I wrote recently about being obsessive. It’s nothing new as you’ll see from this blog post I wrote back in January of 2008!
I always enjoy my monthly fix – pouring over the latest Runner’s World Magazine searching for the next cool-sounding race. The Rock & Roll Half Marathon, The Country Music Half Marathon, and on, and on…
Hmmm… The Half Shell Half Marathon in Key West, Florida… How cool could that be? After all, oysters are my favorite food! So, why not?
Why not!?!? Who drives almost 2000 miles in 3 days and pays good money to run 13.1 miles? That’s not obsessive! That seems more like somewhere between low IQ and no IQ. With that settled, I mailed in my entry fee.
I left the house last Friday and spent the night in Savannah with my daughter, Allie. While there I decided to do one more check for the race-day weather report in Key West. I went to weather dot com just to make sure. Wait a minute – rain? That wasn’t there yesterday! They were forecasting sunny and warm!
I decided to Google the Miami TV stations and see what their weather reports had to offer. I found 3 reports and none of them were promising rain – just suggesting it. Good! I can live with those odds. (Getting the obsessive picture here?) I got up Saturday at 4:30 AM and, after filling the gas tank and grabbing a coffee to-go, was on I-95 South by 5:00 AM.
For two and a half hours it was just me, miles of narrow lanes bordered by orange highway construction markers, uneven and shifting lanes, and dozens of eighteen wheelers. Did I mention the blinding rain?
I was thinking to myself – Lord is this one of those ‘Hutch, you’ve been an obsessive fool – turn around and go back to Atlanta’ moments or is it one of those ‘don’t give up and wimp out now you wuss loser pansy’ moments that have provided men, all across our nation, starring roles in those ‘stupid things caught on video’ TV shows? No video cameras around, so I decided to press on.
By 7:30 AM the sun was peeking through and by 8:00 AM it was beautiful and sunny and the clouds were all behind me. And, it didn’t rain in Key West all weekend either! By 1:00 PM I was in Miami and by 3:30 PM I was rolling into the Sea Shell Motel and Youth Hostel on South Street in Key West and just a few blocks from the southern most point of the United States.
The ride in confirmed what I had been told about parking in Key West. It’s horrible and expensive. As such, I parked my car at the hotel and walked everywhere. After checking into the hotel, I took a 1.5 mile hike to pick up my race packet and race t-shirt. The location for packet pick-up was the Half Shell Raw Bar. They were also the primary sponsor of the race and located right on a beautiful marina. We enjoyed a nice Pasta dinner to ‘carb up’ for the race, and a very interesting slide presentation and discussion by an elite runner who had done a 6 day ultra-marathon in Africa. Quite interesting!
I hiked back to the hotel a different and more direct route. On my way, I discovered a very large cemetery – probably a couple of blocks long. I later discovered, from one of the locals, that the original cemetery had washed out to sea in 1847 during a hurricane. As a result, they moved the cemetery to the center of the island. I found that to be very interesting. I took a last-minute detour to visit the southernmost point and catch a picture of the marker that is located there.
I crashed early and was on the road by 5:30 AM hiking back over the Half Shell Raw Bar, which also served as the starting (and ending) point for the race. At 7:00 AM the gun fired and we were off. I had already made up my mind that I was going to enjoy the view and not focus too much on a real fast time. As it turned out, I didn’t have much of a choice. With no breakfast snacks to supply me with energy and having probably eaten too lightly at the pasta dinner, I was not adequately nourished for 13.1 miles. On top of that, I had no idea how warm and humid it was going to be. I had been training in freezing temperatures and it had been months since I had done any heat training. I was caught totally off guard.
As a result, I simply extended my plan to enjoy the sights of the race and slowed my pace significantly. When all was said and done, I turned in a 2:00:44 time – which is still not that bad for me. I’m happy with anything under two hours and, considering the conditions, I wasn’t going to concern myself with an additional 44 seconds.
After receiving my medal I found the shortest route possible back to the hotel (still over a mile) and showered and was on the road by 10:00 AM. I snapped a lot of pictures on the way back. By 1:15 PM I had hit the mainland, gassed up the car, grabbed some lunch for the road, and was entering the Florida Turnpike. That’s where my trip started to sort of fall apart.
I had been warned to take a lot of $1 bills for the tolls, so I did. Upon entering the first toll booth, I headed away from the ‘change provided’ lanes since I had exact change. What I didn’t realize was that I was heading for the SunPass lanes and I didn’t have a SunPass. I didn’t even know what a SunPass was! But, to avoid getting killed I went on through. I felt as stressed as if I had just robbed a bank and was trying to get away from the police – except I was trying to not get away. I kept thinking a speeding car might catch up with me at any moment. But wait, it gets better…
A short while later, I made a wrong turn. The sign said I-75 and I knew I needed to catch I-75 but it seemed that it was coming up much too soon. With no time to consider my options I took the I-75 exit. It was about 45 miles later that I began to suspect that something was wrong. I pulled out my GPS and discovered I was headed due West for Naples. To continue in my present direction meant I would probably be adding 6 or 7 hours to my trip. I turned around and lost 90 miles and an hour and a half in the process. It still gets better…
Now I needed to get back on the turnpike. I pulled up to a small toll booth and noticed it was only going to cost me a quarter to get back on. That’s good, I thought. The machine took my quarter but didn’t raise the bar. Well, actually, the bar had been broken off, but it didn’t raise the ‘stub’ either. My logic was, “The machine took my quarter – I’m outta here!” I had no idea what was coming but a light flashed and the machine took my picture. I’m sure I wasn’t smiling at the time. But they did get my best side!
The rest of the trip home involved excessive speeds, a couple of gas stops, and a late arrival home at almost 2:00 AM – just in time to catch 4 hours of sleep before starting the work week. By the time it was all over, I had traveled 1,855 miles round-trip which included 912 miles from Atlanta to Savannah and on to Key West via I-95 and Highway 1 and a return trip that involved a more direct route up the turnpike and onto I-75 for a total of 847 miles – if you don’t include the 96 mile detour through the everglades. :+) I used 66.68 gallons of gas at an average price of $2.97 (greatly assisted by the lower Georgia prices and careful planning to minimize Florida gas stops) and averaged 27.82 MPG in my Ford Taurus with speeds consistently in the 70 to 75 MPH range. All those miles and I never did eat any oysters.
Still, I would do it all again!!!