I was originally signed up to run a local 5k on Saturday, April 5th, but ended up having to go out of town for work that weekend. While I was disappointed in having to miss the 5k, the sun and 80 degree temps of Sarasota, FL was sure to help ease my pain. I knew that I’d have Saturday morning free, so I took a look to see if there were any local races. Sure enough, the Mote Marine Laboratory was hosting their 28th annual Run for the Turtles. Since I usually run about as slow as a turtle, I knew this would be a good race for me. Plus, based on pictures from the prior year, it looked like the start line was actually on the beach…so how bad could it be?
The race took place on Siesta Key Public Beach in Sarasota, which many signs on the island will proudly tell you is the #1 Beach in America (they’ve apparently won a few different awards – and I wouldn’t argue with any of them, the sand and beach are pretty spectacular). I got there around 6:45 am to register, which beat the time the sun got up that day, so it was a little dark filling out the registration form. They had a 1-mile fun run that started at 7:30, with the 5k going off at 8 am. Unlike my 5k the prior week, I didn’t need to sit in my car to stay warm. I was able to walk along the beach for a bit and watch the sunrise – not a bad way at all to kill time. I also learned that it was not just the start and finish line that was on the beach, but the entire race. Basically just an out and back course right along the water, something you just don’t get to experience in Chicago!
My race – Did I mention the whole course was on the beach? Oh I did…well that’s about all you need to know about this race. It was beautiful and stunning. I was initially concerned that the sand would slow me down, but I really don’t think it had much impact. There was a 5-foot area right by the water was fairly packed down, so it wasn’t like I was running on soft sand for 3 miles.
I did the first mile in 7:15 and felt pretty comfortable…after all, I just kept reminding myself I was running on the beach, I’m not allowed to feel anything negative. Then a funny thing happened after the half-way turn, I started to get tired! Not to make excuses, but I do think the heat and humidity were starting to get to me since I wasn’t accustomed to it (no, I’m not complaining about the 70 degree weather, and really don’t think my body would have preferred the sub-zero temps it had become used to). Anyhow, I slowed to 7:46 in mile 2. I even got a cramp in my side around the 2.25 mark, and finished mile 3 in 8:07. I didn’t have as strong of a kick at the end as I did in my 5k the week prior, but that’s ok – because all that really mattered was that the entire race was on the beach!
I finished in 23:46, which put me 7th out of 23 in my age group, and 82nd out of 588 overall. 1 to 3 in each age group got medals, and 4 to 6 got ribbons, so I missed an award by one spot – but isn’t running a race on the beach reward enough? I think so (although I did think this was a pretty fast group of runners, apparently it’s one of the circuit races for the local Manasota Track Club).
The Swag – Besides getting to run on the beach (sorry, just had to mention that one last time), I received a white tech shirt with the Mote Turtle Run logo on the front.
Overall, this was a great experience, especially coming from the harsh Chicago winter to be able to finally run a warm weather race. I was pleased with my overall time, even if it was slower than last week. And I felt like a learned a little bit about race preparation for shorter distances (I didn’t have much to eat or drink beforehand, which likely contributed to my slowing; and didn’t warm up much – two things I would have changed about my race prep that morning).
I also got to hear something by the pre-race announcer that I probably won’t hear at a Chicago race anytime soon. He announced beforehand that “about 3/4 of a mile down the beach there’s a large tortoise near the water, which appears to be nesting, so be sure to give it a wide berth as to not disturb it.” Wow, I thought, that’s an obstacle I won’t encounter in too many 5k races. Just before the start, the announcer came on the speakers and clarified, “minor correction, I’ve just been told that it’s a large TOURist, not tortoise, 3/4 of a mile down on the beach.” Only in Florida.