Going into this race, I knew a few things:
A. With the exception of a bridge, the course was flat.
2. The weather in Tampa is much warmer than in New York City.
and D. The race started at 6 a.m.
With those three things in mind, I had a couple of reservations. My training, thus far, has been going pretty well (knock on wood), and with the course being flat, I had the opportunity of breaking 1:40. I knew I could do it, but with the ever growing number of emails discussing the “unseasonably warm weather” Tampa had been experiencing made me a bit trepidatious. And judging from the frizz in my hair, I knew the humidity would be a problem.
The one thing that I didn’t think about was nutrition. In my last blog post, Hollis asked what I would be eating for a 6 a.m. start. And truthfully, I hadn’t thought about it until the question was posed.
“What are you eating?,” I asked His Lordship.
“No, before the race.”
“Probably a banana.”
That sounded good, although I opted for a plan that was both completely stupid and void of common sense. I thought if I ate a full enough dinner before hand, I could skip the breakfast and pop a Gu around mile 7. And due to my race nerves, I had a fear of shitting myself; breakfast at 4:30 could quite possibly make that come to fruition.
So, after a lucsious meal prepared by Madame Marchant, I was loaded on carbs and head to bed for the early start time.
I tossed and turned throughout most of the night and had lucid nightmares of things that had nothing to do with running. So, a typical pre-race night’s sleep. I actually woke up 30 minutes before my 4:30 alarm went off, and laid in bed hoping for a few things: good hydration, no early morning hunger pangs, and no shitting oneself.
His Lordship and I made our coffee and got suited up to go. I texted with Bethaney, who was also running the race, to wish her good luck, and also that His Lordship was quite upset that T.J. didn’t give him his 3 a.m. phone call that he promised.
We left the house at 5:25 a.m. The temperature was nearing 70 and the humidity was at 100%.
We exited from the car and jogged a bit to the start. The corrals were as follows: Under 2 hours, over 2 hours. Period. We walked up just ahead of the 1:40 pace group and started chatting. (We had 20 minutes until the start so what else were we going to do?) Madame Marchant caught up with us and snapped a few photos.
As we continued waiting, I started feeling wicked nervous. I hadn’t raced any distance longer than 6.2 miles since the Kentucky Derby Marathon. Had I forgotten how to do this? And why was I feeling hunger pangs? AND WHY WAS IT SO DAMN HOT!?
Just a few more minutes of the National Anthem and a prayer (awkward), and the gun went off.
Due to my nerves, I broke up the course into three sectors:
1. Davis Islands
2. Bayshore Out
3. Bayshore Back
For the first mile, I told myself to run with how I was feeling. If I couldn’t run fast for whatever reason, to not beat myself up over it. Just go as fast as your legs can carry you without overdoing it the first few miles. Over the bridge and onto Davis Islands, I found my pace and breath. The island was completely dark (remember, it’s 6 a.m.), but a few families managed to meander from their homes to cheer us on (thank you!). When my Garmin ticked off a 7:25 at mile 1, I thought to myself, ‘Okay, that felt easy. Just keep it up.’
The next two miles, I played Leap Frog with a gentleman wearing navy gym shorts and a navy tee. The Leap Frog was more like road rage; I would run past him, and three to four seconds later, I would hear heavy breathing and clomping, and he would sprint past me. This happened four more times until he decided to stop sprinting (I do hope you’re okay, whoever you are).
Side Note: WHY ON EARTH DO PEOPLE DO THIS?! I see folks do this in the Park (and you’re not running a series of fartleks), and question the same thing. And ESPECIALLY during a race, WHYYYY? You’re not helping yourself, you know.
It was also at mile 2 where I started going through aid stations. Sweat was fiercely pouring out of me.
When my Garmin ticked off at Mile 4, I was surprised. I was running 20 seconds slower than what I felt. I tried to kick it back into gear. When I saw the bridge, I was happy. The sun was coming up and I knew I had two more sectors to get through.
Coming down off the bridge, I saw the Marchants. What a welcome hello and cheer! I waved and pressed forward, and felt a slight (and welcoming) breeze coming off the water. What I had forgotten about Bayshore is how deceiving it is. Like the West Side Highway, it’s far, flat, and things are much further than they actually appear. I felt myself slowing. My legs were getting heavier from the heat, and I was experiencing hunger pains from my lack of breakfast. I finally pulled over just after mile 7 for my Gu. I could barely eat any. My stomach was so angry with me that the thought of putting a full Gu into my system made me nauseous.
I was not in a good place.
My sectors now became mile by mile.
I saw his Lordship around mile 8, he was coming back from the turn around and looking good. I gave him a thumbs down. He could see it in my face – the humidity was winning. It was also hear where I miscalculated how far I had gone running. Just like those days where you think it’s already Tuesday when in fact it’s only Monday, I was only at mile 8 and not at mile 9.
I heard a large group of runners coming up behind me. It was the 1:40 pace group. I held on to them for as long as I could (about 2 minutes). The pressed on and ate my dust. I continued to take it mile by mile. I shuffled my feet the best I could.
I had never been so happy to turn around in a race. Sector 2 completion.
I felt a little pep in my step at the turn around and managed to enjoy myself for a brief moment.
Then I hit my wall.
Whether it be a half or a full marathon, miles 10 and 11 are my wall miles. I felt majorly fatigued and worried about my hydration. I went through each aid station grabbing two cups of water, one for my head, the other for hydrating. I knew if I could make it through mile 11 that I would be fine. Regardless of the heat and humidity, it was a psychological point for me. I passed the time by doing math in my head. I knew my goal of sub 1:40 was out, but what about a PR? I figured if I could hold a 8:00 pace, I could PR by a minute or two.
The rest of Sector 3 became point to point. Many of those points were palm trees and buildings. I looked at the runners on the Sector 2 side. Many of them looked tired and a lot were walking. The heat was now in the 80s and felt fierce.
A gentleman in a white tank top and black shorts ran up beside me.
“Pink shoes!,” he exclaimed. “I’ve been looking for you since mile 4. I’ve finally caught up to you!”
“Well, you win. I’m so tired.”
It was a welcoming conversation as I felt completely beaten down. He pressed forward and I kept my eye on him. I desperately wanted to walk but knew I could make it just a bit longer.
Then, an older woman who had flown by me at mile 11, was now walking at mile 12. I ran up beside her and said, “You’re a badass! Keep moving!!” A few moments later, she caught up to me.
“I’m old enough to be your mother. You behave.” she said.
I told her she was a badass warrior (truth) and that she was kicking my ass. She told me to start pinpointing other females and that they would be our rabbits. I agreed and we ran for a few more minutes. Unfortunately, the woman couldn’t hang on anymore. She wished me luck and slowed to a walk.
As I closed in on mile 13, I saw the Marchants. In a heavy breath, I told them how sucky it was. I so wanted to be done.
Then I saw His Lordship. I gave him a fist bump as best I could.
I have never been so happy to see a finish line. I grabbed my medal (WHICH IS AWESOME), two bananas, water, and Gatorade. I found the gentleman in the white tank and congratulated him (with a horrendously sweaty hand, no doubt).
Upon meeting up with His Lordship and the Marchants, I felt the runner’s high, a feeling I had forgotten over the past year. I told my tales of the race and even though I gave myself a hard time, felt proud of the day’s accomplishment. I’ll take a one minute PR in those conditions.
We spent the rest of the day celebrating with foods, booze, and family.
Next up is the Connemarathon. And I’ll be quite honest. It scares the bejesus out of me.
Rock and roll.