Originally, I had wanted best damn race to be my comeback to competitive racing (the competition being with myself). My initial plan had been to incorporate enough speed work into my training to let a sub 2 finish be my goal. Unfortunately, circumstances didn’t pan out the way I had envisioned, so this race went a little differently than I had wanted. This was my reality.
I woke up Saturday morning and jumped out of bed immediately. I loaded up the Keurig and toasted a bagel while I ate a banana. After smearing my bagel with almond butter and nutella, I took my breakfast into the master bathroom where I got dressed and readied my race day bag.
Soon enough, my hubby was awake and we were both on our way down to Safety Harbor. It’s a quick 25 minute drive so we arrived about 6:15 a.m. Parking was already a little bit hectic. Thankfully, I had the navigator (my hubby) driving me, so we bypassed the traffic, found the same spot as last year and maneuvered through the chaos.
I hit the port-a-potty and then surveyed the area to see if I could find any of my friends getting ready to start the 10k. The first person I managed to get a photo with was Nanci. She’s another ambassador and she blogs over at This Crazy Life of Mine.
The start of the 10k, which was scheduled to start at 6:45, was delayed due to a broken down utility truck. Most of the runners were already set up inside the corral, so we just waited to see them off. We were told that the half marathon would be delayed until 7:30 now to keep the course from getting congested. So we had plenty of time to chit chat and get situated.
I used the restroom once again before we started lining up for the start of the half. I found another one of the ambassadors, Katie, and decided to hang near her for the first few miles. Once we were released onto the course, I settled into a fairly easy pace and waited to see how my legs would feel.
Katie and I chatted briefly for the first couple miles leading towards Phillippe Park. This part of the course was different from the previous year, and I must say that I really enjoyed the scenery and beauty in these gorgeous tree lined streets.
Here’s the course map from start to finish.
Right about the 2 mile mark, Katie and I parted ways. I had to stop and empty my bladder. It was inevitable, but I wish there had been a better option. Unfortunately, there was only one port-a-potty available, and there was already three people waiting when I arrived. I bit the bullet and waited for about 4 minutes until my turn. My knee was already starting to give me issues, so I decided to take the time to stretch while I waited.
Once I was out of the port-a-potty, I was back on the course with a vengeance. I wanted to make up some time. It didn’t happen exactly how I had wanted, but I kept in front of the 2:30 pacers, which was my objective. Actually, I ran into quite a few of my friends running along this pace group. It was a pleasant surprise. I decided to keep close by them to keep from falling back too far.
I gotta be completely honest. I wanted to call it quits after the first 5 miles. My knee wasn’t getting much relief and I was really frustrated with my energy levels. But I kept pushing on and found a little bit of motivation after I saw my husband. He was positioned right near the turnaround point by Main Street. It was definitely a big moral boost to see him, along with a whole crowd full of spectators, lined up along the course cheering for us. I needed the encouragement to keep pushing forward. I really wasn’t feeling this race at all. At this point, I started adding in some walk intervals into each mile to keep myself from tapping out.
The next part of the course positioned runners heading south along Bayshore and looping around parts of the neighborhood and down to Drew Street, then finishing back North.
I had recognized this part of the course from last year. There were a few inclined portions that had a lot of us working harder than we had anticipated. I find that I am not as intimidated by hills as I used to be. In fact, since incorporating a little hill work into my training, I find it challenging, but not undoable. I can actually excel a little bit, knowing that I’m not going to gas out by the top. I kept up with the walk intervals, but I decided to run through all the hills, just because I could. Unfortunately, I had to make another pit stop around the 9th mile. My bladder just wasn’t’ cooperating today. The good news was that there wasn’t anybody at this potty station, so I ran right in and got to business. I made it in and out within 30 seconds and then took off right it time to make it into another loop up towards the 2:30 pace group.
By the time I had finished my final loop through the neighborhoods and was headed back North up Bayshore, I was feeling pretty tight in my calves. I took a quick minute to stretch them and my IT band on the side of the road. Just as I was joining back into formation, I saw Denise joining in with another two runners up ahead. I yelled up ahead to her and then discovered she was already wearing her medal from the 10k + 5k Challenge. She is such a bad@$$. She was slotted for 20 miles that day and decided to get some extra mileage after her challenge by pacing her friend for the final two miles of the half. It just so happened that they were right in front of me. So I got finish the last portion of my half with another awesome mother runner.
As I rounded the final stretch up towards the finish line, I caught a glimpse of my hubby again up towards the sidewalk. I gave him a big smile and wave and kept accelerating towards the crowd. I was so happy to be done, that I forgot to click off my Garmin.
I collected my sail boat medal and immediately headed towards the food tent. There wasn’t much left by the time we made our way over. I grabbed a coke and chips and told my husband we had to leave to grab food. I was starving. Just a block away was a pizzeria that evidently was just opening. I bellied up to the counter and ordered two sliced for myself without even a second thought. I love pizza, especially post race. It was delicious pizza too. If you’re in the area, definitely check out Safety Harbor Pizzeria (formerly Dominic’s).
This most definitely was not my race to shine. I hadn’t prepared like I wanted and my knee issues, although tolerable, kept me from performing like I intended. But, I am so pleased to be affiliated with this amazing race series. Nick and his team did a fantastic job.
Even though the food was sparse by the time I had finished the half, I was not disappointed too much. There was water and support throughout the entire course. That’s the basics of what I require.
Hiccups will happen every now and then, but what’s important is to feel important as a race participant. And that’s what this race series provides. Even though I didn’t PR, I noticed a whole line of people waiting to ring the PR Bell (something I’ve never seen at a race before).
I’ve got less than a month until Orlando, so I guess I need to pick up my training. I gotta beat this time for sure.