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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?