Half Shell Hustle 5K, Apalachicola, Florida

Frozen. Absolutely, downright FROZEN. At least that’s how it felt the second we stepped out of the car on race day.

Usually in Apalachicola, Florida during this time of the year, the weather is slightly cooler, nestled comfortably somewhere in the mid-70’s. Not this year. Instead, this year we were battling a freak artic blast that had come barreling through the southeast. The temp had reached an incredible low of 32 degrees and with the wind blowing like crazy, it felt like 27.

When I originally signed us up for this race, I expected we would spend the morning running at this annual event and then enjoy the oyster festival that ensued directly afterwards, perhaps even catching a few hours on the water. However, the second we stepped out of the car, I knew a leisurely day at the beach was definitely not going to happen.

We arrived in Apalachicola with plenty of time to get our race packets (which consisted of an awesome long-sleeved athletic-tek tee) and headed inside for a little pre-race cup of coffee. This run kicks off the Saturday morning of the annual Apalachicola Oyster Festival. There were already daring vendors setting up their culinary delights, trying to brave the cold weather with coffee, hot chocolate and miniature heaters.

After huddling for as long as we could inside one of the buildings trying to keep warm, race time was just around the corner. Bundling up, we begrudgingly got into corral. There were not as many participants as there have been in the past and I imagine it was due to the weather. But we weren’t going to let this deter our spirits. We donned our head phones, set Runkeeper to go, and took off.

The course was absolutely fantastic. Imagine running through Old Florida; where you pass beautiful houses overlooking the water, where palm trees swayed in the distance, giving the illusion you were lost somewhere in 1950 in a Floridan paradise. Well, this was pretty close.

The race did not have but a couple of small hills, just enough to get your heart rate up. It was a down-and-back, which usually isn’t my favorite, but this time I didn’t care. The second I made the loop back as the sun was coming up over the water, it was worth it. The view was incredible, I didn’t care about anything else. Also, by this point, I began to get feeling back in my toes.

The truth was, I had never ever been so cold in a race before in my life. It took me a good mile and a half to get my feet from feeling like I was running on something other than two pairs of cinderblocks.

As the race came to a finish, we had finally gotten somewhat used to the cold. We decided to hang around longer than usual, waiting to see who had placed first in their age divisions. Unbeknownst to us, hubby had placed first in his! When they called his name out, neither of us could believe it! I was never more proud of his hard work than at that moment.

After collecting his award, we headed over to Café Con Leche for some much-needed post-race coffee and a little bit of celebration. And what a fantastic find this place was! It was our first time in this eclectic café that served delicious coffee and lattes, as well as a full breakfast menu. Had it been a little warmer that day, they had a front porch with tables and chairs that overlooked the bay that would have been amazing to take part of. I was in love.

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After finishing our coffee, we were going to hang around and enjoy the festival, but we were FREEZING, yet again, and it was still two hours until the festival kicked off. So, we elected to head back home this time. Perhaps next year, if the weather is more in our favor, we can make this an all-day affair.

Apalachicola is a beautiful hidden gem in northwest Florida, nestled somewhere in between Tallahassee and Panama City. It’s a small town that offers unique shopping, delicious food and a local brewery called Oyster City that you simply cannot pass by.

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Race tips

Parking can be tricky. Make sure to park a distance from the race start – on the opposite side of the street. You can quickly get trapped in by festival-goers or vendors if you’re not careful.

 

Note-worthy restaurants in the area

Oyster City Brewing Company – A beer connoisseur’s dream. This local brewery offers a wide variety of drinks for anyone’s taste, from the typical Pale Ale to a deep (and quite delicious) Honey Ale. When you enter the establishment, you’re greeted by a casual and relaxed vibe, drawing you in to enjoy one of their crafts at either the bar or one of their tables. This is a definite stop on your first trip to Apalachicola.

Café Con Leche – Coffee. Lattes. Omelette. Criossants. My mouth is beginning to water at remembering this fabulous little café. Make sure to stop in for a quick bite for breakfast or lunch and sit outside and enjoy the view. You will not be disappointed.

Boss Oyster – If no one told you about this great little find, you would probably just keep on walking. From the outside, it’s a plain, wooden building that doesn’t look much bigger than a single store front, but the second you step inside you realize it’s actually a very large restaurant where the majority of the establishment sits right on the water. If you want good oysters, local beer and a great view, go no further. They also offer plenty of other food choices, but while you’re in Apalachicola, you cannot go without sampling some of what this little town is famous for.

 

Hotels near the race site

Gibson Inn – A historic hotel and bed and breakfast that also touts to be haunted. I couldn’t tell you if it’s haunted, as I didn’t encounter anything of the sort, but I can attest to its haunting beauty. This building has been refurbished and sits in the heart of downtown, overlooking the water. A perfect evening would be sitting out on its enormous balcony that wraps around the entire second floor with a glass of wine in hand.

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