…continued from the previous recap…
Saturday evening we ended up going to the Columbia for dinner. I won’t say too much about dinner as this is mainly for the half marathon recap, but the food was great and the company was amazing. We had a relatively early dinner and then were able to get back home to get some rest before the second and final leg of our journey on the way to the Amber Challenge!
3:30 am came way earlier than expected. The night before I had noticed some popping in my achilles tendon similar to what I felt when I started having issues with it last November. I used KT Tape as an extra reinforcement just in case. Krystal and I got dressed and left the house around 4:20. We made it to the Convention Center around 5:00 and, despite some minor parking issues, were able to get inside, get our bags checked, meet up with the subber group and get ready. Several of us had big goals for the half marathon, so Andy and Therese left early to line up in the first corral and we gave them hugs and sent them on their way. About ten minutes later the rest of the group went down to get in the second corral.
Krystal and I lined up with the 2:30 pacer- though we planned to run intervals my overall plan was to simply keep her within my sight and that would indicate that I would be able to finish in my desired time. We were in the thick of the crowd so by the time I realized I needed to use the bathroom it was too late and too annoying to have to fight through a large sea of people towards the back of the corral to get to the bathrooms. The national anthem was barely heard as far back as we were but pretty soon the gun went off and we were off on our next 13.1 mile journey!
My plan was to keep the pace conservative for the majority of the first portion of the race and then have enough left in the end to push the pace for the final miles.
We immediately ran onto Harbor Island for the first few miles. The first part took us past the Tampa port- we saw a ship from the Norwegian cruise line docking and one from Carnival waiting its turn. Right around the first mile, Krystal and I both knew we needed to hit the bathrooms or we wouldn’t make it much further in the race, so we stopped at the first port-o-potties we saw, which, thankfully, didn’t have that much of a line. After that we jumped back on pace for the next two miles. The first portion of the race was very dark with hardly any street lights, so we kept the pace conservative. It was also on cobblestone streets- and I’ve had experiences with cobblestone before (and definitely didn’t want a repeat of what happened at that race)! Mile splits: 11:53, 11:26, 11:03
We kept a relatively steady pace for miles 4-5. Both of us felt comfortable in the low 11’s and we were maintaining it pretty easily. I saw several people I knew at this point on course- it felt like I couldn’t do more than a few run intervals without someone shouting, “Montana!” and waving to me. Constantly having people to chat with or yell across barriers to made the miles go by faster and I wasn’t really concentrating on running. As we were coming off the bridge to come back onto Bayshore around mile 5.5, we saw the finishers heading up the finish chute. Yes, the race was already done for some people and we were only coming off of mile 5! Between the downhill and my excitement at seeing some of my friends on course, our sixth mile came in a little fast. I told Krystal if she was feeling good and wanted to break away she could but I wanted to stay in the low 11’s until we got closer to the finish because I knew I couldn’t sustain a faster pace for the next 7 miles. Mile splits: 11:09, 11:18, 10:52
Both of us decided to hang together and keep a conservative pace; we were both still feeling really good but weren’t ready to push the pace yet. The weather was still beautiful- even though the sun had come up there was a nice tailwind and it was breezy and cool, making it easy to keep ourselves on pace. The water stops were pretty strategically placed and we stopped at almost every single one to keep ourselves hydrated. I had taken a Honey Stinger at mile 4 and planned on taking another one at mile 8. Our hydration and fuel was pretty on point. At this point in the race I couldn’t say that I had ever had a better half. I felt strong and prepared. We were both pacing pretty well. The turn around came right at mile 9 and I knew we were in the last portion of the race. Mile splits: 11:23, 11:09, 10:54
That nice tailwind that had been present for the last few miles? Turned into a nasty headwind as we came around the corner. I saw the t-rex that had been there for the 15k but again, didn’t want to stop because I was pacing so well. Krystal started to text our friend who had come to see us at the finish that we were hitting mile 10 and only had a 5k left. When she tried to read the text message off to me, it messed up her breathing a bit and we ended up taking an extra 30 second walk break. By the time we actually hit the 2 hour mark in the race, we were already at 10.7 miles according to my GPS. It was then that I knew our sub 2:30 goal was within reach. If we could just keep pacing like we were there was no doubt in my mind that we would hit that goal. However, neither one of us wanted to jinx things so neither of us said anything to the other. We just kept running against the wind and tried to stay on pace. It honestly felt a lot harder now to keep our running segments at the same pace we had been on the way off the island. I know part of that was due to the headwind. I started trying to find groups of people to run behind until it came time to pass them to break some of the wind in front of me. By the time we hit mile 11, I just started telling myself “Get to the next mile marker. Get to mile 12.” Mile splits: 11:25, 11:01, 11:03
Once we hit the mile 12 mile marker, I knew we would definitely make our target time. I wanted to pick up the pace a bit because I was still feeling really strong. Krystal told me that she was going to follow me but wasn’t sure she’d have enough left to sprint to the finish with me. I knew I wasn’t leaving her behind, but I just let her think I was OK with that :-). We picked up the pace and our last mile came in at 10:11. As we hit the mile 13 mile marker, we hit a walk break. I asked Krystal if she wanted to take a walk break or run to the finish. She said she thought we should take a 30 second walk break to regroup and then we could resume running, so that’s what we did. After we resumed running, I went into my ‘finish line mode’ where I’d pick a landmark, sign or person and try to pass them/it as fast as possible. Krystal was right behind me and as soon as I saw the 2:30 pacer, I knew we could make it in our goal time, so I yelled out, “Sub 2:30, GO!” and just took off for the finish line. We finished within seconds of each other. My watch read 2:26:44, an overall PR for me!! I was thrilled with my performance in this race. We trained hard and it paid off- big time.
As soon as we were done, we found my parents by the side of the fence, grabbed our medals and also found our friend Barbara, who had come to watch us. It was great having people there for us at the finish!
Krystal stayed to talk to Barb for a bit while I walked off with my parents to find the sub-30 group. As soon as I reached them, all I could think about was whether Andy and Therese had achieved their sub-2 goal. I asked Andy, “Well? Did you get it?” and was so happy for him when he said yes! Hugs all around and talking about the race with everyone, plus a few pictures ensued. I saw a few other groups of people that I knew at the finish area before heading over to find Krystal and Barbara.
We decided to go get breakfast with Barbara and my parents, so they went off to walk to a restaurant and Krystal and I went to grab our bags and change. Breakfast was good and then we headed back to Krystal’s place to shower and change. I went off to meet with some of the sub-30 group at Jackson’s for some post race drinks and funsies. It was the end of our weekend and everyone was in a pretty good mood! Most of us had hit our “A” goal at some point during the weekend, so it was a pretty successful weekend. Either way, it was a blast hanging out with the crew and getting to know some of the members more.
Now that I’ve finished my biggest spring race, I think it’s time to rest up before marathon training. I have a plan for the next few weeks which includes much less mileage than I was hitting during Gasparilla training, but enough to keep me in shape to start my first marathon training come May. I’m looking forward to getting back to more cross training and boot camp style classes that I usually miss out on when my focus is on running. It does feel great to be able to take it easy now that I’ve hit my spring race goals! It’s like the weight is off my shoulders and I’m able to focus on running for fun now and not time goals. While training for Gasparilla wasn’t without its fun parts, it is kind of stressful when you have a lofty time goal and want to constantly hit those paces during training. Now I’m just hoping my achilles tendon stays healthy for the rest of the year!!
What’s your spring goal race? Have you ever set a pretty lofty goal for yourself? Did you hit that goal and how awesome did it feel when you did??