I got a bowl of chili. Apparently, the gumbo ran out. But the chili was good. We found a bench and waited for Darlene to get her AG award. I enjoyed another post race beer, this one an IPA, at The Back Porch, which was right next to Margaritaville. We also had lunch there and I completely enjoyed my grouper sandwich. From our table, we were lucky to be able to cheer all the marathoners coming in!


After lunch, it was back to the beach cottage for some recovery and post-race beach photos.



Would I do this race again? Reflecting on the race itself, the Panama City Beach Half Marathon was a well-organized race. Packet pickup was a breeze. The shirt was a disappointment--they were unisex, which is always a thumbs down for me. I swam in my size men's small. The race itself is a bargain--I paid $50 for my entry fee. The course is an out and back along the coast. The road is graded, and my calves let me know how much they didn't enjoy running on an angle. I tried to run on the flat part of the road when I could but the race course is not closed and the drivers of the cars that passed me were not happy about that. There are very few volunteers along the course and I only saw one portapotty for the entire route. Fortunately for me, that was not an issue. Aid stations were plentiful--there was water and Gatorade at almost every mile marker. The race is chip timed and there are pacers available. The post-race party at Margaritaville was great. Unlimited free beer? Yes, please.

For my part, I think I would have been better off skipping breakfast and just fueling with Tailwind. I don't know if I would have avoided that side stitch but it's worth considering. I went out way too fast at the start. I wasn't overconfident. I lined up where I was supposed to but the pacers also went out fast. I will not make that mistake again. Finally, there was something in the air that bothered me. I had a headache most of the weekend. Interestingly, as soon as I got home, I felt fine. All things to consider for future races. On the plus side, my tummy behaved itself. Since I ran so slow, my legs and feet were fine for the rest of the day (and for the evening dancing and karaoke!). 

In spite of my troubles on the course, I'd love to come back to do this race again. Panama City Beach is touristy, yes, but in December is a really fun destination. I enjoy coming to this part of Florida. It's more deep south than Florida, the sugar sand beaches are amazing, and it's a lot of fun. What a great place for a girls' weekend!

Have you ever run this race? Do you prefer big races or small? What's your favorite coast in Florida--the Atlantic coast or the Gulf coast?

I'm linking up with DebRuns for Wednesday Word, which is organized. I'm also linking up with Debbie, Susie, Lora, and Rachel for Coaches Corner.


95 comments :

  1. Hmmmm...a race that you put your heart and soul into, and felt ever-so-ready....then race day slaps you between the eyes (and other places as well). I kind of know what you're talking about....((group hug)). Bottom line, you made the best of it. And you still finished with a decent finish time...definitely a WIN ;-)

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    1. I totally thought of you when I wrote this recap. Isn't it crazy how you can be so well prepared and then everything goes south on race day? That's why I will always make sure that I have fun no matter what.

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  2. I love your finish line photo! I really enjoyed following your adventures on Instagram this weekend. It was great see the genuine friendships that have come out of the blogging world!

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    1. It's been so much fun meeting everyone over the past couple of years. I kept thinking all weekend that if it weren't for blogging, I would never have met any of these ladies!

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  3. Great recap! I think you time is great, especially considering everything. Despite how much I love Florida, it doesn't seem to love me back and I never feel like I run well there (maybe the humidity?). It's crazy that, no matter how good your training is, race days is always a little up to the running gods. You may need to order your photos though. I wish mine looked half as good as yours! I always have this horrible face going! Congrats again - looks like an awesome time. You ladies might have to make it an annual thing :)

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    1. Oh, I'll share the bad race photos on another post. They got a few of those! LOL!

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  4. This was fun for me to read as I have a nephew who lives there and works in one of those beachy shops/bars.

    The one and only time I had side stitches in a race was because I went out way too fast, driven by adreneline and other runners. I bet that's what happened to you.

    The rest of this just made me chuckle. You've pretty much described the races where I live: unisex shirts, NO porta potties except at the start/finish, people who cut the race short due to no timing mats, etc., etc. I just have to remind myself that 'I' have integrity about race cutting and the rest of it I deal with.

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    1. I just don't understand how those course-cutters can live with themselves, particularly if they accept an AG award. It's cheating, plain and simple.

