>Jacksonville Bank Half Marathon Race Report

>This past Sunday, I ran in the final race of the “Tri 2B Tuff Challenge” – the Jacksonville Bank Half Marathon. This was my third half marathon in approximately 75 days. You can read about my prior two races, The Jacksonville Marine Corps Half Marathon and the Outback Distance Classic Half Marathon here and here, respectively.

Coincidentally, while this was my last race for 2010 – this particular race happened to be a do-over of my very first half marathon ever. Way back in 2005, I ran this race with my friends Martin, Laura and Jeff. (Actually, Jeff ran the marathon that day and had a pretty darn impressive debut of 3:39!) I ran that race as unprepared and untrained as you could possibly ever run a half-marathon, and finished with a generally unimpressive 2:16. I recall walking considerably and having to be motivated by other runners to even finish the race.

Fast forward to this year. Entering this race, I’d had two pretty solid efforts in the Tri 2B Tuff Challenge. I had PR’d both races, and was making progress towards beating my personal demon – the two hour half marathon.

Throughout last week, my friend Martin had texted me that was thinking about running as well. On Saturday, he sent me a final text – he was in! So – race strategy changed…I was running with Martin. We’d push each other where we could (friends are always competitive against each other, right), make stupid jokes the whole time, and generally have a good time.


Sunday morning broke in Jacksonville cloudy, drizzly, and chilly at 48 degrees. I know that isn’t really cold by some (non-Floridian) standards – and in reality, this was just about perfect running weather!

I met Martin at 6am, and we made the quick 20 minute drive up to the race course. This race starts and ends at the Bolles School in Jacksonville (Bolles is sort of a prep-school sports magnet. It’s pretty amazing the number of stud athletes that have come out of this school – Google it). We found a super close parking spot (very lucky in this regard, as there were tons and tons of cars – even almost a ½ mile from the start), and then made our way into the school gym to warm up a minute and get into race gear.

Nutrition pre-race was a PB&J bagel plus a bottle of EFS Drink mixed with Pre Race. I’d run out of Liquid Shot, so I was forced to run with Gu gels; I took one about 10 minutes prior to the start, and carried two.

I decided to not race in my Trakkers tri-singlet for this race (just too darn cold for me). Instead, I wore a Trakkers Saucony running shirt, plus arm warmers and light gloves. I also sported my Fasttwitch racing flats…likely to be the last time these race horses will be allowed out of the stable.

The Race

This race is fairly large – there were about 1400 ½ marathon finishers (I’m not sure how many started) and another 880 folks that finished the marathon. Both races started together. One nice thing about this run (as compared to the Outback Distance Classic) was that there were very few walkers – or at least those that were walking did the right thing and started to the back.

As I said, Martin and I stuck together for the whole race. In fact, the first three miles, we were probably too close, as we kept elbowing each other (totally my fault).

We had a couple of unexpected stops in the first four miles – for the strangest reason, I had to stop at the port-a-potty at the 5k mark (which seemed to take forever…50 port-a-potties, and they were all in use!), and Martin had to stop to tie his shoes four times (I’ve decided I’m buying him Yankz for Christmas). Despite the stops, we had settled into a nice pace, and hit 5k at :30.12 (this time included above noted bio-break). I was pretty pleased with this pacing, and the run felt super-easy at this point.

