Thursday, March 2, 2017


I’ve been told that there are only two certainties in life…death and taxes.  Allow me to add a third…A total kickass time at the Gasparilla Distance Classic.

This was my third year participating in the Gasparilla Distance Classic, which begs the question…why did it take me so long to get onboard?  That notwithstanding, I was excited once again to spend an enjoyable weekend with friends from far and wide.  Okay…Ocala, Belleview, and Titusville may not necessarily be considered “far and wide,” but you get the drift.  Lindsey wanted in on the action, so the two of us made our way up to Tampa on Friday.  Our hotel room was not ready when we arrived, so we made our way to what would be many stops to the expo.  Lindsey, Doug and I signed up for the Michelob Amber Challenge, which consists of the 15K & a 5K on Saturday, and the half marathon on Sunday.  Mary was registered for the Michelob Ultra Challenge, which included the 8K on Sunday.  We had learned the day before that our challenge jackets would not be given out at the expo, due to a “factory error.”  With the temperature in the eighties, we were okay with getting them in the mail in a few weeks.  The shirts for these races are always great, but this year they really outdid themselves.  We met up with our squad (Robin, Judy, Sharon, Stephanie, Jennifer G., Mary, Doug, Jen, and Mary) as they all tricked in, and moseyed our way over to the Champions Sports Bar at the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina for an early dinner.

Let’s get some numbers out of the way as far as participants:

15K – 6,479
5K – 13,588
Half Marathon – 6,483
8K – 5,401

The 31,951 entries were announced as the largest participation in the history of this event.

As Mary, Lindsey, Doug, Jen and I made our way from the hotel to the start of the 15K, we were greeted by a gentleman who appeared to be less fortunate that us in terms of his mental stability.  He was having a one-sided conversation with us in a language unknown to anyone on this planet, except for one sentence: “LICK MY A$$.”  With that going for us, how could we not have a successful run?  The race started at 7am, and our running strategy was as follows:  I would run with Jen, Lindsey would run with Mary, and Doug would try to figure it out.  It was around 73 degrees when the gun went off, but the cloud cover throughout the entire race masked the warm temperature.  We all finished within ten minutes or so of each other, and met up at the finish line for some photos.  The 5K started in several “waves” to accommodate the large number of runners, so this give me some time to go back to the hotel room and change into a dry shirt.  Sadly, I did not see my homeless friend to receive more inspiring words of encouragement.

Initially, we stayed back in the last wave with the ladies and all of the walkers, but Lindsey, Doug and I decided to move up one corral.  It was a mistake either way, as we spent most of the first mile trying to dodge all of participants who were planning on walking for the entire race.  Lindsey and I made the executive decision to walk most of the race, and conserve our energy for the half marathon on Sunday.

We went back to the room for a quick shower, and then met up with the rest of our squad at Jackson’s Bistro for a well-deserved lunch and adult beverages.  It was then that we found out that Mary may have done some serious damage to her knee during the 15K, and would not be able to run the half marathon & 8K on Sunday.  This was obviously a major disappointment for her, and graciously offered her bib to Amy, who was there with her family.  After a quick trip to Publix, we relaxed by the pool for a few hours, with great friends and great adult beverages.  Dinner and sangria took place at Columbia Restaurant, followed by an early bed time.  Or was it?

  Around 2am, we heard a sound that could only be described as a sonic blast.  Were we under attach?  Was it thundering?  No…it was Doug snoring!  At the risk of over-exaggerating, I honestly thought the plaster on the ceiling was going to fall on my head.  It went on for so long, we actually had to resort to throwing pillows at him, in an effort to make him stop.  Since I had set my alarm for 4am, I did not think I would be getting any more sleep for the rest of the night.  45 minutes later, it was mercifully over.

The temperature Sunday morning was a little cooler, so at least we had that going for us.  That and a 6am start time, the only unknown was how sore we would be during the race.  Lindsey and I decided to do 3 x 1 intervals, but we ran the first mile without walking.  We kept a relatively steady pace throughout the race; unlike yesterday, the sun was out in full-force.  We decided to sprint for the last quarter-mile, but of course I had to stop right before the finish line for a photo opportunity.  The ladies met us as we picked up our medals; it was bittersweet that the weekend was coming to an end.

This is a first-class event, and a first-class weekend.  I would encourage everyone to participate at least once, even if you are there just to party (not that’s there’s anything wrong with that).