Wednesday, March 03, 2010

26.2 with Donna Breast Cancer Marathon Jacksonville Beach

I've been super excited about my first visit to Jacksonville, Florida and the 26.2 with Donna - breast cancer marathon. The weekend was filled with tears, laughs & great times! We've been looking forward to participating in this event all year. As an avid supporter of the fight against breast cancer, we were excited to be an participant in this years event. After expo set up on thursday evening, I squeezed in a brief treadmill workout in the hotel gym. While I was hopping on the treadmill in the new hot pink polka dot running skirt, I was greeted by a young woman on the treadmill next to me. She said a quick hello and mentioned that she was in town for the 26.2 with donna event and we chatted about the upcoming weekend. Soon, I learned that she was recovering from a double masectomy from 2 weeks prior! She was so inspired by Donna's story and her perseverance in the fight against cancer, she booked a flight from her current residence in Rochester, Minnesota (she's undergoing treatment at the Mayo Clinic up there) in hopes of meeting Donna herself at the expo the following day. We had a great "dreadmill" visit, she was walking while I jogged and she told me her story about learning she had breast cancer and being left by her boyfriend immediately after he heard the news. It was very disturbing and even after I returned to my room later that evening, I couldn't get her out of my mind. Meeting her really brought the whole weekend and purpose into perspective, and Donna's race slogan "finish cancer" really hit home!

We had a great time at the race expo! The Smile Stylist stopped by the booth on Saturday with his beautiful family who wholeheartedly embraced the spirit of the race by donning their own pinkalicious plaid running skirts! They guys who participated in this event were amazing, whether it was in honor of a spouse, friend or family member battling breast cancer, we had at least 5 or 6 guys sporting the pink skirts out on the course on race day!

Robin (our Florida sales rep) and myself had a great time working the skirt booth and enjoyed meeting all the runners and hearing their stories and why they were running. The expo was amazing - lots of great girly girl buys to be made, unfortunately for us, the skirt booth kept us too busy to shop!

Race day started early - had to catch the bus at a jacksonville hotel in the wee morning hours (5:00 a.m.-5:30 a.m.), it was chilly too! I made the mistake of not wearing my cozy warmups or any throwaways, so I was shivering as we stood in line waiting for the shuttle bus to take us to the start line. I have to admit though that I was super excited about my pinkalicious outfit - the new pink plaid running skirt paired with our new "love line" long sleeve tech shirt complete with reflective hot pink heart on the sleeve, finished off with my hot pink newton racers of course. I've never been so happy to get on a race bus before...aaah the heat was a heavenly reprieve from the freezing morning temperatures (in the low 30s). The start line area was great - lots of vendors, bag check, coffee, refreshments and booths to keep the runners busy while we all waited for the call to line up. The also walked the runners out to the starting area in a very organized fashion, slower to faster so that the race participants were lined up without corrals. After my group was lead to the front of the starting area, I decided it'd be a good idea to warm up. After about a mile or so of easy jogging, I realized I just wasn't going to warm up in these temps, and found my way back to the starting line. Donna gave a great motivating send off followed by the national anthem and then with a pretty explosion of pink confetti, we were off!

I knew going into this race, my legs were dead tired from a previous week of airplane travel, and standing at the expo booth, so my plan was to go out at medium pace and see how I felt after 3-4 miles. As we approached the 2nd mile I was recognized Joan Benoit Samuelson as she came up beside me. I congratulated her on her amazing half marathon at Toronto International Marathon back in October and we chatted for a mile or two. (She ran 1:22 in toronto - amazing!) I realized as the pace was getting faster, that I'd have to let Joan move on as her pace was going to be too aggressive for my legs this day. I told her so in as many words and wished her a great race and watched in amazement as she sped ahead into the distance.

Now that the sun had reason, it was getting warmer out and it turned out to be a perfectly sunny race day. I was starting to warm up finally, but my legs weren't feeling energetic in the least. I was wondering where I'd bump into the hubby and little guy and promised myself it was going to be a better race than Carlsbad. The course was nice, while presenting a few challenges of the arch bridge and then the 2 miles of running on the sandy beach, fairly flat and scenic. Right as I made the turn onto the beach portion of the run, I spotted the hubby and little guy on the side of the course. I gave them a quick wave as I turned the corner and then I hit the sand. The wheels came off the bus at this point (in hindsight my mile splits were significantly slower in this portion). While advertised as hard packed sand, I found I had a really tough time getting traction in the loose sand I was becoming quite exerted! I think this was the point where I could not longer see Joan's silouette bounding along ahead of me, and now the gap between me and the girl in front of me was increasing. After our sandy stretch, I was so grateful to be making the "half marathon" turn and felt genuinely sorry for the marathon runners that had to continue down the sandy beach further.

As we made the turn and headed back to the start I was feeling ok and holding my pace. I knew we had to get back over that arch bridge and the thought of it was daunting. I tried to stay relaxed and hold my pace and chugged along all the while thinking of my friend on the treadmill and how lucky I was to be blessed with my health and wonderful family. The miles seemed to go by a little quicker on the way back in and before I knew it I was making my way back over the arch bridge and headed down and around the corner to the finish. I was excited to hear from spectators 5th women, as I neared the finish and picked up the pace a bit to hold my position. My legs have never been happier to cross a finish line, wow that last climb over the bridge was brutal! After exchanging congrats with the finisher ahead of me, I caught up with Joan again and learned she had finished in 1:25 - amazing! When I grow up and am running in my 50s I want to be just like her! :o)

Race Results:

Open Women
4155 1 1 W50 Joan Benoit-Samuelson, 52, UsA 45:13 1:25:43 1:25:39 6:32
3014 2 2 W35 Sarah Raitter, 37, Reno, NV 44:21 1:27:59 1:27:56 6:43
3029 3 3 W35 Julie Breuer, 37, Jacksonville, FL 46:03 1:28:20 1:28:17 6:44
3452 4 4 W25 Libby Bergman, 27, Saint Augustine, FL 46:26 1:29:07 1:29:04 6:48
3526 5 5 W35 Cindy Lynch, 38, Cardiff Bythe Sea, CA 46:21 1:29:20 1:29:17 6:49

My splits (all over the place):

More race photos here!

1 comment:

Run with Jill said...

Wow, great race results. Thanks for sharing. Running for a cause and with these women most have been quite the experience.