In the relentless pursuit of personal growth and self-fulfillment, the journeyBecoming the best version of oneself is a path worth embarking upon.This self-improvement guide is a roadmap designed to...
Since I have been an endurance athlete in the Tampa Bay Area for a few years, I have always felt a pull toward the Gasparilla Distance Classic. This last weekend was no different. I had the intention of possibly hanging out on the sidelines this year, but the attraction of the race and the fact that all of my racing “peeps” would be there, lured me to enter the Becks Light Challenge which consisted of the 15K, the 5k and the ever loved Half Marathon. There is another level to the challenges named the Michelob Ultra Challenge which includes all of the races in Becks Light Challenge plus the 8k, but I know myself well enough that after a half marathon the last thing I was going to want to do was run another 5 miles so I decided against it this year. Maybe next year.
The expo was pretty much the same as it always is. I enjoy being around it, and seeing my fellow running buddies, getting some samples, seeing the new shoes that are out and tasting the new products. Unfortunately, I was a little late this year, so I didn’t have the allotted time I would usually, but I did spend some time with Pearl Izumi rep, Kyle, and tried on their new product, The E:Motion Tri. Kyle mentioned it had only been available for five days at that point and after a little schmoozing I think I may have finagled a pair, of which I will review at a different time.
The race included over 27,000 entries this year, and with muli-race entries the estimates stated there were about 23,000 unique entries, which I consider to be an amazing turnout. I was pretty excited to be participating the next day, however I let the energy of the social part of running get the better of me and I did not eat very well that day or that night. I ended up paying for it the next day.
I woke up at 4:30a and took care of morning routines and ate a banana with almond butter which is usually all I need for a workout that is only 9.3 miles. Jumped in the car and headed off to the race. I found a nice spot, behind Publix and since they were sponsoring the event I didn’t think they would mind. It was a nice little hike to the start line from there, so it was perfect to warm-up and get the blood moving. I had plenty of time, so I hung with Dawn Peters, and saw a few others in the corrals while I was continuing to warm up a more thoroughly. Peculiar thing I didn’t mention earlier. In Tampa, there was a power outage in the water treatment plant because a squirrel chewed through the lines. This caused a water distress warning for all of the areas that received their water from the City of Tampa for 72 hours. We were told to drink bottled water or boil our water before drinking it. The announcer was assuring us, the water served was bottled from Zepherhills and the mixed Gatorade also used the bottled water. I caught myself wondering how much of the water, I used to brush my teeth with, made it into my system.
There was a great rendition of our national anthem sung acapella followed by the blast of the start horn.
I started feeling really good and I was charging hard at about 7:31 pace as I hit miles 1, 2 and 3. My legs were fine, my breath was under control and I just kept saying to myself; “Self, you know you have another 5k you have to do today followed by a half-marathon tomorrow don’t you?”, but the energy of the race ran away with me (pardon the pun).
At mile 4 I started to slow down and at mile 5 my whole race fell apart. Here I was, on my own training ground, turning the corner and heading for home, and I felt dizzy, my legs were not feeling great, and I was slowing to a crawl. I walked for a bit, trying to clear the toxins the lactic acid was ridding my muscles of, and motivate myself to finish this thing. I couldn’t believe I was falling apart this early. Just two weeks prior I slowed but at the 9 mile mark, so I thought I would at least be able to get through this race and shuffle through the 5k, but here I was at mile 5 and completely crashing. I kept saying to myself “The mind will quit 10 times before the body does. This is not your body, you goof, this is your mind.” I started again, with the expectation to keep running no matter how slow and just finish. Athletes, that I run with at track that are in groups below me started to pass. My friend Rich, whom has been just lifting and bulking up past me with a motivational pat on the shoulder. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I checked my posture, looked at my placement, leaned into a comfortable position and picked up my cadence, allowing for maximum efficiency and pushed on with everything I had left. At the 9 mile mark, as is tradition, I put everything I had in the last third-of-a-mile and sprinted across the line. I literally felt like I had nothing left.
I took pictures with the pretty pirates and was lucky enough to see a few of my clients whom were running the 5k about an hour later. I was so drained I was seriously contemplating just cutting out of the 5k altogether, but that little jingle went off in my head. It actually used to be an old Hefty Bag commercial that started with a little squeaky infantile voice; “Wimpy, Wimpy Wimpy.” Of course the actual commercial continues with a loud, strong, low and bold voice; “Hefty Hefty Hefty!”, but that part was missing in my head. I decided that 3 miles was not a big deal as long as I can get some fuel up a little, so I journeyed on to find some food.
