Last summer my friend Beth told me about a race her friend was putting on called “Best Damn Race.” The initial concept was pretty epic. Her friend was tired of running expensive subpar races and wanted to create a “Best Damn Race” that wouldn’t break the average runner’s bank and wouldn’t leave them disappointed either. When registration first opened last October, the half marathon fee was the low, low price of $5. Now that’s something I could get on board with! After that, the price would slowly raise based on how many people registered. I blogged about the concept here.
Unfortunately the number of people trying the nab the $5 price (I mean, who wouldn’t want to run a half marathon for $5?!) overwhelmed the system and the registration process wasn’t the smoothest. By the time I did complete my registration form (after they shut it down and reopened it), the race was still a steal of a deal at $35. Not bad considering the average half marathon will run ya $85+!
Even better, I LOVED the sense of humor the Best Damn Race had about the experience via Twitter and Facebook. They knew people weren’t happy about registration and weren’t trying to hide the fact they had made a mistake. They responded to almost every comment and never lost their upbeat spirt. Love it.
So this morning I put on my running shoes and headed to GORGEOUS Safety Harbor to run the Best Damn Race on the Best Damn Course and earn my Best Damn Medal. And you know what? I had the best damn time!
Truth: I almost didn’t make it to the race.
The friend I was supposed to drive to the start with came down with a fever the night before and had to bail on me. Totally understandable ( health triumphs running any day of the week), but I was chickening out on going to the race by myself. I knew that there would be some familiar faces in the crowd, but weren’t sure of their plans and didn’t want to intrude. I ended up setting my alarm and decided how I would feel in the morning.
The alarm went of at 5:30, I jumped out of bed, and immediately checked Facebook and Twitter and saw half a dozen friends sharing their excitement over the race. That was all I needed to get my butt out the door. I made some coffee and oatmeal to go (using an almost-empty jar of peanut butter as my to-go container) and was out the door by six.
I’ve lived in Tampa for almost two years and though I’ve heard enough people mention Safety Harbor to make me think I’ve been there, it wasn’t until I pulled onto Main Street that I realize I had never actually been there before. I’m not sure why, it’s such a cute area with an adorable downtown full of fun restaurants and little shops.
I ended up parking next to my friend Diana and made a dash to the expo area to pick up my bib and shirt. I’m a little sad they were out of women’s shirts when I picked up my packet (totally understandable since the shirts are usually slim pickins’ on race day) and ended up grabbing an XL I knew Derek would wear since the odds of me wearing a men’s medium tech tee is slim to none and he surprisingly loves wearing tech tee around the house.
Then I found Stephanie and Beth, who I knew were volunteering at the finish line.
Oh, did I mention it was chilly? Another reason I decided to do the race – it was PERFECT running weather! I think it was 45 at the start? Some of my favorite races have been when it’s cold out. This type of weather doesn’t happen often here, it’s best to take advantage when you can!
While I was sitting with Steph, Beka and Diana came over to say hi. They were both hoping for a sub-2:00 half, so I offered to pace them. I knew I didn’t have a PR in me today, but I did have a sub-2:00 in there and am always up for running with friends!
We snuck in the hotel to warm up a bit before the race then made our way to the starting line.
For an inaugural local race, Best Damn Race had a decent turn out – over 2700 participants! Not bad!
We huddled as best we could to stay warm and I briefly regretted not having a throw away layer.
At 7:15, the national anthem was sang, the gun was shot, and we were off!
Right away I knew this was going to be a beautiful course. I mean, look at it!
The first few miles flew by. They were flat and pretty uneventful. Beka and Diana were both looking strong and holding a steady 8:30ish pace. We were talking at this point, which I took as a good sign that they were still feeling pretty comfortable at that pace. If they weren’t able to talk, then they were pushing too hard and I’d try to get them to slow down a bit.
My laces didn’t like the race chip. I had to stop twice to retie my shoe in the first three miles. The second time I stopped, I got creative and did some twisting and weaving. It cost me some time (and took me a minute to catch back up with the girls), but it was worth it when my laces didn’t budge the rest of the race.
Around mile 4 we passed the finish line and saw all the 10k-ers heading towards the finish. I cheered on my friends that I recognized and anyone else who looked like they needed a good cheer. After that we headed into the neighborhoods and discovered just how hilly of an area Safety Harbor is. I thought Florida was flat? What gives?