The next three miles were smooth sailing. We were cruising along, chatting up people (met a fellow who has been a massage therapist at IMFL for about 10 years), passing more folks than were passing us, and cracking a few jokes. Before we go too far, Martin probably felt undertrained for this race. He’s been running some, but I don’t think he had a focused plan to get ready for this (as evidenced by his eleventh-hour decision to run). So, for a good part of the run, he would make comments about how good he felt, how he was surprising himself, etc.
We hit 6.55 miles at exactly one hour. Half-way to a half-marathon, and on pace to not only blow both our PR’s out of the water, but also so tantalizing close to that two-hour race!
Just after the seven mile mark, I had a calf cramp in my right leg. Actually, I’m still not sure if it was my calf per se – as the pain is centralized on the lateral and posterior side of my calf…sort of in between my ankle and my calf. In any case – I’ve never had a cramp like this in a race. I stopped for a minute to try to stretch it out, and then we continued on, still knocking out miles at a relatively good pace. We ran on to the 8 mile mark, and we stopped at the aid station there (another potty break – WTF?) and stretched.
Mile 10 started to get tough for Martin. Although he didn’t complain at all, you could just see the pain and pressure on his face. We saw Mrs. TM and the kids at 9.5 miles – got a quick hello and wave.
We walked the aid station at 10 miles, and walked again at the 12 mile aid station. Martin was clearly fatigued, and my calf really revolted during the 12th mile. We pulled it back together and moved on down the road back towards the Bolles school.
Tri Madness and friend Martin closing in on the finish.  Photo courtesy of Jacksonville.com
The finish at this race is pretty neat – you turn left off the roadway, run through the football team’s practice field, and then onto the track. The finish line is about 300 meters down the track. When we hit the track, Martin was about two paces behind me. The whole way down the backstretch, I kept looking back at him and encouraging him to catch up with me. At one point, I told him that if I needed to go grab his hand and pull him up to me I would. He caught me with about 100 meters to go. I asked if he had any kick left – the answer was “no” – and we finished the race together.
Post Race:
After we exited the chute, we grabbed our space blankets & finisher’s medals. I headed over to pick up some “Tri 2B Tuff” swag and Martin grabbed some hot soup. We ran into an old friend of mine and spent a few minutes chatting with him and his daughter. Considering the fact that we were now both very cold at this point, Martin & I decided to take the quick walk back to the car and head home. I consumed my favorite recovery drink (Ultragen) on the car ride home and followed that immediately upon returning home with copious Christmas cookies.
Random Ramblings:
  • Martin and I both finished the race in 2:07:38. Not a PR for either of us, but not a bad result either. In fact, Martin ran this race last year in 2:07:39 – so he bettered his last effort despite being undertrained.
  • I took 824th out of 1400 finishers, and 71st in my AG out of 104.
  • There were significantly less folks running in costumes than the Outback Distance Classic (you can read my perspective on running in costumes here). I did see a Gingerbread man and lots of Christmas elves.
  • I continue to be totally impressed with the effort some folks put out in competing in races like this. We saw lots of really obese folks on the race course – I applaud them on their efforts (whatever their motivation).
  • I beat my old time on this course by slightly more than 9 minutes. I was quite happy about that fact. I think I could have gone a couple minutes faster than I ultimately did – but given the calf cramp, I’m pretty positive that I wouldn’t have been able to go sub-2 hours.
  • Interesting Garmin issue. Martin and I both wore Garmins, and came up with precisely the same distance. That said – my device showed a much faster time than Martin’s (mine read 2:03:49, his was 2:07.xx). I’m not sure why mine didn’t track the correct time – perhaps the timing stops if I stop? With two potty-breaks + one break to stretch, I could have easily invested four minutes. I’ll have to read up on my owner’s manual to be sure.
  • Next up: a few day’s rest to allow the calf to recover, and then it’s back running. I’ve got a marathon to prep for, after all!


12 thoughts on “>Jacksonville Bank Half Marathon Race Report

  1. >Great race Joel! Way to push forward even with the calf cramp.Your garmin is probably set on "auto-pause" … Once you stop moving the timer will stop. I only use auto-pause if a lot of stop signs or lights are hit during training. Go to your setting to turn it off!

  2. >Great race, Joel!! I agree with Jeff about the Garmin…check your settings and you will probably see you have it on auto-pause.

  3. >Great race report. Excellent finish to your season.Are you sure that you ran this in Jacksonville? Your wearing long sleeves… and dare I say… gloves?! I am horrified. I thought Florida was the "Sunshine State." Way to get through your nagging calf hombre!

  4. Pingback: The Running Prophet « TriMadness!

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