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Run This: Cocoa Beach Half Marathon and Running Your Own Race

Cheat Sheet: RonJon “I Dream of Jeannie” Cocoa Beach Half Marathon

Date: October 14, 2018, packet pickup at RonJon the day before or at the Hilton on A1A that morning

Travel: Parking available for $15 at the Hilton where you pick up your race bib and goodies that morning; one way shuttle service to race start

Distance/Course: 13.1 Miles, relay version also offered, includes A1A and about 2.7 miles on the actual beach

Theming: “I Dream of Jeannie” themed with an option to dress up as Jeannie or Major Nelson; awesome genie bottle bling

Tips:

  • Enjoy the view
  • Be race ready for heat and running on the sand
  • Bring your own fuel, as it is lacking on the course

The Full Run Down (see what I did there?)

This post is going to be half race review, half life lesson. So bear with me.

This past weekend, I ran the 4th Annual RonJon Cocoa Beach Half Marathon. It was an “I Dream of Jeannie” themed run in Cocoa Beach, down A1A and including just under 3 full miles in the actual sand. There is also a relay version that happens along the half course at the same time as the half itself.

It’s been awhile since I ran a race with a personal record (PR) in mind and I’ve been overdue for a time improvement – and better runDisney race corral placement – for awhile. And since I always say that if you PR a Disney race you’re doing it wrong – because I think those races are meant to be enjoyed at a pace that allows you to enjoy the parks and characters, etc. – I figured I’d pick a nice flat course elsewhere to get it done.

Best laid plans and all that. (I mentioned the part about running in the sand, right?)

In order to get to Cocoa Beach in time to check in and take the shuttle to the start, we needed to leave home at 3:45 a.m. So the day before, I took the kids to the pool to try to tire them out so that we could all go to bed super early. At the pool, both of the kids started to have…stomach issues. So instead of getting into bed at 7 I ended up triaging between 2 bathrooms at the house until after 10.

By the time I got into bed it was almost 11 – but I told myself I’d gotten through runDisney races on much less sleep and powered on.

The morning of the race, I felt rough. But God knows I’ve started many a run not feeling my best and felt fine once my blood got moving. So I ignored the few waves of nausea that swept over me on the ride as car sickness and stayed optimistic.

We started running at 7 a.m. I was very comfortably shoulder-to-shoulder with the 2 hour pacer and clocking around 9 minute miles. In my mind I started playing out the end of the race. I’d continue not to overdo it, keeping the pacer in my line of site for the whole race, and then give a final push at the very end to pull ahead and finally get my sub-2 hour half. This lasted for 5 or 6 miles.

Then at around mile 6.5, I started to feel like my legs were made of lead. The water stops on the course were supposed to have Gatorade and, while every single cup had the Gatorade logo, 9 out of 10 were straight water and the other tasted like it might have had a teaspoon of Gatorade mixed in. And on top of that, I was feeling a wee bit sick to my stomach and started to wonder if I’d gotten whatever the kids had had the night before.

At around mile 9, I got properly sick.

Then we got to the beach and were running in sand and I started to realize that I wasn’t running my own race anymore. The sub-2 hour half that I was visualizing early on was no longer the battle that I was waging. I wasn’t running against the clock. I was running against myself – and the sand and the sun and the 85-ish degree morning. This was starting to be a race about mental toughness. About being able to get through it when I feel my absolute worst. About being able to reevaluate goals on the fly.

So I started to look around me and realized that this was a damned gorgeous course. Sure I was sick to my stomach and running on sand and completely depleted of electrolytes. But there were families all around me enjoying the water. Birds were plucking breakfast from the wet beach between waves. A man nearby was collecting seashells. And I was looking out at this…

It was at some point after that that I texted the dear friend who was running too and said this wasn’t going to be my PR race. And I stopped to enjoy the view. Everyone around me was running in the sand and working hard. Heck, I was still working hard. But I was running my own race again and had regrouped on my goals. Honor the effort. Get through it. Take in my surroundings.

It was good that I’d regrouped a bit. Because I otherwise would have been devastated when a wave got my shoes a few minutes later. It was happening to so many of us and I just had to laugh. Shoes and socks soaked through with ocean water and covered in sand.

I trudged through the rest of the sand and emerged from the beach back to A1A to finish the last couple of miles of the 13.1.

At the race end, we got our incredibly cool medals.

Cashed in on the beer and food tickets on our race bibs.

Checked out the awesome prizes for the winners.

And learned a little “I Dream of Jeannie” history.

Bottom Line: My final take on the RonJon “I Dream of Jeannie” Half Marathon

The Good: Run it for the gorgeous view and the incredibly cool and unique bling. There’s also a registration option where, for the same price, you can dress up as Jeannie (or Major Nelson) and enter a costume contest before the run starts.

The Warnings: Do not run it for a PR unless you are really, really good at running in the sand. Also be ready to dodge waves while trying to stay on the hard packed (aka damp) portion of the beach. And don’t underestimate the heat. An early morning mid-October run with the ocean breeze seemed like it should have been pretty comfortable but, while much of the A1A portion was in the shade, the beach portion was full sun and temperatures were firmly in the mid-80s with full humidity. So bring your usual hot weather running tools. Also bring your own race fuel. I’m usually more or less fine staying hydrated and fueled with what’s offered on a course, but the Gatorade was lacking on the course.

All in all, I’d do it again next year but better prepared and with a different list of goals for the experience.

Have you run the RonJon half? Have you run a race where you had to stop and reevaluate your experience and your goals before the finish line? I’d love to hear about it!!

 

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