What a difference a week and great weather makes. Last week at Gasparilla I was struggling to get under 2:00, this week at Best Damn Race Orlando I was finishing under 1:50 with a big ole smile on my face. I forgot I even had that time in me!
It felt so good to be back in Orlando this weekend. It’s been a while since I stayed the night there and I forgot how much I missed it. I drove to Orlando to work the expo with a co-worker on Friday and it was a big ole trip down memory lane. We spent Friday at our booth, then had dinner at Brick & Fire near downtown. We ordered the Girl & Fig. 100% recommend. The crust is made with a red ale beer and is mouthwatering delicious.
We stayed at a nearby hotel in downtown and were up super early for race day.
I made a cup of coffee with the hotel coffee pot and had a Clif Bar in the car.
The weather was already looking great for an amazing race day. There was a slight chill in the air and zero humidity – such a difference from the hot and humid races I ran last month. I was feeling good about this, but I still wasn’t sure just how good. My Best Damn Race buddy Beka (who I’ve run both Best Damn Races with in Safety Harbor and planned to run Orlando as well) was gunning for a PR, which would be anything under 1:54. I felt like crap getting to 1:58 last week – could I do 1:54? I was doubtful, but I never back away from a challenge.
We found few other buddies to join us as well. Loved seeing so many Orlando and Tampa friends on race day!
We got to the starting line a few minutes before gun time. It was a smaller race, so there was plenty of room the stretch and breathe at the start. There were five of us who decided to start as a group, then gradually move into our own paces as we needed to. This was a fun race, we were all laughing and just enjoying the beautiful morning.
The race started right on time and, again, the start was such a difference from last week’s Gasparilla Half. We crossed the line almost immediately and there was no crowding or bunching. Everyone was running about the same pace and there were no walkers to dodge – it was the perfect race start.
I felt great right from the beginning. I was really just enjoying the run and trying not to think much about my pace, I was just going with the flow and keeping up with my friends. We stuck together for the first few miles talking about running and babies (my sister’s little bun in the oven to be exact). I was feeling really talkative for some reason, so it was a great distraction from the pace.
The Best Damn Race Orlando Course is a little wonky. Lots of turns with some funky out and backs. It wasn’t a bad course, just an interesting one.
The first couple of miles covered some brick roads, which required a little extra attention – the uneven surface makes the brick roads susceptible to tripping and rolled ankles. We were not fans of the brick roads, which seemed to go on and on at the beginning of the course, but there were thankfully nonexistent at the end.
Somewhere around the 5K mark we started dropping girls from our group. Beka, who was trying to PR, was looking crazy strong. We were averaging sub-8:30s and kept asking if she wanted to hold back, but she said she felt great and wanted to keep pushing through. It was Victoria, Beka, and I at this point and I definitely started to feel like the weakest link, but made it my mission to keep up with them as long as I could.
Around mile 6 my left calf/foot went numb. It was odd, the rest of my leg felt great – and I was still holding a decent pace – but I couldn’t feel my left foot at all. I started debating in my head – should I stop? should I keep going? am I damaging my leg further? I decided that since it was just numbness – and not pain – that I would keep going. If my leg started hurting at all, I would slow down.
Gradually I started slipping further and further behind Beka and Victoria. Beka was looking so strong, I knew she was going to make her goal – and then some – I didn’t want to hold her back. I put both of my earphones in and just ran. Beka and Victoria always stayed in eyesight, but I was officially on my own at this point.
We hit the funky out and back stretch from mile 7-8 and I saw a few of my friends running in front and behind me. Everyone had smiles and no one looked like they were in pain. I’m telling you, the weather was amazing, how could you not have a great race on a day like this?
Best Damn Race did a great job with aide stations. There was an aide station at almost every mile of the course and each station was also well stocked with both gatorade, water, and amazing volunteers who I made sure to give a big thank you to every time I passed. I took both a cup of gatorade and water at every station and grabbed a Vanilla Gu around mile 8.
When I got to mile 9 I did some quick math and realized that If I kept this pace I would be coming pretty close to going sub-1:50. Umm.. what? How did that happen? The feeling in my foot had returned (thank goodness for that one!) and I was feeling good – heck, I could really do this.
I caught up with a guy ahead of me and told him if we kept this pace we could go sub-1:50. He laughed and said his goal was to beat that. I knew he wouldn’t have a problem. We went back and forth for the next mile and a half, then he pulled ahead in the last mile – he was going to beat that goal with time to spare.
We circled around the final stretch of downtown onto Rosalind Ave and I started looking for our final turn onto Central. The girl in front me turned around and said “I read your blog!” We exchanged mutual hate for the awful headwind and she told she was well on her way to a PR. We made the final turn onto Central together and could see the finish line ahead – so close, yet so far!
I knew I didn’t have it in me to sprint at that point, but told her to go for it. I told her the finish line was all hers. She started sprinting about halfway down Central, and I started my push as soon as I reached the stretch of spectators. I gave it my all and jumped into the finish line (can’t wait to see that picture!).
Done! Official finish of 1:48:30 – a full 10 minutes faster than my finish at Gasparilla a week earlier. I’ll take it!!
I immediately found Beka and Victoria and gave them big hugs. Beka didn’t just beat her goal – SHE CRUSHED IT!!! She came in around 1:47, giving her a full 7 minute PR – INSANE!
One -by-one our other friends started coming through with big smiles on their faces. Almost everyone had a great race and there were loads of PRs to go around.
In fact, you should have seen the line at the PR bell. It was consistently 10 people deep and everyone had a huge smile on their face.
We hit up the food and loaded up on bagels, fruit, and chips.
Yum. Yum. Yum.
And look who I found at the beer tent.
Katy! Who KILLED it at the 10k/5K challenge.
Oh, and I have to comment on my top.
Cory Vines had sent me a Racerback Tank to test and review this past month and I can’t say enough good things about it. I’ve worn it on a couple of runs before and I just love the material – it’s so soft and breathable, you almost forget you’re wearing a top. The tank is also loose and long, so I never had a problem with it riding up or cutting into me. You can’t beat the color either – love the purple. Check out Cory Vines HERE. (psstt.. the top is a steal at $25!)
It was a great day for a race. You seriously can’t beat a flat course, amazing friends, and perfect weather – why can’t all race days be like that? I wasn’t sure I had a sub-1:50 in me anymore (my pr is a 1:45:39 from 2012, but I trained my ass off for it and I remembered how much it hurt to run that). This race was the confidence booster I needed before diving into training for the Seattle Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon this June. I thought maybe I could train for another sub-4:00 (or even a PR!), but wasn’t sure I could still do it. Now I’m sure I can. This race was just what I needed to prove that. I’ve got this – bring it on, Seattle!!
For the Love of Lola
Derek’s family friend is walking in the Energy for Life Walk at Al Lopez Park on March 22nd in honor of little Lola Lee who recently lost her battle with mitochondrial disease. This walk helps to raise money for the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation. The money goes to support research, education/ awareness and support families/individuals in our local area living with mitochondrial disease. Please take a minute to check out their donation page and support their fight against this terrible disease.