Tapering means to not run at all the week before a race, correct?
That’s what it meant for me this week. My body just didn’t want it. I was instructing several high intensity classes as is. Add in my swimming and biking and the running just wasn’t happening. It was either to force runs in and be sick and tired of running by Saturday’s half, or give the running and rest in hopes that the legs and motivation pep up by race day. I chose to go with listening to my body over following the training plan this week.
Sometimes we have to let the body call the shots. I’m glad I did.
The Race: The Blue Angel Rock N Fly Half Marathon and 5k is in its second year (I also ran the inaugural race last year) but has a long standing history with the city of Pensacola. It was originally a full marathon a couple decades ago until Hurricane Ivan messed with their logistics and finances. They brought it back as a half and 5k in 2014 to the delight of locals. The proceeds all go towards the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society, as well as the Navy Ball. What makes this race even more fun? It’s all on Naval Air Station Pensacola with water stations put on by different groups from different units/squadrons that are stationed there. They are not stingy with the silly costumes and rockin’ décor.
Ease of Location: For a race that has a cap at 3,000 it is unbelievably easy to get on base, park close to the start, use the washroom, and meet up with friends. No charge for parking and plenty of space mean a stress-free morning for this time-management-crazed woman. For military that are coming from out of town, there is a BOQ/Navy Lodge/Gateway Inn on base and within walking distance of the start line.
Quick talking points:
- The road is a pain until mile 7
- 15 music stations means you don’t need headphones if you don’t want them
- High five Elvis
- Portable toilets/honey buckets
- Rock star swag
- Forget about shade
For those of you that want more, let’s get to the good stuff.
Miles 1-3: The 5k and half marathoners all start together, with the 5k runners turning around mile 1.5. Up until that point everyone is running through the military cemetery and rockin’ out to one of the 15 water station/music stops along the way. Expect mostly 80s rock with mostly 80s attire from runners. It’s just a great rockin’ decade, mmk? Right before the 5k/half split, the bacon station. This was unbelievably popular (not for me, duh. They should have offered up tempeh bacon :P ) and a big smack to your nasal canal. I still am in awe of how many people thought, “Sure, I’m running a half so why not eat a piece of bacon at mile 1.” It was a hit of a station for the novelty of it, I think. I wonder how many half-ers ended up with stomach aches come mile 6 …
Miles 4-7: This is where the majority of complaints regarding this race come; and unfortunately it’s not something the race directors can fix. The road. The road has a slant to it through this entire run portion, dipping down on the left. I know people that are vulnerable to blisters on the big toes and balls of the feet struggled with this. Also, not super for the joints. But again, it’s not the race’s fault. It’s just how the pavement is.
The bright side of these miles? Running past the NAS Lighthouse, National Aviation Museum, several planes parked alongside the road, and a GORGEOUS view of the water. If you distract yourself with the phenomenal views of this section, you can accept the slanted road.
You will also find some of the best water stations on this section. Elvis will demand high fives, or the MC will call you out over the loudspeaker, tons of music blaring, and hunky young active duty guys that are volunteering to hand you water while cheering you on. And they cheer. LOUDLY. The energy is incredible during this stretch.
Miles 8-9: The miles you’ll love to hate. You have to pass the start and finish line. YES THIS IS A BIG FAT TEASE. You’re hitting that part where you’re wondering if you’re completely trained for a half marathon, and now you have the tease of running past where you want to end!
The bright side? All the people are there, finishers (mostly 5k at this point) and spectators, with amazing energy and cheering at you. FOR you. They all look you right in the eyes, throw up rocker hands, and tell you how awesome you are. The spectators at this race are awesome. A couple were even holding up beer as if offering it to us! The pavement has evened out at this point, and the jumobotron at the start is showing rocker clips with bangin’ music.
From here on out there are more men manning the water stations to help pass out Gatorade, water, or the Gatorade energy chews. A smart addition this year was the addition of Gatorade/chews to the later stations.
Miles 10-13: Okay. These kind of suck. The road is good pavement, but suddenly there are 3 hills to take on. They aren’t big by any means (we’re in Penascola… They are big for Pensacola ;) ), but to have such a flat course all the way through, and then finally get non-slanted pavement… The hills are a smack to the face. More riled up military guys help keep you moving, and a couple groups were standing in formation (nice touch, guys). Hilarious signs and cut outs ( “Marylyn says you’re beautiful” and “You mutha RnFer” to name a couple), make it slightly more entertaining even with having to do another turn around.
As you hit the final tenth of a mile to the finish, people will demand high fives, finishers are yelling, and you will feel like a true American hero running past the giant American flags. The medal is quickly tossed around your neck by, you guessed it, a young man in a uniform as another clips off your timing chip.
Post-Race Party: Apparently last year they ran out of food quickly. I don’t recall this; but this year they were determined to fix that. Tons of water was passed out, bananas, oranges, sandwiches, pizza, and 3 beers per runner. Yeah. You can’t complain too much about all that. The post-race party included a live band, mullet contest, and lots of seating. Because… I mean.. You just ran 13.1 miles. You might want to sit. The fun music and the waterfront view makes for a relaxing time with friends and beer as you celebrate your accomplishment.
This race is the ONLY road race I have repeated thus far, and with good reason. It’s fantastic. Well-staffed, high energy, beautiful scenery, and well-organized makes this one I would recommend to a first-timers and veteran runner.
Rock on, friends.