This landed on my race calendar after I messed up registration for a 15k in Nashville in a couple weeks. That would have lined up a little better with my training schedule, but Pensacola is half the distance from home, and this a pretty competitive race. Plus, the Florida beaches are always beautiful, even in February.
With it being last minute, I couldn't find an Airbnb I liked, so we decided to try a hotel with both kiddos in the same room with us. Sounded like disaster. And at first it looked that way with Eli screaming unconsolably every time we tried to lay him down to sleep. Finally he knocked out, and the next thing I knew it was 4:15 and my alarm was waking me up. What a relief.
This is a point-to-point course, and the weather forecast kept showing unfavorable winds for race morning. And that was about right. It was 40F or so with 10-15 mph winds that weren't directly head on, but angling into your face. I hopped on a shuttle that got me to the start line at 6am, so I had plenty of time to putter around and warm up.
At the start a couple guys shot to the front, and a chase pack formed of 4 guys. The chase pack started a lot more aggressively than I wanted. I showed a 74 first quarter by my watch. I sort of hung off the back of them, but decided I had to commit to a fast pace, or else I'd be battling the wind by myself all the way. 5:07 first mile.
2nd mile turned directly into the wind and had a long gradual uphill. I had tucked directly behind 2 guys, and they slowed here. It was needed, and I felt myself recovering from the too-quick pace. 5:18 for #2.
Mile 3 started the same before turning onto the first bridge, and the wind was now blowing cross-ways with a strong "in your face" component. My wind blocks became less useful, and they also picked up the pace to around 5:10. I hung on, but that's too fast for me at this point in those conditions. I was just hoping one of them would drop before I did. 5:13 for #3.
The bridge crosses Pensacola Bay and is 3 miles long with an overpass about midway through. I continued to hang on but could feel the cracks forming. When I caught myself drifting back I threw in a few mini-surges to maintain contact. Eventually a gap formed and I knew that was it. I kept them in contact for a bit, but the end of mile 4 goes up the overpass, and once we hit the hill I was done. I've got to find more hills to run in New Orleans. 5:15 at mile 4.
I watched them pull away and glanced back to see where our 4th pack member had run off to. He was a long ways back. I tried to keep the pace up so that I could strike if one of the other 2 dropped off, but they stayed together all the way to the finish. Without position or a fast time to chase, I had a hard time keeping up race effort. I slipped to 5:31 for mile 5, then 6-8 in 5:32 (10k in ~32:30), 5:34, and 5:35. I picked it up on mile 9 a little for 5:25 and then cruised into the finish on the beach to grab the last money spot. The race timers had me at 49:12, which is a joke, so I'm going with my watch time. Tyler McCandless won in 44:52, although it looks like all the times are messed up, so I'm guessing he was a minute back from that.
I would like to have placed higher, but 3rd and 4th place were just in better shape than me. They ended up ~90 seconds up. Afterwards, I ran back to the hotel and finished up 20 miles on the treadmill.