Wednesday, February 28, 2018

2018 Gasparilla 15K Race Recap

by Meghann on February 28, 2018

I’m alive!

I know. I know. I owe you approximately a million and one life updates since I last posted in December. I promise I will get to that (I have SO MANY things I need to share about the new house!), but FIRST, I wanted to quickly blog about my race this weekend while it’s fresh on my mind.

That’s right – I ran a race!

It’s strange that something that used to be such a casual, almost weekly occurrence, has now become this special thing I only do once in a blue moon. I’m not mad about it. I’ll always be thankful to have the opportunity to do what I love – even if it’s not as often as I’d like to.

I registered for the Gasparilla 15k back in December with these grand plans to actually train and build-up to the distance. I had considered registering for the half marathon, with the mindset of “go big or go home,” but knew I was no where near where I wanted to be to run that. I’d developed a comfortable pattern of running 3 miles, 3 time a week and was happy there. 9 miles seemed doable, 13.1 miles seemed too much like a stretch.

So I registered. Made some mental notes of what I needed to reach that distance. And left it at that.

Then we moved and my vague plans all went to crap.

For the entire months of January & February our lives were dedicated to painting, putting furniture together, having the floors redone, hanging stuff up, purging, etc. While I tried really hard to fit in runs when I could, I just wasn’t able to get in as much as I wanted. The weekend before race day I managed to run 6 miles and that was it – my one long(ish) run before race day. I decided not to wallow and just embrace where I was. I felt great during those 6 miles. I knew I wasn’t going to be breaking any records on race day, but I also knew I could get to that finish line and that’s all that mattered. I decided to go into race day with the same attitude and give it what I could.

On Friday afternoon I picked up my bib with a smile. I’m running a race tomorrow. NBD

By the way, this was my 9th year running Gasparilla and I have to give the event team major props for putting on an excellent event. From pre-race communications, to the expo, to race morning, everything was extremely organized and well done. Definitely the most organized Gasparilla race I’ve run yet.

While I just ran the Gasparilla Half Marathon last year, it’s been a while (okay 8 Years!) since I last ran the 15K. It’s the first race of the event-weekend (the Gasparilla Distance classic consists of a 15K & 5K on Saturday and the Half Marathon & 8K on Sunday) and the course route is a nice out and back on Bayshore.

My alarm was set for 4:45am on race morning and after a quick coffee and some peanut butter toast I was out the door around 5:15. Local race pro-tip: you can find free street parking in Hyde Park and then walk over the bridge to the race start. Easy peasy.

I found a parking space and joined the crowds walking to the race start. The 15K starts right in front of the convention center, while the half marathon starts on Bayshore. I walked by the half marathon start, where about 20 porta potties were already in place for the next morning and had no lines. Sweet! Definitely took advantage of that with a quick pit stop.

I also ran into my friend Kim, who was running one of the challenges for the weekend. Hi Kim!

The starting line was split into three waves: seeded, under 1:30, and over 1:30.  I had no disillusion of what my time would be so I registered for over 1:30 and was proudly sporting my blue bib.

The corrals were packed at this point, and the two main waves seemed to blend together. I made my way to the very back and settled in. A former co-worker came in right behind me and we ended up playing catch-up right up until the gun start. We were actually still chatting as we walked up to the start line. (Hi Amy!)


We made our way to the start and I wished Amy luck as we quickly lost each other.

Since I was so far in the back of the corral, I was half expecting to hit a wall of walkers right from the start. However; that ended up not being the case at all. I was able to immediately pick-up a decent pace (for me) and never once felt the course was overly crowded or that I was heavily surrounded by walkers or anyone blocking the course. For such a large race, it was nice surprise.

The course quickly took us over the bridge, out of downtown, and onto Bayshore, where we would stay for the next 9 miles.

I had my headphones in my armband, but I never ended up using them. I haven’t run with music probably since the last time I ran this race. I usually prefer to run with audiobooks, but didn’t feel a book was appropriate for race day. Instead, I listened to the crowd, concentrated on the scenery, and just enjoyed the run. It was such a gorgeous morning and those views were top notch!

Oh, how I missed that feeling. That feeling of being out there. Running with a few thousand of your closest running buddies. Head nods of encouragement. Aid stations. Volunteers. The smell of sweat. I missed it. I missed all of it.

I was running 4:30/ walking :30 and felt great. I didn’t feel like death, I wasn’t going crazy, I just felt good. If I needed to walk more, I did and I was okay with that.

I passed the first 5K mark and felt like I found my groove. I started to upload photos and videos to my insta-stories. It kept me entertained during my walk breaks and gave me something to look forward to during my run portions.

I made sure to take water/ gatorade at every station. There were a few groups handing out candy/ doughnuts on the course and I still regret not taking a Twizzler from one them. Man, that Twizzler was needed on the last stretch!

Mile 4.5 – Turn around time! Woo hoo!

I swear, those first 4.5 miles flew by, but the next 4.5 miles felt so far. That finish line was an eternity away.

My watch told me I met my step goal for the day and my activity goal for the week. Then I doubled my activity goal – I didn’t realize that was possible, but apparently my watch felt it was a cause for celebration.

My pace slowed as the heat indexed creeped up in the last part of the race. Man, it was hot. I’ve done this race so many times and I swear I complain about the heat more often than not. That’s Florida in February for ya.

I scaled back to a run 2:30/ walk :30 and was comfortable with that. I played on Instagram., took my time through the water stations, and enjoyed the run.

I honestly couldn’t believe how great I felt out there. No pain and still had a smile on my face. Such a different race experience than my days of trying hard to capture PRs. I keep saying that one day I will get back to that level, but after races like these (and knowing how painful it is to reach those PRs), it’s really hard to even want to put in the effort. This way is just so much easier.

I counted down the last couple of miles as the finish line came clearer into view. Do I sprint to the finish? Nah. It’s too hot for that. Instead, I took my sweet time and savored every second.

I crossed the finish line and I was done. Whoa. That’s it? Maybe I should have done that half? Ha! Who am I kidding? That was great just the way it was – no need to tarnish it with 4 more pesky miles.

Gasparilla completely changed the set-up of their finish line chute. Instead of feeling busy and compact, it felt open and roomy, but also really long. They had moved the medals to the top of Platt Bridge, which really helped with the flow of traffic. Instead of immediately being handed our finisher medal, we had to walk a good distance to grab an iced wash cloth (which was AMAZING), bottle of water, cup of Gatorade, and then finally the medal – about a 1/4 mile from the finish line.

I grabbed my medal and hit the exit, heading away from the crowds to my favorite post-race photo spot by the pirate’s ship.

That medal is a beauty. I wasn’t sure about the new Octopus design, but it’s really grown on me. Definitely an improvement from the parrot.

Someone had sent me a message via Instagram after the race with that message “I miss you racing.” I miss it, too. I forgot how much fun it is to get out there and run with a few thousand of your closest friends. Sure, the early-morning wake-up call may suck, but that feeling of achievement after you cross the finish line can not be beat. I had fun on Saturday. Genuine fun. And I really loved the 15K distance. It was long enough to be challenge, but not so much so that the distance felt daunting – it was perfect. There needs to be more 15ks are there.

My brother is trying to talk my sister and I into running the Space Coast Half Marathon next November and I have to say that I’m tempted to do so. Not only do I miss racing, I miss racing with my siblings. I may just have to bite the bullet and make the commitment before this post-race high leaves me. 🙂