I decided some time around mid-July that I wanted to run a 10K and set my sights on one that was about 45 minutes away, the Turtle Trot, which benefits the Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch. Apparently, artificial lighting sources (from cars, along the beach, etc) interfere with the nesting patterns and the hatchlings’ natural instincts, because their instinct is to crawl toward the light, which in natural conditions is the open horizon. If they don’t make it to the ocean fast enough after hatching, they die of dehydration.

(I am kind of ashamed to admit that I retained more from the sea turtle literature than about any human condition, disease or cause that has benefitted from my other races.)

Anyways, after my 5K fail back in June I wasn’t sure I was ever going to race again because it was just too disappointing. But in mid-July I started tackling long runs with a new running buddy and decided to press onward. My goal since I started running has been a half marathon, and the 10K was the next step.

If I had to grade myself on my training, I’d give it a C+. My long runs went really well, but I am too often guilty of blowing off weekday runs or cutting them short, whether out of time constraints or boredom. I’ve also been strength training and really believe that that is why this race did not feel too hard on my body. Cardio builds up the heart and lungs, but you have to prepare the bones and muscles, too!

I get really nervous and self conscious before races, which is really out of character. I get kind of clingy and don’t want to go to the starting line by myself. Still, I agreed to let fiance take a pre-race shot.

I was nervous about doing well, but I wasn’t nervous about completing the race. I had spent all week mentally preparing, which for me can make or break a race. I had run a blissful 5.5 miles with my running buddy the weekend before and knew I could I do it.

We lined up, and fiance watched one of the race organizers attempt to set off a mini-cannon, but it just sort of fell over, so a man with a bullhorn just said “Go!”

It has taken me almost a year to figure out that it takes me a good 1 to 2 miles to settle into a run, but  now that I know that, I can hang tight for those first two miles until I hit my stride. I tuned out everyone around me and eagerly awaited the 5K turn-around so that most of my fellow runners would head back to the finish. The huffing and puffing and music (seriously, how are you going to hear anything with headphones that loud?) were distracting.

Right before the 3-mile marker was a bridge with an incline much greater than I expected. In the past I have let the slightest incline freak me out, but I just thought, “I’m from the mountains! I got this!” and tackled the bridge. The sun was shining on the water and there were a bunch of boats in the marina.

I knew going in that miles 3 to 4 and 4 to 5 would be challenging. The last three miles were in a beautiful state park, and while it was nice and shaded and pretty, eventually it seemed like I wasn’t making any progress because it all looked the same. I was beginning to think they didn’t mark the fourth mile and that soon I’d come up on the 5, and then I hit the four. That was mentally defeating.

My goal for this race was to finish around 1:10 and not walk any of it, but I did end up walking some between miles 3 and 4, and 4 and 5 and a little tiny bit between 5 and 6. I was disappointed but I think that I blazed through those first three miles (I didn’t wear a watch because I didn’t want to obsess over my pace or time, but now I wish I had) and between that, the heat and the bridge, I had to walk a little.

However, I finished strong, around 1:15, which is a 12:06/mile pace. (Even though we paid to rent chips, there were no pads at the starting line, so I’d like to pretend my “real” time was 30 seconds faster than my clock time.) I was disappointed by my time until I remembered my high school gym class days and running the mile and how much I hated it . It took me 18 or 19 minutes to “run” a mile then, and I was in awe of people who could run ONE 12-minute mile!

There was a finish line photographer there, and the race organizers uploaded all of the shots to the web. If you wanted the high resolution photo of yourself, all you had to do was e-mail the race director and he sent it, 100 percent free. This race had a really friendly atmosphere, but for me, that little touch really put it over the top.

(Side note: I’m not wearing a backpack; that is my CamelBak, which holds water. Mine was the only one I saw on the course, which amazed me — how do you run six miles in the Florida heat without a CamelBak? I am not nearly coordinated enough to run through aid stations, and my legs would tighten if I stopped to walk through them.)

As soon as I crossed the finish line, a volunteer stopped me in my tracks to get my chip back. I grabbed a bottle of water and just walked around the grounds with fiance. I’ve noticed that as soon as I stop running, the flood gates open and sweat just pours out. Lovely, eh? Eventually I cooled out and we drove to breakfast.

Barbara Jean’s is a cute little Southern restaurant fiance found online. I asked for a giant glass of water as soon as we sat down.

My giant water and fiance’s regular water. I was famished when we ordered and so excited to try the barbecue beef brisket breakfast, which came with home fries and three eggs any way you wanted them. I asked for egg whites.

There was also sweet jalapeno corn bread, which is as heavenly as it sounds.

I immediately devoured the meat and veggies and then started to feel weirdly full. I mean, I get it, it’s protein and it’s filling, but I was so hungry and then … I wasn’t. Fiance finished my potatoes and egg whites, but full or not, I finished that cornbread. It was amazing.

Pretty much the only issue I had post race is that my legs did not want to bend into a sitting position. We drove to the beach to walk around and wade in the surf.

Ocean water speeds recovery time, right?