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  5. I have never done a race in Florida and wondered if it was too humid for me. May not have been the race you originally wanted but wow looks like you had an amazing weekend and finished strong. That's a win in my book

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    1. I have yet to sub-2 in Florida, tho! That humidity is tough on this midwestern gal!

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  6. I have had a long string of disappointing halfs, and sometimes, no matter how well you're prepared, it just doesn't happen for you. I'm sorry it didn't -- we would have loved to celebrate your sub 2 with you! I have every confidence that you will get there. I'll be coming down a day earlier would have helped, too, but I know that's not always easy.

    But I love that you didn't obsess and were still able to enjoy the festivities.

    Oddly enough, I'm always dressing way warmer than Darlene, and considered tank vs tee, but I was perfectly happy in my tank.

    I prefer the Atlantic -- love watching waves crashing on the beach!

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    1. I'm a gulf coast gal--I do love those sugar sand beaches!

      It's not worth being upset over a bad race--I ran 13.1 miles, which is more than most people can ever say! You know my motto--finishing is winning! And that beer at the finish line tastes the same no matter what I do.

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  7. I'm sorry that you were not at your best health-wise for this half, but you did beyond amazing despite. That finish photo is one for the ages. You look fantastic!

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    1. It was so fun, no matter what the clock said!

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  8. You look so cute in all your pictures. The mini golf ones had me cracking up. Maybe it was allergies? $50 sure is good bang for your buck, what with the free half beers and the chili/gumbo!

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    1. I just couldn't not stop at the mini-golf. It was like a magnet, sucking me in! LOL!

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  9. My last half-marathon was the same. The best prepared I have ever been and then stomach issues all along the way. I even stopped along the route and was checked by the police to see if a rescue-squad was needed (oh, the embarrassment!). Ran and walked the remaining 6 miles. Any finished race is a good race.

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    1. 100% agree. FInishing is always winning.

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  10. Glad you made the best of it! So close to that goal though!!! Condom shop huh??? haha!
    I spent a Spring Break in Panama City once in college... but that's a story for another day :-).

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    1. Haha! I think we all have some of those stories!

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  11. And a big congrats too!!!! That time is amazing regardless!!!

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    1. I was surprised how close I was! Thank you.

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  12. Well it sounds like a very fun weekend, for sure! I did wonder about the possibility of hitting your sub-2 if you didn't stop for pics, but you are probably right--the breaks were needed. I had hoped to sub-5 at Chicago this year. I was at 2:32 at the half-point, and once I saw that, I took it easy on the back half. There's a lesson in every race. The best two goals are to finish and to have fun!

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    1. Always to have fun and finish! The rest is just gravy.

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  13. You did the best with what the day gave you and that's all you can ask for. And you cannot go wrong with some monkey pics!

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    1. I'm secretly glad that I had an excuse to stop!

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  14. Hey! Congrats on the run. I noticed you were wearing headphones during your run. What kind of music do you listen to?

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    1. I listen to everything from rock to rap--some pop too.

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  15. So glad to hear that you had a great race experience, even if things didn't go according to plan. Its always hard to run in an area that we're not accustomed to.

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    1. That is the truth--more so for me is the poor sleep that I have away from home.

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  16. That may be the best finishing line photo I've ever seen! You did great, Wendy. You have such a good attitude. I LOVE the pic of you and the dinosaur. Ha ha! So great.

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    1. I once beat myself up over a bad marathon and it was the stupidest thing I've ever done. Really? I will never do that again. Now it's all about fun. And if I hit my goal, that's even better.

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  17. Congratulations on your Half marathon! I'm sorry to hear you struggled with a side stich, those are rough! But running with so many awesome bloggers must have been such a blast!! I am curious on how this was planned and how you all managed to organize it!!

    I tell my son that everybody wins when they run a race.

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    1. My son's boss asked him why I do this if I don't win! LOL!

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  18. Congrats on the finish and coming oh-so-close to your sub-2:00 goal. It was likely a positive that you stopped at the mini-golf place to snap pictures. I have been in a couple of half marathons where I needed to regroup by walking, it resets my legs and lungs and I am usually able to finish strong(er). If I run in different temps/air than I'm used to running in it takes at least a couple of days for my lungs to acclimate. Congrats again!

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    1. Florida always kicks my butt when I race. Maybe it's the salt air? But hey, it's the beach and that's all good.

