It’s hard to drive anywhere in Polk County, Florida without seeing orange groves. It was only right that the major running event in Haines City be named after the state flower that adorns a growth stage of orange trees.
The Advent Health Orange Blossom races consisted of half marathon, 10K and 5K distances. The 10K was my sweet spot to stay on track with Derby Mini Marathon training. 10Ks and 5Ks will be my preference as the need to run longer distances has become less enjoyable mentally and wearing on me physically.
Before I get into to this race recap, I need to give a shout out to the photographers with Sommer Sports. One thing I will never grow tired of is being in front of a camera! The photos were so easy to download and they even included finisher videos.
It was cool for Floridians with temps in the low 70s by the time the sun rose and cleared the fog. Low humidity and a light breeze was a bonus in what I consider to be warm for running. There was very little shade except for the Haines City Trail portion of the race on the last two miles.
The 10K runners started 20 minutes after the half marathon. The DJ/announcer kept everyone hyped and gave a countdown. Everyone was timid about lining up to the timing mats. I did a brief review of the course map, but not enough to lead the pack. Nevertheless, the teacher in me took on that leadership role.
Lake Eva Community park was the race headquarters. I passed on the porta potties and utilized the park restrooms which were sparkly clean. The park is named for the lake that surrounds it. There are tennis courts, an outdoor pool, a playground and basketball courts.
We ran east from the park where the rolling hills began. I read some reviews of the Orange Blossom Half that mentioned hills, but I didn’t think it was like that! Running over an overpass is considered a hill in Florida. Actually, that is a stereotype because the more I navigate there are definitely areas like Clermont with plenty of hills.
Most of my training has been on a track. The sun was in our faces and I figured the course was designed to get the hardest part out the way first.
We went through a residential neighborhood with one or two early birds cheering for us. Boone Middle School was on the left. I couldn’t help but notice how new the school was and how nice the gymnasium looked. It sits across the street from a cemetery. I wondered how the middle school kids might feel about that. Next, was the Haines City High School on the right. Again, another newer construction. Must be nice!
I was feeling strong, but that sun was getting to me when we ran a down and back section of soon to be developed land. I was passed on the hills by a lady and was wondering how far the next woman was behind me. I saw the lead woman facing me at the turn around. I wondered if I could gain some ground on her. She was rolling.
When I made the loop there were two women who would be my competition. My goal was to place in my age group of 45-49. To be overall 2nd was a dream. If these two women passed me, I would be knocked down to 4th. I didn’t like that scenario.
The course went past the schools again. I heard a “Moooooooo.” Yup, there was a whole cow just hanging out. For the last three miles I imagined the typical 3-4 miles I run on my break at work. I was parched. The water stops were at miles 2 and 4. Mile 4 was sort of a double stop because we passed it twice on the Haines City Trail. I took Gatorade at all stops to stay hydrated.
At the turn around on the trail, this gentleman yelled how he was trying to catch me. I laughed it off. It was the last half mile and I heard feet and breathing. I said to myself, “okay let’s get it then!” The same man who called me out was passing me! It was such a thrill and positive way to finish the race.
First place female thanked me for motivating her. It’s just a certain energy to have during these races. I can never take it too seriously especially considering all this was shut down, socially distanced or even virtual a year ago. It’s important to really be in the moment and be kind to each other.
Time: 51:51.7 / 8:15 pace
Overall Place: 13th of 72
Female Overall: 2nd place
All of the race medals were the same. The only difference was the color of the ribbon. I was given a large mason jar and a beautiful tile plaque for my performance. There were plenty of post race snacks including Orange Blossom Honey Pilsner. The race bag had a crisp white tee with the race logo and a few samples of tea and a shaving oil.
Signing off for now. Hopefully, it won’t be another year before I post again. 🙃