I participated in the Pump House Run in Lake Apopka, Florida this year. This was the second running of this race. The event also includes the signature 8-mile race that takes runners to the pump house and back from the start/finish at Magnolia Park.
I ran the Pump House 5K in 2020 and it immediately became one of my favorite races of all time. It might not have happened in 2021 due to the pandemic, and I think construction at Magnolia Park may have prevented the race from happening in 2022. I was very glad to see it return. I signed up for the 8-miler but about 3 weeks before the race, I decided to drop back to the 5K again as I'm still not where I want to be in my fitness. I was very happy that the RD obliged my request with no issues.
Training & Goals
My knees continue to be a big problem, but so far this year I've been getting out on easy runs pretty consistently 3 times a week and it's going okay. Just okay. My current interval of choice is 60/45 and I planned to start with a short walking warmup and then try to keep up my intervals for the entire run. I hoped to finish under 45 minutes.
Race Day: February 18, 2023
I left home around 6:30AM to get to Magnolia Park in time to get my packet before the 7:40AM start time for the 5K. There was plenty of parking, though the later one arrived, the further away one had to park in the extremely long parking lot across the street from the start/finish area.
The 8-milers went off at 7:30AM and then, 10 minutes later, it was time for the 5K runners to start. It was an extremely pleasant 54°F at the start with bright sunny skies, about 64% humidity, and a bit of a breeze. It was very similar to the conditions for the 2020 race -- really nice running weather.
Mile 1: 13:53
The first ~1/3 mile was on the multi-use paved trail along S. Binion Road, taking us from Magnolia Park to Lake Apopka wildlife area. Once we turned into the natural area, the run was on hard packed gravel trail, and we were suddenly surrounded by the wetlands and bird sounds of the Lake Apopka wildlife area. About 1/3 mile later we turned again, now running alongside Lake Apopka to the southwest.
I kept comparing my pace to the 2020 event, and I was thinking about how much slower I was moving now than the previous race. I was getting in my head and feeling kind of down.
Mile 2: 13:10
The trail continued to run along the Lake Apopka shore. This was an out-and-back so we had the same beautiful scenery after the turnaround, though now we were running into the sun.
I was looking down a lot, and kept trying to remember to look up and enjoy the beautiful course. As long as I looked to the side, the peaceful landscape was a good distraction. That sun was brutal, though!
I had started almost dead last (a runner with a stroller came into the narrow chute behind me and it wasn't possible to let her pass without being awkward) so after the turnaround I saw all of the people I had passed. It wasn't a huge amount, but it was still a little pick-me-up to think about.
This was a cupless race, so the water stop at the turnaround had several jugs of water available. I brought my own handheld and didn't need to refill. The volunteer or staff members manning the water stop were really encouraging, which was appreciated.
Mile 3+: 13:32, 1:30
I was feeling pretty good in this mile. It seems to take me longer to warm up these days; it wasn't really something I paid any attention to when I first started running, or the first few years. I'm starting to understand the idea that the first mile (or so) is a liar. In the last quarter mile or so the first 8-milers passed me, and it was cool to see those fast runners heading back to the finish line.
After the Race
Runner refreshments included hot dogs, water, energy drinks, granola bars, bananas, chips, and cookies. Just like last time, I thought it was a very good spread for the relatively small field of runners (104 5K finishers and 117 8-milers; in 2020 there were 69 in the 5K and 133 in the 8-miler).
While I was having some post-race cookies, I checked the race results and was amused and delighted to see that I came in 3rd place for my age group. The awards weren't given out until around 9AM so I had to wait before heading over to the wildlife drive for some post-race birding. I know I came in 3rd place because my AG wasn't competitive for this run, but it was still a nice pick-me-up to get to stand on the podium for a moment. I've earned a couple of awards at small races but I think this was the first time I ever actually stood on a podium like this.
After I received my plaque, I headed back to the car, changed my clothes in a park restroom, and drove over to Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive to do some birding. I took a photo of my award with the pump house in the background.
This was a well-organized event from local race company Sommer Sports. It was another small field of runners (just a bit more than last time) but we were well taken care of. Pre-race information is clear and complete, there is ample easy parking, good swag, and the route is gorgeous. I hope to run all the way to the Pump House some day. Highly recommended.
Chip time: 41:58 (about 3 and a half minutes slower than 2020)
Placement details: 3/6 in Age Group, 62nd overall out of 104 finishers
Race Amenities: Cotton unisex t-shirts and finisher medals for everyone, free race photos, very nice spread of treats
Cost: $47.93 (downgraded from initially signing up for 8-miler)
Branded photos & finish line video (c) Sommer Sports