Going into my third half marathon in a row, the excitement known as Gasparilla was upon us. My only concern was how my knee would hold up on back-to-back days of races. It had been fine the prior weeks, but you never know about these things. Doug would be joining us again this year, but not the fabulous ladies of Ocala (we banned Doug from our room because of the snoring fiasco from last year). They all had prior commitments, but I was sure it would just open up the floodgates to create new shenanigans.
We met Doug at the hotel around 3pm, and made our way over to the expo. As silly as this may sound, I really look forward to seeing the race shirts for the first time at the expo (some races show them to you prior to the race weekend). They are always spectacular, and did not disappoint again this year. They went in a different direction for the challenge jackets, as it was more of a raincoat than a windbreaker. Nevertheless, it was very nice, and the colors weren’t too shabby (orange and blue). Spoiler alert…I did not buy a jacket from the official merchandise booth! I know that’s shocking, but it looked too similar to last year’s model. This is a very nice expo, and I was able to pick up some accessories. We later got together with some of Doug’s friends at Fergs Live, which is right across the street from the hockey arena. It was not crowded at all; I wish we knew about this place three years ago! A quick stop back to the expo after dinner, and then lights-out for our big day tomorrow.
Here are the numbers for the weekend:
Total: 31,544 (around 400 less than last year).
The three of us signed up for the Amber Challenge, which is everything except the 8K. We met up with Terri at the starting line, which was a very pleasant surprise. She agreed to run with us during the 15K, but I don’t know that she truly knew what she had signed up for (I have become progressively slower, and then there are all the visits to the bushes). Lindsey was going to run by herself, and Doug was sticking it out with me. I made my first bathroom trip around two miles into the race; that was the last I saw of Terri 😎. It was extremely hot and humid, but the conversation helped us overcome the “swap-like” conditions. Around the four-mile mark, we decided to do 3 x 1 intervals. This really helped, even though my knee was feeling great.
I received a message from Erin, whom I’ve known since fourth grade. She lives in Tampa, and wanted to meet us for lunch. This was very exciting, since I hadn’t seen her since our last high school reunion. Once Doug came back, we met Erin and her daughter at Columbia Restaurant, which is a mainstay of Gasparilla race weekend. It was fun catching up, and Erin’s daughter was truly a breath of fresh air. We took them to the expo after lunch for some free ice cream samples, which really hit the spot. After we said our goodbyes, it was now down to business…nap time! We were out for a pretty long time, so we ate supper in the hotel. The service was very slow, but they made amends by giving us our food for free. Despite our extended slumber, we had no trouble falling asleep right away.
The half marathon started at 6am, which was an hour earlier than Saturday’s 15K. This was a good idea, as it was going to be another scorcher. Lindsey was going to run with me, and Doug wanted to try and stay with one of the pace groups. Lindsey and I had predetermined that we would run 3 x 1 intervals, but she could take off anytime she became bored. Once the race started, I was pleasantly surprised how good I felt (it must have been the nap). No pain at all in the knee, and bathroom breaks were at a minimum. There was a good amount of cloud cover before the sun came up, but that was short-lived. This may have been the hottest half marathon I’ve ever run (85° when all was said and done). We saw fellow “Turtles” Amy, Debbie, and Liza early on, which is always an added bonus to any race. Lindsey left me at the nine-mile mark, and I was dripping like a faucet. As I crossed the finish line, I could not get over just how good my knee felt. Not even one twinge the entire weekend. Of course the medals were first-rate, as I mugged for as many photos as possible. Walking over to the food area, we saw many runners holding bunches of bananas. Our initial reaction was why so many? It became obvious, as some very overzealous volunteers were giving them out that way. I felt like a schnorrer walking back to the hotel.
This Gasparilla Distance Classic traditionally coincides with Disney Princess. I would like to give that race a shot, but I can’t imagine giving up my annual trip to Tampa. This is why I run!
KEEP TRACK OF MY RUNNING ON