This was the only disappointing portion of the Gasparilla Distance Weekend. Every other year I have participated in this race the vendors are lined up in the tunnel with fruit, beverages, smoothies, rice and beans, sandwiches bagels the works, but this year it was cut to bananas, fruit cups, granola bars and sample smoothies. I was a little disappointed, but I ate a couple of bananas, gulped a couple of smoothies, headed back to the start line.
As my readers know, I am not the fastest runner by any means, but usually fast enough to be in the front corral. This year because I really wasn’t feeling it, I put myself in the middle of the front corral. What I didn’t realize, was because there were only two corrals, the 9am and the 9:45a, there were a lot more people. After another rendition of our national anthem, which was just as good as earlier, the horn blew and we were off. Again. Or, so it seemed because even though I crossed over the start mat I was still walking. 19,000 runners in-between the two corrals, and here I was in the middle of the first one. After 400 meters I heard the announcer mention that five minutes had gone by since the start. I heard my own voice cry out, “What? Five minutes? Already?” Embarrassingly enough, I was talking to myself. I started weaving through the crowd the best I could and finally around the half way point it opened up enough to get some speed going. I was still spent, but the food I consumed filled my glycogen levels enough to finish the race. My time was a dismal 26 minutes and change, but I was happy I did it.
After the race- Saturday
After completing the ritualistic medal photos, walking, stretching, and chatting I caught up with Rich O’Dea and we headed to Four Green Fields for a couple of beers. Everyone I knew was there, so the place was hoppin’. The Tues-Thursday Starbucks run peeps were there, Progressive Run, Four Green Fields, A-Train, Shark runners, and of course Mrs. Jessica Glover behind the bar on deck. She was incredibly busy but smiling and gabbing away. I chatted for a while, met some new runners, saw some old friends like Malynn Nguyen who I haven’t seen since the 2011 Ironman, and just basically hung out and had a great time. It was a nice ending to a couple of difficult races for me.
I realized that I in no way was I talking myself out of running the Half Marathon the next day, so I devised a strategy on the way home. I needed a way to fuel and feel as fresh as possible, so I stopped on the way home and grabbed a couple of bags of ice. What for? An ice bath. I never actually indulged in an ice bath, but I have read over and over the advantages to them, one of them being rapid recovery and that, is what I needed in order to get through the next day. When I arrived home I grabbed a Coke, which would help top off my glycogen levels, ate some chicken breast and broccoli, and headed for my ice bath. Since I never actually took one of these before I knew that it would be torture if I just filled the tub with ice and water and jumped in, so I ran some barely luke warm water and got in. Slowly, I moved the water to cold and it rose above my legs and found myself getting used to the temperature. I then slowly started adding ice, and the temperature started to drop a little more rapidly, but not so much where it became too uncomfortable. I dropped the last bag of ice in and waited my 20 minutes. I have to say, it wasn’t that bad, since I allowed my body to acclimate. I am not saying it was comfortable, the ice remained frozen after all, and it was touching my skin, but I could handle it. After 20 minutes I jumped out and into a hot shower which was absolute heaven. I assessed how I felt and noticed that my legs felt somewhat rejuvenated but the test would be the next day, both waking up and running the half marathon.
The Half Marathon
I woke up the next morning and was feeling pretty good. My legs were a little tight, but not bad. I cleaned up a bit, donned my new IronGoof racing singlet and headed out to Jet City to meet up with Jessica, Cheryl, Carol and Tara Lee. That was a nice way to start the morning. Jessica, made us triple espressos and we headed to the start line, for the last time. We made a quick stop at the Team RWB tent to pick up some more runners and take some pictures.
Team RWB is one of my favorite Veteran charities. Being a Veteran myself and an ambassador, I am connected with their cause to help veterans with “invisible” injuries incorporate themselves back into civilian life through athletic endeavors. Invisible injuries would be, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD), biological-chemical treated injuries, Combat Stress, and other psychological and physiological issues and disorders. As I was there, I understand more than the average person how critical this cause is, because for every injury and casualty of war there are over 25 invisible injuries affecting Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guard, and DOD contractors.
We lined up with the rest of the pack for the Half Marathon, listened to a repeated acapella version of the Star Spangled Banner, and after the horn went off for the last time for me, we started shuffling to the start line. As with the 5k, there were a huge amount of runners for this race, so it took a while to find a way to break free. The first mile was around eleven minutes, because we had to stop twice due to the foot traffic moving towards Davis Island. The second mile was not much better at around 10 minutes, but the third is where it started to spread out a little at the end which ended up pacing around a 9:30 minute per mile. I was already way way behind schedule to even come close to the time I completed a couple of weeks earlier at the Rock n’ Roll half marathon. Once I was able to move, I did so, and sped through miles 4 – 8 between 7:30 and 8 minute miles. I felt absurdly confident and noticed the difference in my energy level since I made sure to fuel the night before, more adequately. Unfortunately, the tole I took on my body the prior day, decided to rare it’s ugly head as I passed the mile 9 marker.
