I headed to the expo on Friday to pick up my bib after a long day and sitting at the Honda dealership to get my battery changed. I wanted to get in and out of that expo as fast as possible. I had a few friends I wanted to say hello to that were working at various booths, and I was told to try the ice cream. Aside from that I didn't shop around the booths very much. The one notable thing I did was buy two packs of gel. Normally I use one for a half, but for some reason I thought maybe I should try taking two for this race. I'll come back to that later during the race recap.
My plan for the following morning included getting up at 3:50 to head down to South Tampa to meet Meg and Meghan by 5:00. The race started at 6, the starting line had been moved from previous years, and we wanted to find free street parking and didn't know what would be open. Once we found our parking spots we walked to the starting line, snapped a picture, and made our way to every runner's favorite spot on race morning: the port-o-potty lines!
And this is when the story took an unexpected turn. We were planning to run this race together. Meghan had done the 15k the day before, and even though she's super speedy, she was planning to hold back a bit to help pace me to 1:52. Meg was also planning to run with us. So when I came out of the port-o-potty and couldn't find them, I got confused on what had happened. I looked everywhere for them. I walked around for at least 10 minute between port-o-potty lines, the grocery store parking lot across the street, over to the corrals, and back to the port-o-pottys. They were nowhere to be found.
I had to make a decision at that moment. I didn't know what had happened, but I decided to just run the race alone, so about 9 minutes before the race was about to start I put in my headphones, figured out some music to listen to, and made my way to the 1:50 pacer. I wasn't planning to start with him at all, but Gasparilla is notable for having a terrible backup on a bridge going over to Davis Islands, and I didn't want to get stuck behind a clump that wasn't moving like happened in 2012.
The national anthem was sung, and we were off. It was around 70* at the start with 98% humidity, and though my confidence was a little thrown off by the weather and losing Meg and Meghan, I decided to ignore it for the time being. My plan was to run the first two miles slower and then to settle into the 8:30 pace before hammering the last three miles with whatever I had left.
When the first mile beeped 8:48, I was a little nervous because it didn't feel quite that slow. I knew that it was going to be a tough race to run, but I knew I could do it. At this point I'll mention that I took water and gatorade at almost all of the stops. Sometimes I'd have one or the other, but at most of them I had both.
For the next few miles going up to mile 4 or 5, I was holding around 8:30 like I wanted, but it wasn't seeming effortless like I had hoped. I took a gel at mile 4 because I had been feeling hungry even since the start. The two waffles that I had for breakfast hadn't held me over like I'd hoped. When we crossed over the bridge from Davis Islands onto Bayshore, I really started getting bogged down. That 8:30 pace was hard! The weather was warm and it was a little breezy, and I just got a little down on myself for a second.
And then something happened. At that very moment when those 8:30s were seeming hard, I thought to myself, "Running a marathon after 112 miles on the bike is going to feel a lot worse than this. You need to decide right now if you're going to throw in the towel and make excuses for why today wasn't the day for your best race or if you're going to suck it up and run that best race." And then, around mile 6, I did just that. I decided. Come hell or high water, I was going to run the best race I had in me on that day and with those conditions. I wouldn't finish with excuses. I would finish with pride.
I have no better way to explain it than that. I didn't drink a potion or take a salt tab or find a friend. I just decided. And once I decided, the whole race changed.
From that point on I was going as fast as I thought I could go without hitting a wall and while still saving something for those last three miles.
The last 8 miles of the race are on Bayshore, and it's not thrilling, but it's familiar. I know what I was getting into and how to tackle it. The only annoying thing at this point was that the water stops alternated sides on a three lane road. There was some weaving that went on at that point that wasn't really necessary. They could have picked one side.
When we neared the bottom of Bayshore at mile 9, I had taken my second gel, but they were handing out Gatorade chews. I grabbed a pack in case I needed them later (which I didn't). And I spend the next 4.1 miles chasing people down. I would just spot people up ahead and try to catch them. I didn't think about anything besides catching people, running fast, and the possibility of getting a top 10% age group mug. When I got to mile 10, I knew it was time to throw down the hammer. What could I do for 3 miles?
And I just kept pushing as hard as I could. When I was .3 or .4 from the finish line, I thought to myself, "I may never run this fast again." I hope that's not true, but I was going so fast at that point and hurting so much that I just didn't want to think about ever running that fast. For a second I thought about maybe slowing down. I thought it would make me feel better. But then I realized how close I had been to beating 4:20 in the marathon and how close I had been to beating 1:55 in my last half marathon, and I knew I was going to be right on the cuff of running 1:50 here. I knew that if I was a 1:50:0X I'd kick myself for it. So I kept pushing. And as you can see in my splits, I had some kick left! And I crossed that finish line in 1:49:43.
I never in my life dreamed I'd ever be able to run a 1:4X:XX. I couldn't believe it! I was ecstatic! I jumped up and down, I squealed, I continued celebrating alone as I walked down the chute. I'm sure I looked bonkers, and I'm still sure that I don't care in the least.
I had gone faster than I thought possible for that day, and for me at all really! All my hard work had paid off! I could do whatever I set my mind to! All these things were rushing through my head.
I went to grab my medal and ended up heading up to the convention center to see if I could find a bag for all the post-race stuff they were handing out. While there I saw a bunch of other Tampa Bloggers, and Meg found me! It turns out they thought I had disappeared at the potties. They waited in a spot at the end of the lines until 2 minutes before the race started, and we just didn't see each other. It was wild!
We walked over to the post race party to see if we'd gotten mugs, and the man told me I was 4 spots out of 10%. Darnit! I wanted that mug. I checked online later and it seems like I should have gotten one. I finished 36/391 in my age group, so I emailed. But I guess I'll just wait for that to be resolved.
We took pictures with the pirate ship celebrating a great Gasparilla! I couldn't have been more pleased with everything (besides the weather)!
I've spent the last week recovering and running lightly. It's time to get back to triathlon training now. Some big stuff is coming up in the next few months, and I'm going to need some time in the saddle to get me there!
Any big events or goals coming up for you?!