In March, I had my Best Damn Race debut in Orlando with my beautiful sister, Susie, and one of my Best Damn Girls, Meghan. When searching for a semi-local race for the mild Floridian winter, I was jazzed to sign up for the Inaugural BDR Cape Coral Half with my two favorite Best Damn Ambassadors, Meghan and Andrea. These chicks have really helped me navigate my rough patches with running, so having a quick overnight away was precisely what I needed to take the edge off holiday flying.
I ran my first Best Damn Race in March with my sister through the green streets of Orlando. It was Meghan who introduced me to BDR, so I was excited when the opportunity to run the inaugural race in Cape Coral cropped up. Andrea also chose to carpool and room together, so I got doubly spoiled by the opportunity to travel to BDR CC with no one, but two Best Damn Ambassadors!
We checked into the Westin Cape Coral at Marina Village. What I absolutely adore about the Westin is their consistency. Even on our three hour girls’ road trip down I-75, all I could dream about was the prospect of actually getting a solid night’s sleep in a Heavenly bed and a fantastic post-race victory shower in with the Heavenly Shower system. My excitement was full-throttle, so I prayed that I would be able to get a solid night’s sleep!
After dropping our stuff off at the room, we flew by the expo to pick up our race packets. Even with a mid-morning departure, I could feel the road trip having taken it’s toll on us. We needed to refuel and head to bed at a decent hour as we’d be getting up at zero dark thirty, and completely missing that sunrise on our awesome balcony.
As we pulled into the parking lot, I spotted a sign for The Nauti Mermaid Dockside Bar & Grill. As I am a HUGE sucker for a great pun and witty naming, I announced that I would not be leaving Cape Coral without at least having a drink at The Nauti Mermaid. Our friend over at Dreamy Mermaid, Mia, is an active mermaiding enthusiast, so we had to add another stop on her evolving check list! She’s one of our favorite Yelp* girls, so she deserved a VIP check-in!
Although it was Saturday, the Nauti Mermaid had happy hour! We saddled up to the bar which overlooked the marina. When our server mentioned an in-house brew, there was no question which beer this mermaid would be enjoying! The Nauti Mermaid Ale is light and refreshing, making it a perfect southwest Florida beer. It trumps settling for a Yeungling or a Bud Light, and truly makes visiting Cape Coral akin to a home away from home. I was tickled to learn that they not only brew NMA on property, but they flew in their corporate brewmaster to whip up a unique beer just for their location. Make the Nauti Mermaid a stop, especially when it’s hotter then the sun during the summer. Even with a slight chill in the air, there was an audible “ahhhh” from yours truly.
After we finished our drinks, we strolled along the shops lining the marina. Though Cape Coral tends to cater to an older, traveling crowd, we managed to have a little bit of fun as we browsed different shops. We dropped by Eva by the Sea purely because it had a mermaid theme, but I wound up purchasing a new retro-inspired eyeglass case to replace my poor, dilapidated one. The shop was cute, but it appeared that we missed their happy hour, which involved wine and cheese! Andrea made friends with a teeny Yorkie.
Like a proper Yelp*Elite and Runcation guru, Meghan chased up a great place for us to have dinner. Even with my seafood allergies, she found a great place called Pinchers’ Crab Shack. Before we even left for Cape Coral, she sent me the menu and I was stoked. In my youth growing up in south Florida I tackled a little bit of deep sea fishing, so I do love to eat with the fishes. I know, it’s very un-Finding Nemo of me (“Fish are friends, not food”). I picked the tuna avocado stack with tortilla chips and a nice rocky margarita for my pre-race fuel up. I shied away from my usual blackened mani sandwich or the tried-and-true fish & chips because I wanted to see if a healthier option would improve my results the following morning.