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  19. Great job on pushing through despite the side stitch and not feeling 100%. It takes a lot of mental gusto to keep going - and you did it like a champion! There is a reason everyone gets the same finisher medal, despite the time, too. As Ana said, everyone wins when they run a race. I also agree with Pete that your picture breaks helped you out, too, and that it takes some time to acclimate to a new climate. Your pictures are awesome and the medal is beautiful!

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    1. Great thought--that everyone gets the same medal despite the finish time. I love that!

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  20. I didn't come into this race with any expectations as marathon training has been my priority of late. Honestly, I felt tired from the very first step. But I have to say, you helped me negative split this race. It was fun attempting to chase you down and close that gap in the back half. If anyone is going to beat me, I'd rather it be YOU! LOL. Had so much fun, Sista!!

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    1. I loved that you picked up the pace after I passed you. Kind of how I felt when you passed me! Let's do this again!

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  21. Meant to say, I couldn't help but laugh when I saw you taking a picture with a gigantic monkey! And...the whole MAPJ thing. (I'm still laughing.)

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    1. We are so privileged! And I mean that in the truest sense!

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  22. From a side stitch to monkeys to pirates, sounds like an interesting race, but, like you said, you had an amazing time. So what if you stopped for picture breaks? You needed them, physically, and mentally. Like when I stop for potty breaks. I need them (physically and mentally)

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    1. And who can run the strip in PCB without taking pics? It's so crazy there!

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  23. Sounds like a great destination race! I've been to Panama City but have never done that race. I'd like to!

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    1. It's small and well organized--what more can you ask? Plus free beer at the finish?!

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  24. Well I am glad you still felt like you had fun! I enjoyed meeting you so much xo
    The monkey pic is cracking me up.
    I loved the out and back since i actually had friends on the course to look for :) That really passed the time for me.
    I love my bracelet so much, I am wearing it right now.

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    1. Oh and your finish line pic is fabulous! I love how happy you look even if it was tough.

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    2. I was so happy! What an amazing trip we had! I miss you tons--you make a great dance partner!

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  25. So close to your goal but taking fun photos is pretty neat! The post race looks awesome! I like a mixture of big and small races throughout the year but always remember where to position myself during a big race.

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    1. I never take pictures during a race but I felt so crummy, I figured I may as well have some fun with it!

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  26. I ran a Turkey Trot just up the road in Mexico Beach last year. It was super small and fun. I prefer small to mid-size races over the biggies.

    Love that part of Florida, my husband has a ton of family living there so we've been there a lot through the years.

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    1. I do love this part of Florida--the beaches are the best! It's Florida at its best--so kitschy and tacky and fun!

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  27. That race looks like such a blast! Love the pictures that you stopped to take. It should be about having fun sometimes right and not always about crushing a time! Great recap!

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    1. You are absolutely right! No matter how a race goes, it should always be fun.

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  28. It can be so frustrating when we are totally prepared for a race and then on race day everything just falls apart. But you had fun, you finished, and your not injured! So I would definitely call that a win.

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    1. Yep, in fact I was amazed at how good I felt all day. Which of course means that I didn't run the race I had in me--at least my legs were telling me that.

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  29. Ack, course cutters! I just don't get them. I love that finish line picture of you - sorry the race didn't go so well, but it sounds like the weekend and meet up was super fun.

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    1. Having fun was the point and that goal was surpassed!

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  30. In spite of having been born in Florida, I've never been back, so doing this race might be fun someday. It sucks that no matter how good the training goes, things happen that can turn the race upside down. Still, just a shade over 2 is pretty good considering that you didn't feel good, walked and took some photos!

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    1. I was pretty shocked when I saw that finish time!

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  31. You were still so close to your goal though!! It is so crazy that you can be so prepared and race day just throws you for a loop!

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    1. Isn't it funny how that works? Ah, running....

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  32. Great job on the race, even though it was not that outcome you were hoping for, still it was a fun ladies weekend and that's all that matters. Who can't beat the Florida sunshine in December?

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  33. So glad that your staying positive, its not always easy to do. Any reason to go to florida in december sounds like a good reason to me!

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    1. And that's why I can be positive! A trip to Florida just always makes me happy.