Diana put her headphones on this point and sort of zoned out. She stayed right behind us, while Beka and I stayed shoulder to shoulder. Beka told me she still felt good, but knew she was going to bonk at mile 9 like she usually does and wanted to try and slow down a bit at mile 6 and save her energy. We were making amazing time and I knew a sub-2:00 was almost a guarantee. I told her it was a great idea and pulled back to let her set the pace. I wanted to make sure she was still hitting her goal, but I didn’t want to push her faster or slower than I knew she was capable of.
We entered a park and started running on a trail (Pinellas Trail, I think? *EDITED TO ADD: It’s Ream Wilson Trail). The path narrowed, but at this point the crowds had spread out enough where it wasn’t a huge inconvenience or anything. I only felt bad for the speedsters who were heading back the opposite direction on the same narrow trail, they had a tight squeeze.
I felt good at this point. We were still holding a rough 8:30ish pace and I was even surprising myself with how good I felt. I think it was the weather. Never doubt a race day with amazing weather. I’m also a second-half racer. I was just hitting my groove at mile 7 and enjoying the race.
By the way, I think I need to start wearing my Meals and Miles shirt for every race. I met so many readers and made so many new friends along the course! It was so nice to meet (and even help a pace!) a few readers along the way. Everyone looked so great out there today! Way to race strong!
At mile 8 Beka had to make a quick restroom stop and I stopped to wait, there was no way I was leaving her now!
On another note, Best Damn Race did a great job with water and Gatorade stops. There were plenty along the course and I never felt crazy thirsty, wishing one would appear (since they would appear before I had the thought!). I took Gatorade at every stop and shared some watermelon chomps with Beka.
Right around mile 9 I could tell Beka was starting to bonk. She stopped briefly to walk and I told her if she wanted to walk to save it for a hill. She picked it back up and we walked up a hill for 20 seconds. I told her it was okay to walk, but we couldn’t walk for longer than 20 seconds at a time.
Beka was pretty amazing. When she stopped to walk, I gave her points of reference to start running again and she never complained. She was hurting, but she was also really close to an amazing PR and that reminder was enough to keep her going. I did everything I could to try and keep her going. I asked her what her favorite pancakes were (banana walnut) and told her we could get pancakes (and bacon and eggs) after the race. The pancakes seemed to motivate her. And when she told me she had to go to the bathroom, I told her I did too. We’d go in 2 miles. Then we could spend all the time we wanted in the porta potty, we could stay in there for an hour if we wanted too. No one was allowed to rush us.
With half a mile left we could hear the announcer at the finish line. We were so. close. I wanted to start shouting “Hey, this is Beka! She’s about to run her first sub-2:00 hr half marathon.” I wanted everyone to know about this great accomplishment she was about to complete. She was freaking amazing.
Beka had been holding out on me – she gunned it to the finish!
Not only did Beka reach her goal of running a sub-2:00 half marathon, she freaking killed it and came in 10 minutes faster than her previous PR! Can we stay rock star?!
I finished a few steps behind with an unofficial time of 1:55:13!
The best part about that time is how GREAT I felt during that race. For someone who maxed out at 8 miles the week before (and hasn’t really been training for a half marathon), I felt pretty awesome. It was a great day for a race, a beautiful course, and almost every person I talked to who was aiming for a PR, got it. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for out of this race (definitely not a new PR), but I figured it out when I was done – I was looking to see if I still had my running mojo in there, and I do! This race was a great confidence booster and a reminder my body can do some amazing things when I let it.
Look who gave me my medal – Stephanie!
Diana was a rock star too. She ran a smart race and finished strong – you go, girl!
After the race we checked out the food tent.
And I had the pleasure of watching my friend Amber kick some booty and finish with a new PR.
p.s. is there anything more inspiring than a race finish line? So many happy, accomplished people all around!
Oh, and trust me, we didn’t forget the pancakes.
Glorious. Absolutely glorious.
And, yes, that’s how I eat my pancakes. Best. Thing. Ever.
What a GREAT morning! Now I’m more pumped than ever to train to kick butt at my 10k in March (I’m gunning for that PR, baby!) and my Ironman in November. Game on!
Congrats, Nick. It really was the Best Damn Race. You rock!