Like the old lady I am, I unceremoniously threw myself into bed at 8:30PM. Like waiting for Santa Claus, the excitement of Race Day Eve ran through my head. In my head, I wanted a race worthy of Morgan Freeman or Samuel L. Jackson narration, but my body dialed up the reality check with some winter congestion and cramps. Having just flown six days straight, I went to bed knowing full well that I would not be at 100% when I woke up. I slammed some water, slipped on my eye mask, and hunkered down. With three girls and only one bathroom, I volunteered to set my alarm 15 minutes early, so as to help alleviate the jockeying in the morning.
It was a balmy 40-something degrees when we left the hotel and made our way to the staging area. Unsure as to how quickly the parking adjacent to the race finish would fill, we left early and stayed in the car as long as possible before heading to the starting area. Knowing that I would not be settling any personal records, I was not concerned that I had completely failed to pack any shorter layers should the weather warm up above 60F. Typically, I don’t wear regular cotton shirts when running, but this time around, I wanted as much heat to remain trapped as possible, so I could avoid discarding a perfectly nice (and pricy) zip up jacket.
Meghan and I bid Andrea adieu as she lined up with the speedy folk. We intended simply on completing the race, so we started out with our usual pace (12:30), but prepared to drop back should our bodies not cooperate. Having a running partner with realistic goals and similar pacing, makes race day less stressful. While I had originally intended BDR to surpass my Avengers’ Half time, my body had completely different plans in mind. I would not be clanging that Personal Record Bell, but I was utterly fine with it.
The race course was strategically mapped along the suburban side-streets of Cape Coral which greatly limited runners’ exposure to potential traffic and impatient, Sunday drivers. For a road race that wasn’t completely self contained in a park or on theme park property, I am certain the BDR CC was the safest road race I have ever run. My half marathon turned into a neighborhood holiday run, where we got to enjoy the fantastic decorations by the locals. There were not many spectators along the course, but those who set up along the race route stuck it out, and managed to place themselves where we needed motivation the most.
There were some fun surprises along the way like one house having two toilets sat in front of their mail box. To my knowledge, no one used them in lieu of the port-o-lets, but it was fun seeing runners pose with them! The availability of useable restrooms and race fuel was great. We saw Andrea as we passed the hotel! Seeing friends killing a run always inspires me to try harder. However, my right ankle and knee weren’t having any of it. Looping through the park at mile six, two of the Cutest Damn Race Volunteers were handing out hydration and gel packs. Time be damned, I stopped to carefully take their offerings so as not to run them over!
This was cute, until I tried standing up afterward!
For those running the full marathon, the second half of the race, looped over the half marathon house. It was inspiring as we saw the lead men and women make their way around the second loop. Even when the top male and female finishers lapped us, I was still proud for them. The only beef I had was with a male marathon runner at mile 12. With the road wide open and no one around us, and seeing that Meghan and I were struggling to run, he screamed “UP THE MIDDLE,” forcing me to quickly step off the road and into the grass. In a large group of people, one typically says, “on your left” or “excuse me” prior to passing. Rudely following up with “I can’t get around you” as one runs by is unsportsmanlike behavior, especially when the road is wide open and only people around have moved out of the way to accommodate you. As the top three male finishers had breezed by well before he hustled up, I found this behavior appalling for a grown man. I have no qualms about calling this guy out because folks like that ruin running for the rest of us. Your PR doesn’t give you carte blanche to be rude to other runners. Don’t be that guy.
Turning the corner and seeing the Finish Line ahead, Meghan and I mustered up our strength and booked it to the finish line. When I run with a friend, I do my best not abandon them at the finish, especially when they stuck with me the entire time. Andrea surprised us, by snapping some photos as we crossed the finish line and handed me my medal! Hugging a complete stranger volunteering is one thing, but it’s really special when a friend who you love and respect as a runner is the one waiting for you in the chute. These two girls have helped me find my way back to running, and I sincerely hope that I will get back to where I used to be soon! This race was a great way to close out the year, and I a thankful I could share it with them.
- 6.5 Miles: 01:28:51 (13:41 min/mi)
- Finish: 03:21:25 (15:23 min/mi)
Race Location: Cape Coral, Florida
Race Date: Sunday, December 14, 2014