My first race of the new year! January 17th I ran the Key West Half, which loops around through downtown Key West, past the Southernmost Point, up along the coast, and then sends you all the way back. Out and back courses aren’t anyone’s favorite, but given the layout of the island, it makes sense why they do it the way they do. This year the race started an hour later than normal because we were caught up in a tornado warning. Because why not. There was wind. There was rain. The restaurant I was eating breakfast at lost power. The race course was full of Portuguese man ‘o war.
Despite all this I managed to set a PR of 3:30:54 (pathetic, I know. I’m very slow) so I can’t complain *too* much. The medals are fun because they’re conch-shaped wine bottle stoppers, and every person I interacted with was happy and enthusiastic no matter if they were volunteers or participants. It was a fun race, and I got to eat some oysters after I finished, so all in all it was worth doing once. I’d definitely do it again if my friends wanted to go. Being by myself kinda sucked. Marathonfoto was also supposed to be on the course but hell if I saw them anywhere but the Southernmost point and the finish line.
I would NOT do AirBnb again for a race. It was a little too weird being in someone else’s house, and for what I paid, I should’ve just stayed in a hotel. The lady was nice, I just prefer the anonymous nature of hotels, and I don’t like waking up anyone else when I get up at 4am.
The rest of my weekend was spent in Key Largo doing a bit of scuba diving and a lot of laying around in the hot tub. Shout out to Dove Creek Lodge for upgrading my room Sunday and Monday nights and being generally pretty awesome all around. They had a picture of Donald Trump in the lobby and weren’t being ironic, which is literally the only bad thing I can say about them. Even the lobby coffee was decent! Nice views, clean rooms, excellent pool and hot tub, and friendly lobby staff. What more do you want?
I went diving with Rainbow Reef Dive Center out of Key Largo, and I have to say they were great. Brent, my dive guide, argued with me on how much weight I needed, but it was all friendly and I’d totally use them again if I went back. I was the only woman traveling alone on a boat of…20-30 people? It was odd. Several guys were by themselves, but I was the lone lone female. No matter. The boat was clean and in good repair. They had plenty of water bottles, and the rental gear was in good shape. Cheers to you, Rainbow Reef.
As for food in Key Largo…Harriette’s for breakfast is delicious and very reasonably priced (just bring cash) and Hobos Cafe is 100% amazing. Get the Mahi Quesadilla. Trust me. The food in Key West was…eh. Dante’s doesn’t get a link because their staff basically ignored me the entire time, though the food was actually pretty good. The Half Shell Raw Bar was OK. Seafood pasta needed way more seafood though, and again the staff kinda ignored me. I had breakfast at Harpoon Harry’s on race morning, and they were good, but the staff didn’t handle the insane crowd from the half marathon very well. I feel like they weren’t prepared for it, but this isn’t the first year the race has been run, and the starting line was just a block away, so I’d think they would have been used to the whole dog and pony show by this point. The power going out didn’t help, but they were floundering before that.
All in all, great weekend. I love the Florida Keys, and driving down from Miami (despite the terrible drivers) is worth doing just for the hell of it. The views are stunning, the people are usually pretty friendly, and there’s a charm to the Keys that you just don’t get in the rest of Florida. I agree with Runner’s World that the Key West Half is very much at the top of the list for destination races, and I would do it again if someone else were going with me.
Next up: Rock and Roll New Orleans 10k and the Inaugural DARK SIDE HALF MARATHON WHEEEEEEEEEE!
*I was not given any compensation by any of these companies. Dove Creek Lodge upgraded me to a suite from the standard room I paid for because “the manager was in a good mood” and they did not ask me to write a review for them. I would have said nice things about them without the upgrade, since even their “standard” room is really nice. Rainbow Reef asked politely for good reviews on Yelp, but I paid full price for my dives and rentals. The restaurants likewise did not comp me anything.*