All of the sudden my legs felt heavy, my breathing became more labored and even though I was adamant about my nutrition during the course, I slowed to a pace just above a 10 minute mile. I couldn’t believe it as my watch started alerting me after each of the last few miles. When i finally reached the finish line with nothing left, I was just hopeful that I was under two hours or my ego was going to take a huge blow. As I stumbled through the medal line, grabbed some water and Gatorade, I checked my Garmin’s history for my unofficial time. 1:59:17. My slowest non-triathlon half marathon in two years.
The after race activities included pictures in the VIP tent with members of the Brandon Running Association to include lovelies; Beth “B.o.B.” Shaw, Fallon “News Channel 8 Morning Anchor Hottie” Siilcox and Patricia ” Bring my own changing tent” Rossi, good friends; Ben “The Lazy Runner” Mena, Nick “Best Damn Race” Zivolich, Tim “You will never look this good” Schubert, and Chris “You can’t touch this” Wiegner. Of course there were others I cannot remember due to the fact the blood was not pooling in my brain at the time. After I chatted, drank and posed, I left for Jet City where I continued my socializing over fresh Mimosa’s made with love by Jessica.
As I drove home I reviewed the race and what the heck happened to make it so rough. I do not like excuses, so the fact that I am a little older, it was humid or the course was boring are not ideas I choose to partake in, but problems I personally created I can learn from.
- I did not fuel properly Friday night. I know better.
- I had not been putting any real distance in my recent workouts. I had been doing less distance and more interval training.
- I know I have been losing a lot of weight without trying and not feeling as energetic as usual lately and refused to address it.
My intentions to address these mistakes are:
- Revert back to being more responsible the night before race day.
- Obviously, put my longer distance runs back in while keeping a couple of interval workouts. – Lesson Learned: There is no substitute for distance.
- I am incorporating a couple of whole, wheat free, grains back into my diet. Specifically, Gluten Free Organic Oatmeal and Quinoa, to see if I can get my energy and weight back up.
How were your races and/or workouts this weekend?
I completed the Hogwild Mud Run this last weekend. To tell you the absolute truth it was a combination of fun and frustration. While I did enjoy the race, there were a couple of issues that would have made the experience better. Let me share my experience with you.
I arrived at the venue in Dover, a little outside of Plant city, around 11 am, following the advice of the email I received. Since my heat wasn’t until 12 pm the hour I had was more than enough time for me. I say “for me” because since I picked up my packet at Fit2Run the day before, which turned out to be smart. When I arrived, I walked up and saw this long line, so I jumped in and started talking to some of the other contestants in front of me. A group that had camouflage bandannas that had the word “FUBAR” on them(F***ed Up Beyond All Recognition), which I thought was totally cool. After realizing the line wasn’t really moving I asked a volunteer what was going on and was told the organization at the sign-in/registration table was really unorganized. It turned out since I already had my number I did not need to wait, I could go to a different table and just pick up my chip. Whew! There was no way I wanted to wait in that line in the 90-degree heat. I picked up my chip and headed back to my car since I also found there was no bag check. I dropped my shirt, put on my chip, grabbed my gloves and headed to the “expo” since I had plenty of time before my heat.
The “expo” wasn’t much but a few product vendors, the beer tent, and some food trucks, so I just decided to proceed to the start line with a quick stop at the porta potties. The start line was nowhere near as prominent as the Finish line and I almost had to ask where it was. Without issue, I found this small, area of ribbons which held a table and the start mats. I warmed up and stretched a bit and then headed into the start chute. While hanging out I met a couple that was in the military and another veteran race couple who were very nice and conversational. One of the veterans and I agreed we would like to see what we could do with this race time-wise just for curiosity sake so I set my watch and was ready to run whenever I could at a decent clip. After a bit, the official finally stated we had a few seconds until our heat started to, be ready. He blew the start horn and we were off.
