Friday was the longest day ever! Race Buddy (RB) was already over in Tampa for work and kept texting me from the Expo about all the cool stuff, that jerk went to it without me!?!?!? GRRR!!! That did not make working any easier. I was already antsy enough; I just wanted to get out of there! 4pm finally came and I bolted with plenty of well wishes from the coworkers, I picked up PJ and we were on our way! Tampa here we come!
I dropped PJ off at the hotel to RB and then trekked over to B.o.B's house in Brandon. We had so much fun; she had a smart water, lasagna and cheesecake ready for me and we just enjoyed each other's company, watched a movie and nerded out about the race. Packed it in early and called it a night. I had hoped on getting a decent amount of sleep but of course, being in a new place, having to pee every freaking 5 minutes and nerves in general kept me awake most of the night. I just kept thinking to myself; “Sleep, you have to sleep! You have to sleep as much tonight as possible because tomorrow you’re never going to sleep!!!” It didn’t work. *Sigh*
Saturday morning B.o.B and I were both all aflutter! We couldn’t stop giggling; we can’t believe the race was 24 hours away! Oh what running nerds we are! I headed back to the hotel, which was so pimp might I add! (If you’re ever in Tampa, I highly recommend staying at the Tampa Marriott Waterside) Met up with RB & PJ for breakfast while we waited for Rixy to arrive and then it was off to the Expo!
Running Roomie warned me I’d love the expo, RB warned me to bring cash for the expo, but it was truly love at first sight at the Expo. All this glorious running gear! I finally invested in a running belt, got shamelessly hit on by the vendor selling them (he gave me his card and told me to email him, should I? I mean he lives in Texas and probably gave his card to a million girls but then again... why not.... we’ll see about that) and was just high on life in general. Rixy bought me a kick butt Gasparilla Distance Classic Tech Tee as a present for being “such a good little runner” and we met up with Crazy B for a little while and I got to introduce her to RB.
After the expo we headed back to the hotel and chillaxed poolside for a few hours. It was glorious! The weather was perfect, which made it very hard to believe that Sunday was going to be so crappy. The forecast was calling for 40 mph winds and 80% chance of rain in the morning. These are not ideal running conditions!!! Anyway, the pool was great; the girls sipped cocktails while RB and I loaded up on H2O and Gatorade. It was a perfect afternoon. After the pool we cleaned up and headed over to Jacksons Bistro for dinner, caught a beautiful sunset along the way and then called it a night. Running Roomie showed up around 9ish, everyone packed their gear for the next day and off to bed we went... well they did. I laid awake most of the night making countless pee trips and had reoccurring nightmare’s that we missed the race. Ugh. Needless to say it was a looooooong night.
SUNDAY – RACE DAY
At 4:30 am the alarm went off... RACE DAY! RB, RR and I geared up, packed the after race packs for PJ & Rixy to bring down for us and then we headed downstairs to use the restrooms. (Gotta love the restroom part, at least we all had the same idea!)
Spirits were high, adrenaline was pumping and the three of us were bouncing off the walls with excitement as we headed down to the start line. The weather was perfect, the sky was clear, you could see a few stars, the bathroom lines weren’t too long (I pee a lot before races, nervous bladder) we were ready! As it inched closer and closer to 6am, Start Time, you could just feel the buzz in the air.
Miles 1-6 on Davies Island went off without a hitch, I had a good pace, the temp was perfect and besides my wretched bladder making me pit stop around mile 4 (I seriously wasted a good minute there, peeling off the running skirt and then trying to get it back on and in place was such a pain! Oh how envious I was of the outside plumbing convenience the men were enjoying!!! Bastards.) As dawn broke around Mile 6 we were brought back over to the mainland and as I scaled the bridge I started to realize a most inconvenient thing: I had a blister forming on my left arch. OUCH.
Back over on the mainland the clouds started rolling in, the bridge work was rough and slippery (who’s idea was it to put a water station on the bridge grates??? Safety Hazard anyone???) and the wind started to pick up. The Bayshore stretch, miles 7-13 were a nightmare. Wind gusts pushed me back in places, everyone was running shoulder first into the wind, I tried drifting behind some bigger runners but the wind was too much. It got to the point where I was wasting more energy running against the wind that it made more sense to just walk for a few. So walk I did. It got to me, mentally I was tired and frustrated, I kept thinking how my worst 5k ever was in rainy weather and I let it start to psych me out. At one point I seriously contemplated just giving up... the rain started and I put my iPod away so it wouldn’t get wet, it was pissing me off anyway, I hadn’t had a chance to calibrate the Nike+ I picked up last week and before I even hit Mile 1 it was off. The further I went the more off it was and it just added to everything else that was going on in and around me. Ironically enough that might have been my saving grace; after I took off the iPod it was just me, the wind, the rain and the other runners... the sound of the bay to my right, the sound of running all around me and one more thing: MOTIVATION.
I have ran every race with my iPod, music has always kept me motivated and helps me stay focused so I never knew what it sounded like to just run. I could hear the other runners struggling around me, I heard moans of pain but more importantly I heard words of encouragement. So many people were egging not only themselves but others around them on. I was in pain and struggling and I slowed to a walk and a girl ran by, patted me on the back and said, “come on girl, you’re almost there!!!’ It was exactly what I needed. The closer to the finish line I got the more I heard the people around me pushing themselves and everyone around them, I joined in, “come on you can do it” to the guy I saw struggling, “there’s the finish line!’ to the girl next to me... I saw the finish line, I saw the clock, it rolled over to 2 hours and my heart broke a little bit but I broke into a sprint anyway... my official chip time: 2:02:30.
I am officially a Half Marathon Finisher. My bling:
My goal time was 2 hours or less but given the circumstances I still did great. Crossing the finish line I was swiftly wrapped up in a silver foil that kinda made everyone look like baked potatoes (but were a blessing, they warmed me right up after being freezing cold and soaked to the bone) and then given my finishers medal. Thank goodness PJ has such a big mouth, I was in complete retard mode at that point and might never have found them, we found RR shortly there after and we all headed back to the hotel for first aid, showers and breakfast.
Today I’m still basking in the after race glow. I still can’t believe I ran a Half Marathon. It was an amazing experience that I’ll never forget and I can’t thank everyone enough for the words of encouragement and support. Most importantly: Triathlon Boy aka “Coach” and his training schedule, advice and encouragement... Running Roomie for running with me the last two months, helping me balance and for deciding to do it at the last minute... RB for keeping me excited and motivated and doing all the races leading up to this with me... B.o.B for reconnecting with me and hanging out the last two weeks and especially for her strength; she finished the full marathon in 4:46, 16 miles of that in a torrential downpour and wind. She gets the award for most hard core for sure!
Next up: Muddy Buddy, May 1st and then the Holy Grail: Chicago Marathon, October 11th... 4 days before my 28th birthday!