Port Arthur’s Pleasure Island, is a 18.5 mile long man-made body of land, that extends from the mouth of the Neches River on the northwest to the Sabine Causeway on the southeast and is surrounded by Sabine Lake and the Sabine Neches Intracoastal Waterway.
The half marathon and 10K runners take on the challenge of a bridge 5,032 feet in length and 165 feet above the Sabine-Neches Canal, not once but twice as you have to run up and over to the turn around on the other side the back again. Sounds like a load of fun, right?!
Packet pick-up was at the race’s host hotel, Hampton Inn & Suites in Port Arthur the day before from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., which I thought for sure would be a nightmare since I had to pick all the boys from school and take them with me. I laid the rules down before we got out of the car to go inside. My oldest, Xavier stayed close by, while my youngest, Xayden nosed into every little thing; the electrical outlet on the floor caught his attention the entire time we were there while my middle, Xander had a tiny meltdown in the middle of the floor because I wouldn’t let him take off running around everywhere. Everyone at packet pick-up knows my boys and I pretty well and made the packet pick-up as smooth as possible for me as I made my way around the room to each table to get my bib, shirt, timing chip, safety pins and anything else that I needed. We were in and out in less then ten minutes. It was the smoothest packet pick-up I’ve ever done with having the boys with me.
The race location is about 20 minutes from home and the start of the race was set at 8 a.m. so I left home around 6:30 a.m. to make sure I had enough time to get there since there’s only one way in and out of the island and traffic may be backed up. I arrived a little before 7 a.m. and it was still dark out and hard to see. As I made my way to the parking lot, I was greeted by Amie James waving me to park in a certain area and as I drove through the field to park there were swarms of mosquitoes everywhere. Not really minding the skeeters, I parked my car and rubbed myself down with some Ultrathon to keep those pesky things away from me. It wasn’t til I got out of my car that I realized just how big those things were. As Amie James would say, “Jesusmothermaryofchrist” those skeeters were the size of a wasp!!! I wasn’t worried though because I knew my Ultrathon would do it’s job and it’s never failed me!
I made my way through swarms of mosquitoes to find my peeps who had already arrived. It was humid and the rain was moving in from Beaumont and I was hoping the rain would hold off at least until after the race.
Everyone started arriving and we had several group pictures to take before the race had started. I’m part of a few running groups and most of us from each group were running this race so I had my GTStrutters, CMC, and my 100 Miles in a Month group to take pictures with while we were all together in one place. I also had a 10K Team that I was a part of for this race but it was impossible trying to get us three together in one picture because when two were there one was missing lol. Jeremy Fermo, Javier Ojeda and I were a team, Team Smashing Asphalt!
We lined up at the start/finish line about ten minutes prior after race announcements were made and I started somewhere near the middle with friends then the countdown began…5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and we were off. I started out at a faster pace then I had intended to but I was ok with it because I was able to get out of the crowd and find my set pace quickly.
The first mile and a half is straight and flat to the bridge which turns into a slight incline. It had started raining right before I reached the incline to cross up and over which made it seem more humid then it already was. That “little” incline seemed so steep! Ike Adams and a few others that had run this race in years passed had told me that it was best to run close to the white line because it was the flattest part of the road and the bridge. As I made my way to the top of the bridge, Willie Fermo had passed me shouting out some words of encouragement. I had started out too fast and was kinda paying the price for it going up that incline lol.
The bridge portion of the race was approximately three miles of the race which is one and half miles over to the turnaround and another one and half miles back to the finish. It was like a monsoon with all the rain that was coming down on us. I ran the bridge’s ledge on the way up and as Adam Cryer passed me he shouted, “don’t do it April!” It is kinda scary running a ledge that is 165 feet from the pavement below you. Once I saw the lead runners heading back over, I made my way to the middle of the bridge until I got to the turnaround at the bottom. I made it to the turnaround, got my little cup of water on the run and down the hatch it went. Did I mention it was pouring cats and dogs?!?! I decided to change strategy and run the bridge’s ledge the next mile and half back over. I didn’t have to weave in and out of the crowd this way and it was the flattest part of the bridge. I was trucking along at a great pace on that ledge but once I got close to the end I stepped off a little too early trying to avoid a tree limb and hit my wrist on the rail…ouch!
The last mile and a half were just as wet as the first four and a half miles but it was fun and the rain felt great! In my last mile I passed “The Queen” and Billie who were running the marathon. They were looking strong and happy just laughing and strategy planning for the next half of their race while I was just about to finish mine up. As I made my way to the 1oK cutoff, I saw the finish line and bolted. Running at a great pace and all out, I hear Richard on the PA horn speaker shouting, “great pace April, keep it up; only a quarter mile to go!” Whaaaaaa!!! You’re kidding, right? I thought I was going to die when I passed him! Little did I know that I’d have to pass the finish line on my left, go up a little hill just pass where Amie was standing and back around to the finish line from the back side. I almost blew chunks three different times. I made the hill with a struggle and straight to the finish speeding past someone in my AG.
Once I crossed the finish line, I wanted nothing more then to just walk off the nauseated feeling I had so I walked out to the end of the road and back to the GTS tent where everyone was waiting attempting to stay dry.
All the Strutters who had ran either the 2 miler or 10K stood around eating pizza and drinking beer while we waited for awards to be announced. Beer never tasted so good! Awards were in five year age groups, mine being 30-34. Richard announced Overall winners first then 1st, 2nd and 3rd. We also had team awards as well. Several Strutters placed in their AG and I was so excited when my name was announced that I had placed 2nd in my AG with an official finish time of 58:21. Remember that hill struggle I mentioned earlier? Well it cost me first place by…wait for it…wait for it…12 SECONDS!!! Ever wanted to just kick yourself because you know you should have just continued running your hardest despite the pain?!
My team, Team Smashing Asphalt also placed 2nd for teams! We were all awarded our finisher’s medal, AG medal and Team medal.
I had a blast running this race even with the crazy hurricane rain that we had and those ginormous mosquitoes never bothered me once! I look forward to running this race again next year and beating my time!
Will you be running Pleasure Island in 2016?