During a recent visit with my sister and brother-in-law in Florida, my husband Bill and I thought it would be fun to incorporate a race into our trip.
A quick internet search turned up the Pump House Run, a trail race, in Apopka. Initially, I thought about signing up for the 5K, but Bill had other ideas. He suggested we do the eight-mile race, so that’s what we did.
Because the race began at 7:30 a.m., we set out in the dark for Magnolia Park in Apopka. Flashlight-waving volunteers directed us into the parking lot where we parked, then walked to the starting line. We picked up our bibs and T-shirts at the registration table. The T-shirts, nice gray cotton, were printed with the race logo.
We were instructed to line up 10 minutes before the race start. The Star Spangled Banner was played, an enthusiastic volunteer led us in some pre-race warm-up exercises (optional) and the eight-milers were off, just after sunrise. The 5K race began 10 minutes later.
I had no idea what to expect from a trail race in Florida but I saw from an online map the trail followed the lake for four miles, to an abandoned pump house (hence the race name), where runners would turn around and run back to the starting location. Both races (the eight-mile and 5K) followed the same path; the shorter race turned around sooner.
At the beginning of the race, we ran on a paved bike path which sloped slightly downhill. While I enjoyed the downhill start, I knew that meant an uphill finish. We ran on the paved path for about a half mile, then transitioned onto a flat, unpaved trail.
The surface of the trail was packed dirt, but it actually had the consistency of rough concrete. It was very easy to run on.
Before the race, I hoped to be able to finish the race in 1:15. I never look at my watch during a race, preferring to run by feel, but considering the surface we were running on, I thought my goal could be within reach. I settled into a pace I considered “comfortably hard“.
The lakeshore path’s scenery was pretty and I entertained myself watching Florida’s exotic flora and fauna. At one point there was an anhinga, a kingfisher, and a great blue heron all in one field of view. Even weeds growing among the grasses by the lake are pretty in Florida.
As we ran out the trail, the lake was on our left and woods or swamps on our right. At one point, I thought I heard voices to my left (in the lake).
“That’s not possible,” I thought.
Then someone definitely to my left shouted some words of encouragement. I have a healthy startle response and jumped a foot into the air. Then I spotted some camouflage-clad duck hunters sitting in a blind in the lake.
I laughed, acknowledged their encouragement, and continued running, while they blew their duck calls after me.
On the way out, I passed the aid stations serving water and Gatorade at miles 1.5 and 3 without stopping. When I reached the aid station at the halfway turnaround point, I did slow to a walk and take a gulp of water.
I was still feeling good and now headed for the finish line.
On the way back, I began passing a few people, including one woman who I thought might have been in my age group.
It was not too warm, but I definitely began feeling the effects of the Florida sun as it climbed higher and higher. At the 6.5 mile aid station, I again slowed to a walk and grabbed a cup of water.
I was able to maintain my pace until I reached the paved path and hit the incline, which I knew signaled the finish line was just around the corner. I took one more brief walk break going up the hill, then saw mile marker number three for the 5K.
A man was coming up on my left, attempting to pass me, but I hate being passed in the final yards of a race, so I picked up the pace at the very end, crossing the line in 1:11, way under my goal pace.
I accepted my medal and a bottle of water from a volunteer and walked around the finish area to cool down.
Bill and I strolled over to check out the food offerings where I selected a cup of grapes to munch on, a nice post-race treat. There were other fruits, salty snacks like popcorn, chips, and pretzels, and hot dogs cooking on the grill.
I restrained myself from eating too much since we were meeting my sister and brother-in-law for breakfast after the race.
We checked the posted results to discover both Bill and I both won our respective age groups. The award was a pretty ceramic trivet decorated with a picture of the pump house. There was no award ceremony, which I think is efficient; you could pick up your award from one of the volunteers at the award table.
If we are in the area at the time this race is run next year, I would definitely do it. There was a lot to like about this race including easy parking, helpful and enthusiastic volunteers, a pretty racecourse, plenty of aid stations, good post-race food, and nice T-shirts, medals, and awards.
There is a companion race at the end of February, a 30K that circles the entire lake. Maybe someday I will get the chance to run that one.
You can find the places I link up here.