This was the first time I decided to run in my Vibram Five Fingers, so I was a little hesitant at first, but after a few strides, I realized I felt pretty light and sped up a bit. The first couple of obstacles included a mud crawl, a small hurdle and a jump into a creek. The water was somewhat cool which was refreshing but there wasn’t really any markings to tell us where to go from there. We could move up onto a trail, but previously we were told by an official to stay in the creek and move to our left, which was still kind of confusing. I decided to do just that and took the lead. The water felt pretty heavy with debris but I pushed through and wouldn’t you know it but there was an arrow pointing out of the creek about 400 meters in front of us. We jumped out and I started running through a trail. I felt pretty good at this point and I was running at pretty good speed and felt pretty light because my shoes didn’t hold any of the water. I thought I am really going to enjoy these shoes. It turned out running was a waste since my next obstacle was a fifteen-foot rope wall and it had a line of people waiting to get over it. There was one rope on the far end that no one was using. After talking to one of the military guys, we decided to try it. This was a rope and the wall, while the other three ropes had some thin pieces of wood nailed to the wall to help this one had nothing. I thought what the hell, I did this before, I can do this. I had my gloves and my shoes, no problem, right? Wrong! I climbed about halfway up before my grip slipped due to the rope being soaked. I wrapped my arm through the rope for a second try but I realized I didn’t have the grip strength to pull myself up. What a wuss. I ended up getting back in line and using the medium level rope with two thin boards only on my left side to get over. Of course, I had to go back to the end of the line and waited about 10 minutes to get to it.
The next obstacle was a reverse ladder wall where the rungs where on an incline backward. It wasn’t hard for me and I got over it pretty quickly and since most people in front of me were adept to this one I only had to wait about five minutes to start. There were a couple of mud pits to run through a quick cargo wall and then a sandbag carry about a quarter mile around a lake, of which I actually ran. the bag was about 25 pounds give or take so I didn’t feel it was all that difficult. Awkward but not difficult. That ended with sliding down these tubes into deep water where you had to swim to the far end to get out. There were also ropes to pull yourself across if warranted, but seeing as though I needed to get in as much swimming as possible, I just swam it.
Continuing on from there was pretty fast. There were some trails in-between getting over barrels in the pond, another mud pit, and a haystack. I was surprised running after the obstacles. I expected to be somewhat winded but I was able to keep a pretty good pace running though. Of course, I was stopped dead at the monkey bars waiting another 15 minutes. The monkey bars were on an incline up and then back down. My arms were a bit exhausted, but I thought I had enough strength to get through. No such luck, 2 rungs to go and they gave out. Since I have been training more legs and core than anything else due to the triathlons, here is where I decided I need to get my upper body strength back, but I digress. back to the race.
Continuing on was a rope climb over a trash compactor, a very slippery hill, and another cargo net. The Vibram’s did not let me down during the climbs, when other athletes were slipping back I had no problem maintaining a grip in the mud. I was thinking how much of a believer I came to be in these shoes during those obstacles.
The next mile or so coming to the conclusion of the race included a long trail run with hills, moguls and a hay bale climb. I started passing people up during the run. I was really surprised how comfortable I felt out in the trails. It really felt like a nice change from the asphalt of Bayshore and Davis Island. I thought to myself about adding some trail runs to my training, just to break it up a bit.
The conclusion of the race ended with a muddy hill climb to a slide into a puddle, and finally a mud crawl under electrified barbed wire. The interesting part was the first ten feet, or so, was dry compacted dirt, but the last was wet, nasty, thick mud that clung to me like white on rice. I was caked and covered with this grimy, thick, gross mud that weighed me down as if I was carrying twenty-five-pound kettlebells. To make matters worse it smelled so bad I was wondering if maybe it was not mud at all.
I took a quick picture and headed to another line where there were some man-made showers where people were hosing off. That line didn’t move either, so I followed some other athletes back to the creek and jumped in. After the race, it was not only great to get the mud off, but the water was cool and felt so awesome I could have hung out there forever. All good things come to an end.
I was a little surprised that of all the races I participated in, this was the one race where I didn’t come across a single person I knew. It was kind of lonely actually. I must make a better effort to coordinate to run with friends next time.
On my way out of the park, back to my car, I did see something I never saw before. A bull decided to run right through the expo into the woods. Mooing and galloping like you see on TV but never in real life. He looked pretty majestic and strong with a brown and white coat and a full set of horns. I did see him through the trees trotting away until he stopped to graze a little. It was definitely an interesting experience.
Just a quick epilogue. The last heat was scheduled for 1 pm but at 1:30 as I was heading out I noticed a new heat just getting started. After talking with some other athletes, it turned out that if I had not picked up my packet early, I would have had to wait over two hours in that line. I would have missed my heat and had to start much later.
Due to the waiting, I ended up with a time of 91 minutes and change. Not the best. I will have to sign up a little earlier for the next mud run and obtain an earlier heat in order to actually compete and find what I could actually do. I do, however, encourage all my running and triathlon friends to give these mud runs a chance. They are really a lot of fun despite the 45-minute shower needed afterward.