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First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon

by Meghann on March 17, 2013

The dolphin medal is mine!

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Seriously. How awesome is this bad boy?

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I may or may not have signed up for the Sarasota Half Marathon because of the ridiculously oversized dolphin medal promised at the finish line. As far as medals go, it’s pretty bad ass. It’s huge, it’s heavy, the ribbon is a fun color, and the design is so different from any other race I’ve done. Let’s just say it was worth waking up at 4:30am and running 13.1 miles for.

This was not an easy race for me. I was undertrained, my stomach was giving me issues (i’ll get to that in a minute), and I just wasn’t mentally there. But when things got bad I just remembered the crazy medal and that’s what got me through the finish line. Come hell or high water, I was getting that dolphin medal.

This wasn’t just a medal I walked away with, this is one I freakin’ earned.

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Race morning started with an alarm, a huge cup of coffee, an english muffin with peanut butter, and a little green.

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Since this was a St. Patty’s Day race, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to get pinched! The whole week leading up the race I kept telling myself I needed to buy a green outfit to run in, but kept forgetting to get to the store. For some reason I was certain I didn’t have a lick of green in my running collection. Turns out I was wrong. Last night I was able to find green lined Lululemon shorts, a green sports bra, and a green Brooks mesh shirt. I guess I had more green in my wardrobe that I thought!

Kelly and I were out the door before 5:00am in order to make it to Sarasota before 6:30. The race didn’t start until 7:00, but since we were doing race day pick-up we wanted to give ourselves a good buffer. I grabbed my coffee and peanut butter english muffin for the road. I’ve had similar combos before plenty of races/ long runs in the past, so I figured I would be fine. I’ve also never had any stomach issues during a race and thought I had a stomach of steel. Apparently there’s a first time for everything.

My stomach started feeling funky about an hour into the drive. We made a pit stop at a gas station and I felt fine after that, but the closer we got to the start line, the less fine it felt.

We hit traffic about 2 miles from the start line. The cars were moving slooooowwwly and I was jealous of all the cars that I assumed knew the area and were pulling off on side streets to find spots. I started getting really anxious and after 5-10 minutes of not moving at all, so I decided to bail and try the side streets too. Bam. We found an off-the-street parking spot within a minute of leaving the lines of cars AND we could hear the race announcer from our spots (= short walk). Success!

Grabbing our bibs and shirts took no time at all. It was the porta potty lines that ate up our time, but that’s to be expected in any race. My stomach still wasn’t feeling hot. Walking to the start line, I wasn’t sure my body fully understood I was about to run a half marathon. It felt off, not exactly how you want to feel when you’re less than 5 minutes from go time.

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I decided to just start the race and see what happens. My very loose goal was to run a sub:2 half (that’s pretty much my goal for every half marathon I don’t specifically train for). If I had to stop and walk or take breaks, no big deal. I had zero expectations at the start, especially with an uneasy stomach.

Kelly and I have done so many races together that there’s a mutual understanding between the two of us that we always start together and whatever happens, happens. If one of us starts falling behind for whatever reason, that person is okay with the other pulling ahead or vice versa. Usually one of us is having a good race day, while the other is having a not-so-great race day. (Hint: I was NOT the one having a good race day today).

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We lined up with the 9:00 min/mi runners and counted down with the crowd.

3….2…1…

GO

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I’m not sure if it was the adrenaline of being surrounded by so many runners taking off at once, but I felt a lot better once the race started. Kelly and I took off with the crowd and just went for it.

Just after mile 1, we started our ascent up John Ringling Causeway (aka the one big bridge of the race).

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Going over the first time, the bridge wasn’t bad. Kelly and I powered over it and actually ended up averaging an 8:20 pace that mile (my fastest mile of the race – go figure!). The views were gorgeous. The sun was just starting to rise over the water and you could see shades of purple, red, and orange filling the side.

Once we got to the other side of the bridge, we were back on flat land and on our way to St. Armand’s Circle, an adorable part of Sarasota filled with cute shops and restaurants. I need to come back to Sarasota sometime and hang out here.

