We conquered not one… not two… but THREE killer bridges. It was one of the toughest half marathon courses I have ever run and I couldn’t be more proud of myself for finishing it.
The morning began with a 4:00am wake up call. It was tough, but was worth it. We never fought traffic, never waited in ridiculous lines for parking, trolley, or restroom, and we were right on time for everything.
I had two pieces of toast with a mix of peanut butter, pumpkin, and chocolate chips on top before heading out the door.
We had a 30ish minute drive to Clearwater and parked in an offsite parking lot where a trolley system was set up to take us to the start.
We arrived at the trolleys an hour before the start and had no problem parking and the line moved quickly. However, I heard rumors from other racers that the trolleys backed up closer to the start and a lot of people ran late to the start. No bueno.
Our faithful spectators ready to roll
I really enjoy getting to the starting line early. It takes a lot of stress out of the morning and makes for a much more pleasurable racing experience. We had plenty of time at the start and never felt panicked or rushed.
Side Note: LOVED my Champion running shirt. It was a gift from Leslie last summer and it’s one of my favorites. I would like to order it in every color.
By shear luck we stumbled upon another friendly face in the crowd.
At exactly 7:00am (I love it when a race is on time) they sounded the horn and we were off!
The start wasn’t corralled or divided by any means, so it was a mad rush past the starting line. I quickly lost everyone I started with, only to see them passing me on an empty shoulder a quarter mile into the race. I followed suit and grabbed the same edge. Eventually I was able to find a comfortable pace I was happy with.
I had Katy close behind me and I could see Megan up ahead. We ran in this pattern for the first mile.
Then I saw the first bridge.
The first bridge is the longest, with the slowest slop and took you from mile one to mile two. It was bad, but thankfully -being in the beginning – it could have been worse.
I caught up with Megan right where it leveled off on the top and waved good bye as we both coasted down.
The next two miles were pretty steady. Katy was still at my tail keeping an awesome 8:30 pace (It should be known that Katy ROCKED this race) and after mile 2 I could spot my sister in the distance. She stayed within eye distance the whole way.
There was a turn around point where someone yelled out ‘Meals and Miles!’ (Hi Megan!!) and we were able to wave at Kelly.
After the turn around/ round about thingy Katy gained some speed and passed me! The whole time I’m screaming in my head ‘You go girl’ I was so proud to see her fly!
We ran through some pretty beautiful neighborhoods on the water. I managed to take my mind off the constant uphills (it never felt like we were going down!) by picking out my future dream home.
I liked this one.
But this one could have worked too.
Especially with this view.
Just before mile 7 Katy ducked into a porta potty and I lost her for the rest of the race. My stats were still hovering between 8:30 and 8:45 per mile and I was feeling awesome.
Then I saw bridge #2 looming in the distance.
Bridge #2 won the award for being the steepest of all the bridges. It was tall and it was scary, but I made it a point to push myself through it.
I told myself I could come to a snails pace if I wanted to, but I didn’t want to walk. I dug my toes in and gave the bridge everything I had.
Luckily the views were amazing and with every steep bridge, comes a nice pace boosting decline.
After the bridge I popped two Gu Chomps. I never went into this race hoping to PR, but I was happy with my current splits and wanted to keep up what I could. However, my body was starting to feel it.
The next 3-4 miles were a straight shot on a main road. Cars were whizzing by and our little coned off section felt like a tight squeeze. We ran past the coast guard (yum), a fire station(double yum), and a couple of Starbucks I was tempted to make a pit stop in. My pace was dropping and I was really starting to feel the sun beat down on me.
The whole time I could still see Kelly’s green shirt and her long beautiful hair flapping in the distance.
Just as I was growing tired of going straight, I could see a bridge start to appear on the horizon.
Another bridge? Oh wait, that can’t be part of the course. I’m sure we turn way before that. I mean we only have a couple of miles left and we’ve already done two.
That bridge sure is getting closer.
Oh crap, no one is turning – they’re all running up it.
Here goes nothing.
I caught up to Kelly on Bridge #3 (the shortest of all of them, but most cruel as you enter it at mile 11). Kelly was not a fan of this bridge.
Just as she started to walk I came up next to her screaming “F*ck this bridge! F*ck this bridge”
She was still not amused.
I walked for a few second with her, then decided to give it all I had to push it to the end.
“F*ck this bridge! F*ck this bridge!”
At mile 11.5 I start the descent and coast to the bottom.
From there the race gets mean.
You turn left. People cheer ‘you’re almost there!’
You turn right. People cheer ‘you’re almost there!’
You turn left again.
You turn right again.
You begin to give dirty looks.
You finally see the finish line.
Victory is mine!
Official Finish Time: 1:56:36
And I was darn proud of that!!!
Kelly came in just 30 seconds after me.
Finally – finishing strong! – was Amber.
It was a beautiful course and a beautiful day for a race! We celebrated with some fun in the water. The finish line was only a hop over to the water.
We headed back to wait in the (long) trolley line and I grabbed a free juice to sip on.
Our bellies were growling for food by the time we made it back to the cars. None of us were familiar with the Clearwater area, so after a quick search on the Yelp app on my phone, we were able to strike gold with the cutest little cafe about a mile and a half down the road for brunch.
The biscuits on everyone’s plates when we walked in the door immediately caught my eye. When the majority of us ordered waffles for out entries, I ordered some biscuits for the table, so we could all have bite.
Holy yum! The biscuits melted in our mouths. They were buttery, dry, and perfect in every way.
I ordered the Blueberry Waffle Special with a side of egg and fruit.
Heaven on a plate. This was probably my best Yelp find to date.
Too bad it’s in Clearwater and not Tampa!
Everyone has gone home now and it’s just me, Derek, and Maddie left to relax on the couch.
What a crazy, amazing weekend!