So you already know this race was a PR for me, and you already know my goals for the race (here) so lets talk about my coach’s goals then on to the race.
Based on my 5k time my coach said I COULD finish with a 2:04:00 (9:15 pace) but since we havent gotten the mileage up in training she wanted me to shoot for a 2:10 (9:50 pace). The pace shouldnt feel easy and once past the 5 mile point should be uncomfortable. Now I have my own goals and the goals from my coach. Lets talk the actual race.
The Gasparilla distance Classic is held in Tampa Bay, Florida every year and has a couple different distance and challenge options. The races offered are a 5k, 8k, 15k, and Half Marathon. I decided to run only the half marathon this year, I wasn’t in the mood to do any challenges this year. My friend Brittany lives in Tampa and we decided to do this race together instead of Princess at Disney like we have in years past.
While this race isn’t as big as Disney (25,000 at Disney vs. 6,000 at Tampa) its still a pretty well put together race with a pretty decent expo. Saturday was when we went to the expo to pick-up our packets and we walked around a little to see what all was there. Most of the booths were local businesses but there were a few running merch booths mixed in as well. Nothing really caught my eye so I didn’t buy anything. After the expo we checked out some local spots in Tampa but made sure to get to bed before 10pm. With a 6am race start we had to leave around 4:14am and I wanted to get some great sleep.
The info booklet provided for the race didn’t give the best info and it didn’t look like there was a great place to set as a meeting point. Brittany and I decided to meet at the runner recovery area but it wasnt really clear where that was. Looking at the actual race course it was mostly out and back along the water, so pretty simple. There was a bridg we had to cross over and back but it was just one so it didnt look too terrible. We felt a little confused about the start line and how to get there but knew we would figure it all out (spoiler alert, we figured it all out just fine). We checked the weather and it looks like the high was going to be in the high 70’s and the low only about 60’s. I knew personally that was on the warm side for me but Brittany loved it.
Race day is here! I slept as well as I expected and wasn’t overly tired in the morning. We got ready and drove over to the start, got parked, did the bathroom thing (not porta potties we got to use convention center bathrooms!!!) then lined up at the start line. With regards to the start line here is what I have to note—there were 3 groups, elite, sub 2 hours and more than 2 hours. While there weren’t as many runners, it made for a tight and a little dangerous first mile since there were no corrals to spread out the runners a little. I saw at least 5 people fall because of the crowds. Mile 2 the runners got a little more spread out and it was fine the rest of the way. I think seeding the race a little more or having a few minutes between groups (the elite group was let through then the rest of the runners immediately after) would have been safer, especially since it was still dark at the start with not much street light. Safety first, am i right!
There were a few pacers for finish times and I started with the 9:33 pacer for a 2:05:00 finish. I stuck with her for about 5 miles then slowed the pace down a little. The sun was coming up, the heat rising and I knew I couldn’t keep going at that pace if I wanted to finish. The first 5 miles I felt ok buts its so strange, when the sun came up my quads felt so heavy I had to slow down. It didn’t help that the majority of the remaining course was in the sun either, but its was almost all flat so I guess its a trade off. Mile 5 I took my first gel with water while running, albeit at a slower pace, then speed back up a little. I had been taking water and Gatorade at each station as well (running through not stopping) since I knew the heat was going to be a factor. After I took the gels my legs were bricks and I walked for 30 seconds to catch my breath and get my head in the game. I ran again until mile 8.5 where I got water and took another gel, but this time I walked. It was a little too hard for me to run and take the gel at the same time probably because I haven’t practiced doing this…whoops. Took the gel and water then started running again. I had to walk again for a second around mile 10 for about 30 seconds to get my mind right and re-focus. I was dwelling way too much on how much pain I was in, how hot it was, how much I was going to miss my goal time, it was a mess. I needed to take a few seconds and re-group. I was able to pick up the pace a little after that and the next 2 water stops I poured water down my head and back which helped, but I should have done that sooner. The miles kept beeping along and as I hit mile 12 I got my pace up a little more to get a strong finish and hopefully come in before 2:20:00. It was rough, my quads wanted to stop, I was hot, but I wanted a good time. I kept going and FINALLY saw the finish line. I gave everything I had left in the tank (not much at all) and finished with a clock time of 2:18:59. Even with the clock time this was a PR but I was disappointed, here’s why.
All the stops, I didnt want to stop but this run was rough. My pace slowed down by almost 1 minute per mile after the first 5 miles…thats significant and no way to finish with a 2:10:00. The heat and full sun kicked my ass. There were 4 miles in full sun with no breeze but the back 4 miles had a cool breeze and some shade. Sadly the damage was already done as I don’t do well when I get hot and take forever to cool down.
Disappointment aside I got a PR, actually raced a half marathon and lived to tell the tale, got a great medal to show for it and can continue to train for the sub 2 hour time. Overall I would say I enjoyed the race, the course was simple and I had a great friend to share it with. Before I talk about the breakdown of what went good and bad, how about a breakdown of the race itself.
Gasparilla Half Take-aways
- The overpass with a hill can barely be considered a hill and made almost no difference in my pace or effort making this course the most flat course I have run to date.
- There start is congested and a big mess, they really need to work this out a little more. Even with a small number of participants its still over 2,000 people and can cause accidents
- The water stops were well spread out and had 2 stops for gels. However the water stops were not on both sides of the road which made for jam ups and people trippng over each other. They need to get water on both sides so people arent running into each other
- The medals are really great and the finisher food is awesome (black beans, rice, paella, salad, bread, bananas, kashi bars, fruit cups, coke)
- Runner packets had good quality shirts, bibs and a reusable tote bag which is definitely a step up from plastic crappy bags normally given out
Ok now what went well during the race:
- Hydration, I took water or Gatorade at each station and never felt thirsty
- Fuel, I took 2 gels one around mile 5 and one around mile 8.5 which I know helped since I was struggling
- PR’ed even though it wasn’t the time my coach and I thought
- Injury free!!!
- While I didn’t have fun running, I did have fun with Brittany before and after the race
What could have gone better:
- Knowing how to pace with the heat. With the summer coming I’ll have more time to work on this but I have always struggled with this
- Cooling down. I should have poured water on myself much sooner to keep the heat demons at bay but I didn’t
- Focus. I let the negative thoughts creep in which made running more difficult than it should have been
- Not being on my feet as much in the days leading up to the race. I wanted to go to Disney and see Tampa but my legs definitely were not as fresh as they could have been. I don’t regret the time we spent though, not one bit
I think Gasparilla was great for me to learn more about myself as a runner and to get a feel for what it really means to race. Lets be honest, when running a Disney race its a little bit about time but its more about having fun on the course. The only other half marathon I tried to race was the Plano Balloon Festival and I was not trained enough for those hills to even act like I raced it. This also goes to show how much of an impact my coach has made on my running. Doing the workouts that seem to make not much sense to me really show that they have helped so much with endurance and speed.
CHIME IN!!! Does the heat affect you when running? Have you done Gasparilla before? Do you like themed races?