We came. We ran. We claimed our booty.
Truthfully, we weren’t sure the race was even going to happen as we drove to the start this morning. The forecast looked bleak and the downpour of rained mixed with 40mph+ gusts of wind resembled a monsoon outside. My parents couldn’t help, but laugh as they drove us to the start and wished us good luck. They opted to stay in the car and wait it out instead of joining us at the starting line. So much for our spectators! Who could blame them? I wanted to stay in the car too!
Before we left, I fueled up with a piece of toast that I slathered with almond butter, pumpkin butter, walnuts, and mini chocolate chips and paired with an orange.
Because of the monsoon, Kelly and I were afraid to take any more electronics with us than we needed to on the run. In hindsight, it would have been smart to grab ziploc bags on our way out the door, but we weren’t thinking at about it at the time. Instead, we decided to risk it with our iPods (Garmins are water resistant and are usually ok to run with in the rain), but – for the first time since my very first half marathon- I decided to leave my camera and phone in the car. *sniff *sniff It actually felt funny to run without my camera. I missed it.
My parents drove us as close to the starting line as they could and Kelly and I were on our own from there. Luckily the rain had let up and there was only a light drizzle at that point. Turns out we had driven through the worst of the storm on our way to the starting line. The rest of the race would be windy (VERY windy), but rain-free. We got lucky. Very lucky.
Kelly and I found some porta-potties, did a quick warm up run down Bayshore, then made our way to the first corral for the start. This was the first year Gasparilla attempted a corralled start and I give them credit for trying, but it still needs work. There were only two corrals that split at those expecting to finish under 2 hrs and everyone else. It was a crowded hot mess in both corrals, so Kelly and I made our way as close to the front as we could (we stood around the 1:45 pace group) to avoid as much bottle necking as possible.
At exactly 6:00am the race director gave us a very anti-climatic ‘Go’ and we were off.
The first mile of Gasparilla was probably the worst mile of the race. They changed the course from the last time I ran it and I was not a fan of the change. The road was too narrow to hold all the runners and (even near the front) we were still toe-to-heel with the person ahead of us. The sharp left turn about a quarter mile in didn’t help either. And the bridge to Davis Island? Just as I remembered – PACK and full off runners still trying to get into their groove.
Kelly asked me if it was ever going to let up and I told her to wait until after the bridge. Right on cue – we got off off the bridge, the roads widened, the crowds thinned, and Kelly and I were finally able to fall comfortably into a 8:10ish pace. Perfect.
Our main goal for the half marathon was to finish with a sub- 1:50. Kelly wanted to PR and I was just along for the ride. We figured out the night before – that in order to run a sub-1:50 – we had to keep a sub 8:20 min/mi pace. We shaved a few seconds off that (just in case) and gave ourselves a goal pace of 8:15 to hold.
Of course when we say ‘goal pace’ we just meant that we didn’t want to go over that. After we got over the hurdles from the first mile, we kept closer to an 8:10 pace and felt great at that. If we started to feel bad, we could just hold back a tad and bring the pace up as needed.
Davis Island went by quickly. I was familiar with the route and knew when to expect what – that made the first 5 miles fly by. Kelly and I departed Davis Island still holding strong side-by-side and waved a quick hello to our Dad as we started our long stretch down Bayshore.
The rest of the race was just a straight out and back along Bayshore. A long out and back in any other race may have driven me crazy (it was 4 miles each way!), but Bayshore is such a gorgeous road (and I’ve run it so many times in the past) that it really didn’t bother me. I know this road. I’ve got this.
Just past mile 8, I could tell Kelly was running a different race than I was. She looked strong, confident, and was just plain kicking butt with each split. She was doing amazing and clearly didn’t need me to pace her – she had this on her own! So when my pace slowed a bit to shove some sports beans down my throat at a water station (when did my body start hating mid-race fuel?!), I let her take off. This race was all her. And she was SMOKIN’ it!
Even as Kelly pulled ahead, I knew I still at a sub-1:50 in me. My splits were solid, my legs felt great, and I only had 5 miles to go. I had this, I just needed to zone out and get in my own groove.
The one thing that really threw me off during the final miles were the huge gust of winds that literally felt like they were going to knock me off my feet at any minute. We had been fighting headwinds on and off for the majority of the race, but the huge wind gusts that would take us by the side, were the worst. I would stumble a little bit with each one and kept waiting to be blown away. That wind was brutal!
I had passed the mile 12 maker around 1:40 and knew I was well on my way to making it under my goal. The pressure was off and I decided to just enjoy my last mile.
I passed my parents and knew I was close. They shouted, waved, took photos, and told me to meet them at the car after the race. My Dad was also wearing my pink jacket at that time, I’m sure that entertained a few runners during their final stretch.
We went under the bridge, made a left, and I could see the finish line in the distance. It was only when I saw the finish line, that my competitive side came through. Alright, time to push it. A guy came up beside me and I made it my personal goal not to let him pass me. I picked it up and gave it all I had left on my way to the finish.
Boo-ya! Under goal and I managed to edge myself in front of the random guy I picked out in the crowd. Success!
As soon as I crossed the finish line, I spotted my sister and our friend, Mary, ahead of me in the finisher’s chute. Kelly SMASHED her goal with an incredible finish time of 1:47:10 (WOO HOO!!! I knew she had it in her!) and was still in a bit of shock. She did AMAZING and earned every bit of it. GO KELLY!!!
Our friend Courtney came up behind us and we grabbed a group finish photo.
(photo credit to Mary!)
The morning rain had brought in cool weather and we finally started to feel it once we were done running. Because of that, Kelly and I opted not to wait around and instead made a beeline to where our parents were waiting in their car.
We couldn’t get in that heated car fast enough!
My dad stopped at a local bakery on our way to breakfast and Kelly and I split a red velvet donut – YUM!
We had breakfast at the Tahitian Inn.
Greek omelet with a side of fruit
and hotcakes instead of toast.
A breakfast of running champions.
At breakfast I asked Kelly if she was ready for a sub- 1:45 half and she said ‘Hell, yeah!’ Challenge accepted.
Bring. It. On.