Gasparilla 15k race recap!

Wow. What a day.
I can now say I’ve completed a 15k. AND, get this. I wasn’t last! In fact I finished with 5 participants still on my tail. Way on my tail. I finished in 2:48, 12 minutes ahead of the very last finisher. Now for some this may be a ridiculously slow time, BUT, it’s a PR for me because it was my first attempt at this distance! It can only get better from here.

(my name on the wall of runners!)

The race started at 7:05am, so I set a very early alarm. Luckily we went to bed at a relatively reasonable time, so it wasn’t too bad hopping out of bed at a dark 4:30 (although the man may beg to differ!). We grabbed some breakfast, picked up my friend and tri training partner Lindsey, and before we knew it, we were standing at the starting line. The guy had signed up for the 5k (a man after my own heart!), but unfortunately his race didn’t begin until 9:30, so he had to hang out and waste some time while Lindsey and I set off on the 15.

The starting line was near the Gasparilla Pirate Ship on the bay. As the gun went off, I immediately lost Lindsey because I went off onto the sidelines to let the faster athletes pass. I crossed the start line about 6 minutes into the race, and had no sight of her, so I figured I’d be going at this solo. Racing alone is a difficult task. I did it at my last triathlon, so I definitely know the challenges a runner faces when you’re fighting the mental aspect of the race alone.

I started off walking at a pretty good pace. By the time I passed mile 1, I was maintaining a 16 minute mile. Unfortunately, I didn’t warm up very well, and my shins were on fire all the way until I reached mile 2. I’ve walked Bayshore dozens of times, so I appreciated the familiar sights to help me gauge my progress on the way towards the turnaround spot by Ballast Point Elementary, south of Gandy Blvd. I had tons of people still around me as I approached mile 3, but the noise level was definitely decreasing, aside from the public cheerers along the sidelines. I always appreciate the efforts people make to come out and cheer on participants. Just when you think you’re ready to give up and call a cab, someone says an encouraging “keep it up, you’re doing great” and you reevaluate your quitting mentality.

As I approached mile 4, I set my sights on people I was determined to either keep up with or pass. I had been trailing a group of men in their mid-50’s, maybe early 60’s. They were keeping up a great pace, even in their khaki shorts! They. Were. Hilarious. Saying things like “where are we gonna go after this. I don’t know about you, but I’ll be at Tampa General”. And I lol’d when one of the guys told his pal that their names and finishing times will be in the paper the next day. One of them responded with “hopefully not in the obituaries!”. Forget the champion pacing teams. These guys were my own personal pacers and entertainment until I passed them rounding mile 5.

Heading back down Bayshore towards downtown became increasingly difficult with every step. At this point I had 5 people behind me, and I wasn’t going to let them pass. As I headed back to Bay to Bay, I could feel some blistering at the bottom of my left foot. Additionally, the shade from the southbound lanes of Bayshore was no longer a luxury. The sun was beating down on me full force, and I could feel my energy draining. Although I had snacks and stayed hydrated along the course, there is nothing that can prepare you for the feeling of how your body responds to blaring, blinding heat.

By the time I reached mile 7, I had already built it up in my head that there was NO way I was quitting, with just a little over 2 miles left of the race. My feet were still moving, a nice breeze had begun, and I was still ahead of those 5 runners, and I was determined to keep that “lead”. By this time the 5k race had begun, so I entertained myself through mile 8 and 9 by watching the 15 minute 5kers rocket by me in obscenely fast speeds. I’m still blown away by their agility and power. To finish 3.1 miles in less than the time it takes me to finish 1 mile is amazing.

With just about .2 of a mile left, I caught a glimpse of the finish line. Although I could hear my tri trainer Deb yelling out “finish strong, run!”, I looked like someone out of Night of the Living Dead as I Thriller dragged my legs across the finish line and up to the area were the medals were given out. As the 5k finishers medals were handed to the heroes, I was almost given one when I had to speak up and say, “Hey, I’m a 15k finisher! Did you save a medal for the last 6 of us!?” Not to worry, I got mine. And I’ve never been so proud to own something that says “15k” on it.

I was also never so proud of my guy for finishing his THIRD 5k in less than 6 months!

I’m so happy to have him by my side on race days and at the finish line to share these awesome moments with. I couldn’t ask for a better boyfriend, honestly.

So what’s next? Well, tri season is coming up, so I’ll probably sign up for a sprint within the next month or so. Which I’m excited about because let me tell you, this 15k race was SO much harder than both of the sprint tris I’ve completed. Much, MUCH harder. So for now, I think I’ll skip long distance runs and get back into my first love- 5ks and sprint triathlons. But who knows what the future holds. I’d love to put a half marathon in my sights sometime in 2013. Although I’m sore, my hip muscles ache, and I took a 3 hour nap, I don’t regret signing up for the 15k at all. The folks at Gasparilla always aim for runner success, comfort and happiness. They aim to please and do a great job at putting on a well oiled race.

I’m off to enjoy dinner on the couch with my honey. He’s picking up Carraba’s as our celebrating meal for today’s great feat. So I’m going to go pop 3 Tylenol rapid release tablets, eat my lobster mac and cheese, and contemplate my next great adventure!

ph 🙂