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We hit mile 3 around this point and I could feel my stomach starting to act up again. However, Kelly was on fire. She had a really frustrating run the other week and kept saying this was her come back race to get out all of that frustration. I knew we weren’t going to be together much longer.

We started back towards the bridge to head back to the mainland. This was an out and back portion, so we could see the rest of the runners heading towards the circle. I distracted myself by looking for friends who were running the race (sadly I didn’t see any familiar faces!).

I decided to keep with Kelly until the bridge, then urge her to go on ahead. I needed to do the rest of the race on my own, without the pressure of holding a certain pace. She ran off (still looking strong!) and I took my time enjoying the amazing views on the way back over.

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Gorgeous!

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I think she read all of our minds.

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We hit mile 5 after the bridge, then looped back past the start line to finish the run the remaining miles through the neighborhoods to the north. There was a good amount of crowd support here.

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There was also a relay exchange point. Does anyone else become extremely jealous of the finishing relayers when ever you pass an exchange point during a race?! Just me?

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Mile 6 was not a good mile for me. My stomach was churning and a bathroom break was needed. Luckily a set of porta potties appeared just in time.

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I felt soooo much better after the minute pit stop. So so so much better. I’m not sure I’ve ever had to make a pit stop during a half marathon before, but it was totally worth it. I ran away feeling like a whole new person.

Mile 7 was pretty uneventful, just a straight shot down the main road in Sarasota.

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Just before mile 9 we turned a corner and I knew it was time to start slowly making our way to the finish line – yes! There was a fuel station with GUs and I grabbed an espresso flavored one. I completely forgot to bring any sort of fuel with me today and was kicking myself for it around mile 5 (this is a BAD habit I’ve developed for races recently). The fuel at mile 9 was desperately needed and appreciated.

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Crazy hair!

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This wasn’t a terribly spectator heavy course, but the spectators that were on the course were AWESOME. They never lacked in energy and motivation.

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Dear Lululemon girls who were handing out frozen grapes at mile 12…

YOU. ARE. AWESOME.

The next time I spectate a race, I’m bringing frozen grapes to hand out. Next to be handed an icee pop at the San Diego Marathon, the frozen grapes were my favorite thing I’ve ever been handed on a race course. They were perfect – cold, icee, and a great distraction from the mile I still had left to run. I grabbed a handful and savored every one.

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I can’t tell you how ready to finish I was when I turned the corner and started heading towards the finish line.

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The Sarasota Half has a great finish. Right before you make the final turn to the finish line, the crowds start to multiply and grow louder, almost like they’re pulling you into the finish chute.

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Then you make the final turn and the crowds kind of explode.

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It’s a straight shot from there.

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Final finish time: 1:56:32

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Considering how horrible I felt at the start and in the middle of this race, I’m happy with my time. It’s no PR (actually, it’s a full 11 minutes slower than my PR!), but it’s a race I wasn’t really trained for and had no expectations going into. I think races are all about pushing your limits on that particular day. Today, 1:56:32 was about all the limits I had in me.

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I found Kelly at the finish line. She came in at an impressive 1:50:04. Go Kelly!

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Overall we both really enjoyed this race. The course was gorgeous, well marked, and not overcrowded. Besides the bridge, it was a relatively flat course and definitely PR-able. They were smart putting the bridge in at the beginning when our legs were still fresh and not at the end when we were wiped (that would have sucked!). I even liked running by FSU’s Sarasota campus (Go Noles!).

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The post-race food was even great,] thanks to First Watch.

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I grabbed a muffin, parfait, and some orange slices.

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The parfait was AWESOME. I should have gone back for another!

Kelly and I left the finish line and found a cute little breakfast spot down the road called The Serving Spoon.

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I ordered the mediterranean omelet and enjoyed every cheese filled bite.

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Oh, St. Patrick’s Day, how times have changed! Seven years ago I was waiting in line at Irish Pub at 7:00am so I could be banded before the price jumped at 8:00am ( it went up $5 every hour before noon) and this morning I was running a half marathon. Oddly enough, both scenarios required me waking up ridiculously early on a semi-holiday. Pshh…

How did you spend your St. Patrick’s Day? Did you run a green race?

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