Hoofing it in Horse Country

Julie finishing

Julie finishing the Ocala marathon. It was hot, hilly, and hard.

Marathon Madness has come to an end, and marathon #5 in Ocala, FL certainly closed it out with many more memorable experiences. It was one of the hardest races of the 5, not only because of the course, but because it was the last one. This past week, I made sure to concentrate on recovering and staying healthy for the race, but I didn’t have the same excitement for the race that I’d had the last two weekends. I just wanted to get it over with, which if you’ve ever run a marathon or any distance for that matter, you know that wishing time away is never going to happen. It will also hurt all the more once you just want to get it over with.

Jeff shared in my lack of enthusiasm for the marathon; all he wanted to do this past week was return home to Madison, WI, where he has his own bed, his own routine, and his own friends. Unfortunately for him, he still had to live with us for a week, run a marathon, and take a flight back to Wisconsin before having all his wishes granted. Yet, he still made the most of the week with us in Gulf Shores, and we all toed the starting line yesterday, hoping for a relatively comfortable marathon with a respectable time.

Regarding the course, each and every person that we asked about it said the course was really rolling hills. Yet, as we drove around Ocala, we said to ourselves, “Where are the hills?” We also knew how hilly the Jackson, Mississippi course was, and hoped it was nothing compared to that. Well, somehow the hills did in fact show up for race day, and the course was pretty comparable to Mississippi, with several short steep hills, and a few long, gradual ones. You know it’s a hilly course when you hit the crest of the hill and can already see the next hill in front of you; that was quite a bit of the course in Ocala. Despite the hills, the scenery was beautiful with open fields, horses coming up to the fences along the road, and back roads close in proximity but seemingly far from the city streets of Ocala. And who can forget those awesome awards? (See the pictures and videos and if you haven’t seen the awards already)

I went against my old ways and actually ran with Jeff for about the first 21 miles of the race, mainly because the ~8:35 pace we were going felt comfortable, and I didn’t want to be completely alone for the second lap of the race. My theory proved correct when we turned off from the half-marathoners to complete a second lap, and we could only see one person ahead of us for about a half-mile. We worked together from 16-21, focusing on passing as many people as possible. Then at mile 21, shortly after Jeff told me to go ahead if I was feeling good, Jeff picked up the pace on an uphill, and I watched him pull away for the next 5 miles. I had dropped it down to sub 8’s from 21-25 after a few 8:10’s before that, and Jeff was still pulling away. I knew there was no way I was going to catch him, so I just focused on catching every person he had caught. The last mile was torture, as it included a gradual hill and a steep one, along with a few turns to finally end at the mall parking lot, and I slowed to 8:35, just being happy to come in. I passed everyone that Jeff passed, minus one, and finished 75 seconds behind him.

I wouldn’t say we had an overly comfortable marathon, but our times were at least under four hours, which has been my goal for each of these marathons we’ve run. Both Jeff and I have run well under 4 hours for the marathon in the past, but that 4 hour mark became a little unsure once we were running on fatigued legs week after week, and because we haven’t done any speed work to warrant a faster time. That being said, we both ran great races yesterday. Surprisingly, it was my fastest of the 5, which explains why I felt so awful by the end, though the near 80 degree temps might have had an influence in that as well.

Thank you to all of you who have been following these marathons. They have been fun to run and fun to share the results and stories with all of you. The focus now shifts to the 100 mile trail race in two weeks in Huntsville, TX. All I have to say about the race right now is, thank goodness it’s not next weekend!

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