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  34. Sorry it didn't go as planned! You still got a great time with all your stops for pics! Love the finish line photo! Looks like you had a blast post race! So cool you all got together!

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    1. I have had so much fun meeting other runners this year!

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  35. As soon as I saw your time at 2:03 I thought "oops she could have totally made her goal", but you bring up a good point that perhaps you needed those couple breathers there.

    When I run disney races. I notice that the roads are often what I call "banked" which makes me run on a slant (which is horrible for someone who is prone to ITBS). I am now wondering if most Florida roads are like that. I would not like to run near traffic and fortunately I have never needed to use the bathroom during a half marathon but if I knew ahead of time that there was only on port o potty on the course, that would have been enough to stress me out at the thought of "what if"..lol

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    1. I ran a race in Chicago once, an out and back half marathon that didn't have portapotties either. My tummy was sounding the alarm at mile 11 but I made it to the finish safely. I thought about that during this race and am so glad that didn't happen. Of course, the side stitch was completely unexpected. Just when you think you've planned for everything...

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  36. What a wonderful recap. <3 Sounds like you guys had an amazing weekend. I'm sorry the race wasn't great for you but you totally rocked it anyway and sometimes the slower races where you can actually walk afterward are the best ones because you aren't destroyed. :)

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    1. Exactly. We had some dancing to do that evening!

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  37. I think you nailed it when you said "it just wasn't my day." Sometimes, it just all comes down to that and it sucks. But, at least you were surrounded by some pretty awesome women, a beach cottage, warm weather and beer - even if your glass was half empty...or was it half full? :-)

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    1. Oh, half full for sure. I even went back to read what I wrote about those beers and yep, half full!

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  38. Sorry you didn't hit your goal time, but 2:03 is still pretty fast! And I think it's important to remember to have fun...something I have trouble doing on race day.

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    1. It's a lot easier to let it go when you are with a group of friends!

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  39. I have to say I'm not a beach person, so can I pick central Florida? It's still plenty humid, and I know that affected me somewhat during my last Florida race.

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    1. You can run whereever you want! There's something for everyone.

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  40. Isn't it crazy how that first mile can throw off your entire race if it's just a little too fast? I've learned that the hard way before too. Glad you were still able to finish strong and feel good. A race is always an awesome accomplishment!

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    1. Yep. Pretty sure that if I hadn't gone out too fast I would have done better. Dammit!

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  41. Fantastic report! I felt like I was right there with you. I love how you always keep a positive attitude, have fun no matter what, and strive to learn when races don't go exactly as you would have liked. One thing that works for me is to remember that if you hit a rough patch, just wait it out- it will get better. Once things start to hurt it's easy to think "this is the end" but that's usually not the case! Anyway, great job out there, you look happy and strong in all of your photos.

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    1. I kept waiting for the my second wind but it was a long time coming! Who knows what went wrong, but overall, I'm glad I didn't fall apart.

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  42. Great job! Sometimes our A goal is not meant to happen, overall looks like a great race and a bargain too!

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    1. It really was one of those hidden great races.

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  43. Love your finish line photo! You look great! Way to finish strong even though you didn't meet your goal. Pretty awesome with the unlimited beer and the sugar sand beaches sounds amazing!!

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  44. Congrats! Sorry to hear the race didn't go as planned, but it still looks like you had a blast and I'm jealous you got to hang out with all those wonderful ladies!

    The half full beer is weird...hm. But still the post-race food sounds delicious!

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    1. A fun race like this sure makes the pain of missing a goal kind of just go away...

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  45. We planned, we ran, we ALL had a great time=priceless! I think you might need to do this one again :) I thought you did a great job and finishing is winning!

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  46. Always a bummer when a race doesn't go as planned but you still crushed those 13.1 miles! $50 bucks for a half is not bad at all. I usually prefer bigger races though because I need that crowd support to get me thru when I'm struggling :-)

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    1. This was a really fun weekend, and no matter how I did at the race, it was a great experience!

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  47. Congrats on another great race! It sounds like a fun race and great weekend all around even if you just missed your A goal. I've never been to the Atlantic side of Florida. We usually go to Naples when we visit that state.

    Thank you for linking up! It's much appreciated even if I'm a week late in commenting! :-)

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    1. I've been to the Atlantic side of Florida, and I much prefer the Gulf side.

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